To the Editor:

As Gov. Murphy continues to dither on if/when/how we should open schools, our international competitors are beating us to the punch. Their children are in class, they are engaged in meaningful learning that simply can't be replicated online and they are achieving academic and social growth. There's simply no reason why our kids shouldn't be in school except for the fact Gov. Murphy's response to the school component of Covid-19 situation has been like the rest of his responses to it … incoherent and based on politics not facts. Because the facts show that our schools should be open and let's look at three real-world examples why that's the case.

Denmark reopened its schools and started at 6 feet (2 meters) social distancing and then reduced that to 3 feet (1 meter), which the World Health Organization (WHO) says is an acceptable separation for social distancing. In addition, the Danes started with opening their lower grades first and then their upper grades. In Denmark, they have also prohibited parents from entering schools, further reducing the chance of any Covid-19 exposure.

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Meanwhile, Belgium reopened their schools, also beginning with the primary grades first then followed by the upper grades. Belgium students will remain with their same "student pods," what we would call cohorts in the U.S., throughout the entire school day and the same teacher remains with them, which again limits the chances for Covid-19 transmission to adults or children.

In nearby Holland, the Dutch have reopened schools with a suggested 4-foot social distancing recommendation (1.5 meters), but not a requirement. Students use an "A/B" schedule and teachers do not have to wear masks because the science shows the risk of infection transmission rate is so low from younger children to their peers or adults.

Our international competitors are reopening their schools, and we should be doing the same. It can be done safely and responsibly, as our international competitors have already shown, and the U.S. Academy of Pediatrics has already said that the benefits of having kids in school outweighs the minimal Covid-19 threats that might be present in schools. Finally, Gov. Murphy likes to say that his decisions are based on facts; well then here is a fact he should keep in mind: Denmark (#18), Belgium (#20), and the Netherlands (#16), all rank ahead of the United States (#25) on the international PISA test, which is considered the gold-standard of international educational assessments.

If we want our kids, and our state, to be ready for the global competition they will face, then we have to get them back in class. Because unlike Gov. Murphy, our competitors aren't dithering and playing politics with school openings.


John Giotis

Raritan Township