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LETTER: Our students deserve a normal school year

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I read, with interest, the letter of Lori Saunders to the editor on June 10, 2020 (“Don’t make students go back to school in masks”). The focus of her letter was her opposition to students wearing masks at school. She ended her letter by stating “Give our children a normal school year.”

Whether you are a proponent or opponent of masks, each side asserts that their opinion is supported by science and data — as if their opinion must therefore be beyond critique. Let me suggest that we can all afford to be more open minded. If anything, our knowledge of the science and data is, at best, in conflict, is evolving and is far from settled.

For example, as recently as Monday, June 8, the World Health Organization reported that, based on “very detailed contact tracing,” the “spread of coronavirus by people not showing symptoms appears to be rare.”

“We’re constantly looking at this data, and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO expert on COVID-19. “It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.”

The WHO’s report undermines much, if not all, of the rationale behind the blanket shutdowns which have closed nearly every facet of our lives including, but not limited to, businesses, churches, sports, arts and, of course, our schools.

Masks are, from my perspective, a microcosm of the bigger controversy at issue. Closing our schools and sidelining sports always — not sometimes, not most of the time, but always — disproportionately affects the poorest of our children’s families. For these children, the benefits of student athletics are vast and, correspondingly, the window of opportunity the narrowest if sports are unavailable.

The shutdowns have created a joyless society. Closed schools and no sports have deprived student athletes and their families of joy — the joy to belong, to compete, to triumph during the most important formative years of their lives. Any person who was inside South Granville High School’s gym to watch the boys basketball team in February and March felt firsthand the unmitigated joy of student athletes at their best.

I agree with Ms. Saunders that our students and their families deserve a normal year with open schools and sports competition. I hope the state and local leadership is listening.

Joel Wohlfeil

Editor’s note: The World Health Organization says some reports have indicated that people with no symptoms can transmit the coronavirus, but it is not yet known how often it happens, and research is ongoing.