On July 24, the Calvert County Board of Education voted to open school in the fall for the first semester virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively voting for fear over science.

In spite of the facts about coronavirus: one, that children 0-10 only 1/3 as likely to contract the disease as the general population and children 11-18 are also less likely to contract the disease; two, that the death rate from coronavirus for children under the age of 18 is far less than that of the seasonal flu; and three, that teachers are also extremely unlikely to contract the disease from the children, most — if not all — fall outside of the demographic that would put them at an increased risk of death from the disease.

About 95% of deaths worldwide are either over 64 or have an underlying health condition, or both. This worldwide statistic holds locally as well, as 8 of 11 deaths were in people 65 and older and all 11 had at least one underlying health condition.

The board of education voted not to have students return to school in the fall, which is known to place students (especially those in elementary school) at high risk of falling behind developmentally, from which they may never catch up.

It seems that the board of education has decided on a policy of zero tolerance for risk from coronavirus. This is patently absurd, given that every winter flu season, students and teachers alike continue going to school despite the risk from the influenza virus. Even outside of the realm of microbiology, there are risks: natural disasters, terrorism, fire, etc. It is impossible to eliminate risk from life and going to school is part of life for our kids.

This is not to suggest that prudent measures to increase the safety of students and faculty should not be undertaken in the face of the pandemic.

Social distancing to the extent practicable, wearing of face masks and other measures could be adopted that would further decrease the risk to those attending Calvert public schools. Additionally, any child who feels ill should remain at home, even if they’re pretty sure it’s just a common cold or flu. Finally, any student or faculty member who has an underlying condition (or is over the age of 65 in the case of the faculty), should have accommodations made for their safety that preclude them from having to be at the school. By doing these things, the risk to our school population can be reduced from “very low” to “minuscule.”

I would urge the board of education to rethink its decision, and all of the parents in the county to continue to encourage them to reopen schools in the fall. The risk to our students from not returning to school is astronomically higher than any risk to them from the coronavirus.