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Our Opinion: If they must occur

By Thursday, 1,561 schools throughout the United States had been closed because of concern that keeping them open might help COVID-19 — the coronavirus — spread.

Both at the local level in our area and among state officials, the COVID-19 situation is being watched warily. It may prove prudent to close schools in our area. Public events here were canceled on Thursday.

It appears most school systems that have shut down — Montgomery County in Pennsylvania — are in areas where active cases of COVID-19 exist or there is strong reason to believe they will occur. Ohio schools are shutting down for three weeks among statewide orders by Gov. Mike DeWine. But school officials are well aware that shutting down schools, perhaps for weeks, is not just a matter of trying to find ways for students to learn from their homes — though that certainly is a consideration.

Of concern is how closures would affect children and their families. As Education Week reported this week, “Millions of students, in school districts big and small, rely on the free or discounted meals they eat at school.”

In addition, millions of parents rely on schools to care for their children while they are at work. Closed schools mean some people will lose wages by missing work.

In planning for COVID-19, we urge school officials to work with other agencies to minimize problems related to closures, if they must occur. School closures are a last resort, but we have to be prepared to deal with the fallout and keep our children and families safe.

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