As the e-Learning brought on by COVID-19 extends into the summer, the question that is on the mind of students, parents, and educators everywhere continues to be: Will schools reopen in the fall?

The answer is maybe.

For what it’s worth, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that he believes we will be in “good shape” to re-open schools on time. Bill Gates, Microsoft billionaire, and education philanthropist is also of the belief that schools will be able to reopen. The opinions of these two prominent individuals echo what others have said.

However, this would not be the first time we thought school was going to return. When school was originally shut down, most people were told it was for two weeks or until after spring break. That was not the case, and there are reasons to be skeptical too. Harvard researchers have indicated that absent effective vaccines, it may be necessary to engage in social distancing through 2022. Many colleges are already preparing for a fall without students on campus, just in case.

So, what are some of the stories to keep an eye on that will dictate when and how schools will reopen?

1. Total cases and deaths.

We may never know how many total cases there are given the persistent shortage of tests. However, doctors are pretty sure they are capturing most of the deaths, and it will be a pretty hard sell for schools to open back up if the deaths have not leveled off significantly by August. To that end, many cities and states have yet to hit their peak, and the US just hit its single-day death record with 2,228.

2. A resurgence in previously locked down countries.

This particular version of coronavirus originated in China. China was hit harder than most countries but has recently started to return to normal life. Right as they eased up on the reigns, they experienced a resurgence in cases. Though China’s state-run media claims those cases are mostly coming from people returning abroad, but it is still a red flag that when a country relaxed its social distancing the virus returned.

3. Are you immune to coronavirus once you have had it?

Experts are currently attempting to answer this question as well as develop a test that would let a person know if they have already had COVID-19. Testing for COVID-19 antibodies would be different than testing for the virus itself, but the idea is that if you have the antibodies you may be immune. That knowledge would be a game-changer in reopening society especially since most healthy people who have had the virus won’t even display symptoms. But just like with the test for the virus itself, the antibody test is not widely available. Scientists also worry that some of the tests will test for the wrong virus and give people a false sense of immunity.

A pandemic like this is unprecedented in the modern era, so there are a lot of things that are unknown. While people should be hopeful that schools will open, they should also understand there are lots of factors at play. It’s hard to give a clear answer about when schools will reopen. But one thing is clear: schools are a key piece in getting the rest of the country back to normal because the economy cannot fully function with 50 million-plus kids sitting at home.

This post originally ran on the Indy K12 Education Blog here.


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