The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Reopening Schools Safely—What Would It Take?

Mar 1, 2021

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control released their advice on schools recently. Politicians jumped on the report to say that schools need to re-open, ASAP.

But the politicians neglected to talk about the money that would take.

In order to open schools, the CDC recommended certain strategies, most of them well-known at this point: mask-wearing, handwashing, and contact tracing by local health departments. They also recommend maintaining 6 feet of “social distancing” between students.

But many big cities, like Chicago, pack over 30 students in every classroom—and use every corner of their buildings. The 6 foot guideline means you would need about twice as much space as normal, which means much smaller class sizes. This means you would need to hire many more teachers. Biden said it himself: “Schools will need more teachers” and acknowledged that it would cost money to do that.

No, it would not be impossible. But for a typical Chicago elementary school, you would need to hire about a dozen extra teachers and a number of additional aides—which would cost around 1.5 million dollars. With 550 elementary schools, this comes close to a billion additional dollars, at a minimum. And you would still need to find the additional space for those extra teachers, aides and classrooms.

On top of that, many a Chicago teacher visited their school in the fall, only to find trash still in the trashcans from the previous March. The CDC report, the school officials, and common sense all dictate that the schools must be cleaned during a pandemic. But the City of Chicago failed to keep its school bathrooms and halls clean, and doesn’t seem to be able to do it—even with very few students in the buildings. This can also be fixed—with money.

And the report said very little about ventilation. The old school buildings in many cities have poor ventilation—upgrading them could be done, but would cost more millions.

The report lays out what must be done to educate students safely. None of these expenses are impossible to come up with—and in fact, they are very little compared to the trillions the government has thrown at the big corporations. But these same politicians who have spent the last decades gutting the schools are not about to come up with the money to make them safe today.