At a time when Utah’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and death rates are high, some Utah school boards have decided to open schools.

Utah’s community spread is double the amount it should be for holding large events. Restrooms, drinking fountains and cafeterias are all breeding grounds for the virus. Current guidelines allow students who are sick with COVID-19 to ride school buses home if their parents do not pick them up.

With Utah’s large class sizes, it is impossible for students to safely social distance inside or outside of their classrooms. School districts do not have enough substitutes to fill in when teachers become sick. These factors — and many others — make it impossible for schools to safely reopen right now.

As a former teacher, I am a proponent of public education. All of us want schools to open as soon as possible as many students learn better in a classroom setting. However, the premature opening of Utah school districts will overwhelm the health care and testing systems and will traumatize those in the schools as they see teachers and friends become needlessly sick — and even die. Sick students and personnel will also infect some of their family members. The rushed opening of schools will create a public health care crisis that will delay consistent, long-term learning for students.

Utah school districts should not open schools to all students until its COVID-19 positivity testing rate is below five percent. This won’t happen until more Utahns decide to wear masks and socially distance, something too many in our state have refused to do. Each school district should apply the best science and critical thinking to safeguard their most precious resource: their children and their educators.

Carol Brown, South Jordan