Schools are not the problem, public transportation is

Edgardo Zablotsky

Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Chicago. Rector of the University of CEMA. Member of the National Academy of Education. Academic Counselor for Libertad y Progreso.

INFOBAE – Last Wednesday, October 14, the Argentine Pediatric Association (SAP) sent President Alberto Fernández a document which establishes its position regarding the return to face-to-face classes in schools.

It points out, among its conclusions, that: “After having exhaustively analyzed the different aspects that make the importance of school in the lives of children and adolescents in relation to educational, cultural and physical education aspects , social, health, and nutritional, we emphasize that the right to education is fundamental and that the teaching task with students and their families is essential. In this framework, the SAP believes that the return to schools in the face-to-face mode is essential ”.

It is clear that the question is how to do it in the safest way possible, which is probably now being partially focused, since the emphasis we are placing on safety within schools makes us forget that we also have to reach them safely.

The reopening of schools and kindergartens implies a very low risk for children, and indistinguishable from that suffered by teaching and administrative personnel in other professions, assuming that practices carried out successfully in other latitudes have to be followed. But this is only one side of the coin, how to get from homes to schools safely is the other side, and of great relevance for many students and teachers in a city the size of Buenos Aires.

By way of illustration, a note from Bloomberg on September 25 entitled “We must talk about school transportation” explicitly focuses its attention on this fact, noting that “for schools that are reopening in the USA for face-to-face learning, what happens inside the classroom is just one part of the safety of students and teachers ”. Take into account that, as the note reports, prior to the pandemic 27,000 5-year-old children crossed New York City daily to attend kindergartens, 42% of children of that age.

Incorporating into the analysis the risk to which students and teachers are exposed, when traveling to and from schools, allows us to complete the photo and begin to think of strategies for 2021 that minimize the risk of children and teachers not only within schools and gardens, but also faced with the need to use public transport.

A simple solution to consider is to reduce the need to use it, relocate as many children and teachers as possible in schools and kindergartens close to their homes. Surely the problem is of greater magnitude with teachers than with children, since a greater proportion must travel to get to their workplaces, but it is also easier to solve it through adequate planning, since their potential relocation does not entail costs emotions of changing school children.

Evaluating an idea of ​​these characteristics is only a first step to face a reality, the beginning of classes in 2021 will come and there will be no miraculous vaccine by then. The future lives of many children are at stake, especially those of the most humble families. It is essential to return to the presence, but for this we must begin to evaluate strategies that take into account that the use of public transport is probably the greatest obstacle that will face if the return is successful.