Oregon school buildings closed early in the coronavirus pandemic because we know children are drivers of respiratory virus spread, even if they are less likely to show symptoms of COVID-19. In the months since then, our understanding of the disease and its effect on kids has continued to evolve, but it remains far from settled. This virus has been with us for less than a year, and good science takes time.

We do know this: Schools cannot eliminate every risk of infection, even with rigid hygiene and physical-distancing measures, masking enforcement, and important upgrades to ventilation systems — all of which require significant investments in a time of budget cuts. Teachers and students will get sick. Families will get sick. Some will die. Survival does not mean complete recovery: We are seeing potentially long-term health impacts on adults recovering from COVID-19, and we do not yet fully understand the effect on children.

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