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Education: Justice should keep the schools closed

No one can say what course COVID-19 will take through West Virginia. We know that the virus has gained a strong foothold here, however, and if the experience in several other states is any guide, the next several weeks will be a terrible time for us. One official has suggested there could be as many as 500 deaths.

Gov. Jim Justice has ordered public schools remain closed until April 30. A bipartisan group of legislators, including both the Republican and Democrat leaders of the state Senate and House of Delegates, are urging him to cancel school for the remainder of the year.

If the epidemic grows worse, as it seems likely to do, he should close schools for the rest of the year.

As the lawmakers note in a letter to the governor, “Current public health modeling projections suggest the COVID-19 virus will peak during the first week of May in West Virginia.” Schools should remain closed “rather than risk sending our children into potentially hazardous and untenable learning environments,” the legislators add.

Some educators believe even a few weeks in the classroom at the end of the current term would be valuable. Perhaps so — but, being engaged in the most earth-shattering experience of their young lives, how many children would be in the right frame of mind to go back to class?

It may be better to give children, their parents and educators the certainty of knowing that for the rest of the year, the classroom will be in the spaces they have already set up at home. That certainty would allow educators to continue refining their at-home learning systems.

In the end, however, it is the children’s safety that must be the overriding consideration.

If there is any doubt — even the tiniest bit — about the safety of children, classes should be canceled.

COVID-19, even in the latter stage of an epidemic, is a far greater threat than any snowstorm, and the governor should act accordingly.

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