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The word on omicron — from research institutions in Europe, to hospital corridors in Colorado — is that this latest COVID variant doesn’t appear to be as severe as earlier iterations. That’s so even as cases are surging. Despite the mounting COVID caseload, in fact, hospitals in our state by and large haven’t been overwhelmed as had been anticipated earlier. Not so far.

Couple that encouraging news with a couple of other plain facts:

Unlike a year or more ago, the vast majority of Colorado’s public school faculty and staff have been vaccinated.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, healthy children never have been very susceptible to the virus.

Add it all up, and the inescapable conclusion is there is no scientific basis for closing Colorado schools again and isolating our children in remote learning. Our state is still reeling from having made the gross miscalculation last academic year to keep many K-12 students home all year. It was an enormous setback for kids.

And yet, as the spring semester gets under way this week, there are troubling signs. Education news service Chalkbeat Colorado reported that at least three schools in Denver, the state’s largest district, were announcing short-term shifts to remote learning this week. The schools blamed staff members who called in sick.

As was made clear in test scores released this fall — from standardized achievement tests administered last spring — kids’ learning plummeted after going online. That’s not to mention the chilling effect of such isolation on children’s social and emotional development.

Indeed, after school kids were subjected to a year of such alienation from normal education, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a children’s mental health crisis last spring. Emergency rooms and crisis centers had seen a dramatic surge of children in serious mental and emotional distress.

Let’s be clear: Specialized online charter and supplemental programs that have spent years fine-tuning their approach — and that draw kids geared toward online education to begin with — are not at issue here. Rather, the problem is forcing all kids into a pale imitation of online learning for which most kids as well as schools simply aren’t prepared and never will be.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero told Chalkbeat the closures in his district would be a short-lived exception.

“What we do in person cannot be replaced, and we have worked incredibly hard to remain in person, and we have been successful,” he said. “The omicron variant presents new challenges. … We do know that sporadic shifts to remote learning will happen, but it will not be a systemwide closure.”

Frankly, at this point in the pandemic, that’s good — but not good enough. It’s time for school boards and their appointed bureaucrats to resolve that schools will not close again at all. Period. To return to any semblance of crippling remote learning this year would be absurd.

Let’s end the excuses. No staffing shortage should be consequential enough to close a school — not given the high rate of faculty and staff vaccination. Meanwhile, even public health officials, as narrowly focused and overly cautious as they tend to be, acknowledge the need to keep kids in classrooms. And while the teachers unions are still wringing their hands; let them do so — and ignore them. Kids’ education never was the unions’ priority anyway.

The state of the pandemic is far more manageable now than it was a year ago. Let’s ensure our children never again become casualties.

The Gazette Editorial Board

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