Private Schools Stayed Open While Public Schools Closed

Three students in private school and school uniforms wearing face masks
Artwork by Anthony Faust
Three students in private school and school uniforms wearing face masks

COVID-19 exposed a variety of ironies and inequalities in society. One of the most striking examples of this was how private and public schools reacted differently during the early months of the crisis.

While public schools were forced by the government to shut their doors and pivot to remote learning, many private schools remained open.

At first glance, this might not seem particularly ironic. After all, private schools are typically known for their smaller class sizes, more resources, and more flexible schedules. These factors could have made it easier for them to implement social distancing measures and keep students safe. Many private schools had the financial resources to invest in additional safety measures to help with cleaning and disinfection. Public schools, on the other hand, often struggled to afford these same resources, even as they were being mandated to implement them.

Private schools, by their very nature, are designed to cater to the needs of a select group of students. They often have more stringent admissions criteria, and they charge tuition fees. This means that they are typically attended by students from more privileged backgrounds, who are less likely to be impacted by the virus in the first place.

Public schools, on the other hand, serve a more diverse population of students. Kids living in higher levels of poverty were more likely to attend public school and have more difficulty with distance learning. U.S. counties with the lowest median income had death rates at least two times higher than that of the counties with the highest income.

The irony, then, is that the schools that were most able to remain open during the pandemic were the ones that were serving the students who were least likely to be impacted by it. Meanwhile, the schools that were serving the most vulnerable students were the ones that were forced to close their doors.

It was one of the many ways that more affluent people were less affected by COVID-19 and another example of how policymakers may have inadvertently hurt the students they were trying to protect.

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About the Author

My life as a husband and father transformed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sent home from work in March 2020, I've yet to return to the office. Adapting to the new pandemic world proved challenging for us all.

However, we managed to find silver linings. Drive-by birthdays brought joy to my kids' friends. I'll never forget stumbling upon a heartfelt hand-painted rock during my jog, reminding us that we're all in this together. Regular Zoom happy hours with close friends created cherished memories.

While quality time with my family was a blessing, we also faced hurdles. Assisting my youngest daughter with frustrating math homework on a poorly designed iPad app tested our patience. Both girls struggled with wearing masks during sports and school.

Sadly, witnessing COVID-19 being politicized and witnessing the closure of small businesses while the wealthy thrived was disheartening.

I wrote this book to document our experiences, learning from them and striving for better decisions in the future. Join me on this rewarding journey of resilience and growth.

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