How politicians and education officials engaged scared parents made all the difference.
Central Falls, Rhode Island and Clayton County, Georgia communicated with parents in very different ways.
As cases and deaths tragically rose in 2020, many American parents were understandably scared about the risk their children faced from Covid-19.
Turn on the TV? They saw this:
Trying to relax with some funny cat videos on YouTube? They were likely served advertisements like this one — extreme fear-mongering about school safety — from the Democratic National Committee:
But, across the Atlantic, where it wasn’t a presidential election year and public health institutions weren’t captured by partisan politics, schools were reopening as politicians and education leaders leaned into encouraging evidence about school safety and acknowledged trade-offs. In those countries, politicians generally reassured parents about school safety instead of indulging their worst fears. For example, Spain:
“Going back to school is safe,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Tuesday.
“It’s clear that ‘risk-free’ does not exist during an epidemic but there is a risk that we can avoid: that of social exclusion through not going to school.”
Fernando Simon, the health ministry’s emergencies coordinator, said nowhere was risk-free and that children could catch the virus in the park, from their cousins or through an adult who caught it at work.
“We can’t keep our children in a bubble,” he said, in remarks echoed this weekend by Education Minister Isabel Celaa.
“The safest place to be is in school and the benefits of being there are far greater than the possible risks,” she told Spain’s RNE public radio.