The science is clear, Covid-19 has produced a dangerous and deadly pandemic. It’s nothing like the flu or the common cold. As of late, the amount of people contracting this virus has increased dramatically, largely because significant populations are unwilling to take even basic precautions. Regardless of fringe conspiracies and political bias, the urgency of this health and information crisis remains. Lives are at stake.
Enter, the reopening of schools.
This is truly where the rubber meets the road for our society. The choices of school boards will greatly reflect what our society values most and the maturity we have as humans in the face of crisis. As many are concerned, the clock is ticking to make critical decisions in regards to the reopening of schools that will affect the lives of everyone involved, not just students.
In my opinion, as a parent and spouse of a teacher, the following are questions that must be raised and answered as school boards discern the best pathway forward.
1) What is your priority, the lives of teachers and their families, students and their families, and staff and their families or in-person education? Which one is more important? Are you willing to take the clear and established risk of death that in-person education creates in exchange for an urgent reopening of schools with some form of in-person instruction?
2) Is delay of gratification an important principle for life and decisions? Is there room in your decision making to temporarily delay in-person education of any form for the sake of preventing the probability of permanent death to your students and their families, teachers and their families, or staff and their families?
3) How do you justify having virtual school board and leadership meetings for safety purposes yet ask students, teachers, and staff to participate in an in-person educational environment?
4) If you measure a child’s temperature before entering an in-person educational environment, who will discern those students who have been medicated to reduce their fevers upon entering? Will temperatures be taken throughout the day? If so, who will be doing this? How will the school know if a child, teacher, or staff member tests positive for Covid-19? If a child presents symptoms of Covid-19 before or during school, what actions will be taken? If that child must remain at school, where will they go and who will monitor them?
5) When it’s known that a student, teacher, or staff member tests positive for Covid-19, will all persons having been in contact or proximity to them be required to quarantine for 14 days? When it’s a teacher or staff member, will they receive additional sick leave to cover their absence? When their recovery takes months, will they continue to be compensated even if they don’t have short-term disability? Knowing that some persons having had Covid 19 experience a return of the virus, will these students, teachers, or staff persons be allowed to return to an in-person instructional environment?
6) What becomes of the teacher or staff member who, due to their own medically validated health reasons or that of family members, is significantly placed at an even higher risk in an in-person educational environment and therefore refuses to do so? Will they be fired? Do they not have a civil right to work in a safe, educational environment as was established upon employment? Do you have teaching or staff options available with the same compensation and benefits for these high risk persons? Are you prepared for the numerous lawsuits that will ensue?
7) If masks or distancing are required in an in-person educational environment, what will be the consequences of violating these rules? Who will be enforcing these rules and consequences? Will there be different rules for different environments? If so, what are they and are they agreed upon?
8) What efforts have been made to hear from and solicit the concerns of your most important asset… teachers? Have they been provided an autonomous environment from which to speak openly and honestly about their questions and concerns? What weight do those concerns carry?
9) In the end, what is the teaching moment for your school board in all of this? If you say that “The education of our students is the most important thing,” then how can that be achieved if they’re dead, their teacher is dead, or a staff member is dead–all unnecessarily?
Is the removal of a temporary educational setback more important than people’s lives? Are academic performance, goals, and career ambitions more important than people’s lives? Is your alignment to personal politics more important than people’s lives? Are your personal agendas more important than people’s lives. As a school board, are the lives of students, teachers, and staff members expendable? In the months ahead, is the ultimate exam given to students, teachers, and staff going to be to see if they can stay alive? Instead of the EOG (End Of Grade) testing, will it be more like an EOL (End Of Life) testing?
In short, is your love of the idea of education more important than the reality of people’s lives?
The lives of students, teachers, staff members and their families are literally all on you.
Grace is brave. Be brave.
Good questions. There are just too many factors at play in a community and school setting to have any meaningful control. As a teacher for 27 years, I would completely reject any notion of person to person education. Our local university is requiring students to sign waivers before attending classes in person this fall. It’s pretty ridiculous. There are still many questions about the nature of transmission and the effects on various age groups.