Re-opening schools may not be as easy as it sounds.

Complying with CDC guidelines may be cost prohibitive and logistically impossible.

One of my biggest coronavirus concerns has been the school-shut-down impact on kids … both socially and educationally.

Since children are negligibly hurt by the virus (i.e. lower infection vulnerability, minor or no symptoms when infected, low transmission-forward rate),  I’ve been a advocate for re-opening schools ASAP.

I’ve been implicitly assuming that “cleaning” the schools’ environment would be no big deal … just move the desks further apart and double down on nighttime deep-cleaning.


I’ve been glossing over the economics and the logistics…


According to US News …

Adhering to CDC safety recommendations for reopening is becoming an overwhelming problem and many school districts are considering a continuation of distance learning.

What’s the problem?

For openers, it’s estimated that  schools may need to spend an additional $500 per student in order to cover costs associated with:

  • Cleaning supplies: hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes.
  • Protective equipment: gloves, masks
  • Additional custodial staff to do the extra cleaning
  • School nurses (at least one per school)
  • Bus aides (to do temperature checks and maintain separation)
  • Additional teachers (or teacher aides) to enable smaller class sizes

The additional expenses for an average school district of about 4,000 students could total around $2 million.

And, that doesn’t count any required capital improvements to provide enough working faucets for frequent handwashing … or upgraded HVA systems to improve air quality and filtration.


Then, there are logistical hurdles…

For example, 55% of K-to- 12 students take a bus to school.

Bus fleets would need to quadruple in size to safely transport 100% of students under COVID-19 distancing guidelines.

And, of course, each bus needs a driver … and, drivers are always in short supply.


Maybe reopening the schools isn’t as easy as I thought.


Thanks to MKH for feeding the lead.

One Response to “Re-opening schools may not be as easy as it sounds.”

  1. Ash Kaluarachchi Says:

    Prof. Homa, I’m a MSB ‘12 and a Frequent reader of your blog. This post, and your post on the “summer slide”, resonated with me. I run a company that invests in and advises education innovators (‘EdTech’). My cofounder and I published the following ideas on how school facilities can change to enable “distance teaching” rather than “distance learning. I’d appreciate your comments, pros and cons, on the strategy:

    Ash Kaluarachchi

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