A few weeks ago I saw with my own two eyes about 10 teenagers playing shirts-and-skins basketball on a Buxton playground court.

That same day I also witnessed about 40 kids taking part in a town-sponsored summer recreation program inside a gymnasium.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for the Lakes Region Weekly, lives in Windham.

A few days after that, I saw dozens of children congregating on a field at a Fryeburg summer camp.

After each sighting of kids in their natural summertime state, I thought to myself, they’re all going to die. Oh, the humanity. Struck down by COVID in the dawn of life.

Since then, I’ve minded the headlines waiting for Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, to share the sad news that hundreds of kids and their adult supervisors in western Maine have contracted the coronavirus and are fighting for their lives in the COVID unit at Maine Medical Center.

I’m still waiting. Shah still only mentions men in their 80s and women in their 90s as having died with the coronavirus (not of the coronavirus, interestingly enough). There’s never a boy or girl mentioned and hardly anyone younger than 60.

As we lazily trundle toward summer’s end, my observations lead me to ask: If children are already gathering in large groups and aren’t dying or even contracting the disease, why can’t these same kids go back to school in September?

The answer is simple: They can. And should. And will – if only we are open-minded enough to dismiss our preconceived fears and “follow the science,” as the fashionable people like to say.

So far, about 139,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, about twice that of a bad flu season, with about 117 Mainers losing their lives. While the deaths are tragic, younger people seem resistant to the virus and apparently don’t present a threat of transmitting the disease to each other or older people, as once thought.

Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, reported earlier this month on a half dozen recent studies examining COVID-19’s effects on children.

Among several encouraging studies cited, the article details one that followed a French boy who exposed 80 classmates to COVID-19, with none contracting it. It also cited an Australia case where nine infected students and nine staff members exposed 735 kids and 128 teachers to COVID-19 with only two secondary infections resulting.

“The data are striking,” said Dr. William Raszka, a University of Vermont professor who co-authored the Pediatrics article. “The key takeaway is that children are not driving the pandemic. After six months, we have a wealth of accumulating data showing that children are less likely to become infected and seem less infectious.”

With kids resistant to COVID-19 and most school staff members younger than 60, there is no reason why Maine kids can’t get back to the classroom this fall.

The kids want to go back. Parents, who rely on school so they can return to work, want them to go back. And many teachers want to get back to in-person learning and away from their zombie Zoom virtual classrooms.

It also seems the Maine Department of Education wants school to resume. Last week, the department issued a set of guidelines that provides extensive reopening suggestions but, most importantly, allows local school boards to decide whether to resume in-person learning.

With local districts in the driver’s seat, board members should follow the science, follow the guidelines and get kids back to the classroom to avoid any further deterioration of their mental, physical and social development.

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