There’s a lot of back and forth on the issue of opening schools right now—which was only to be expected. Moving forward has been increasingly difficult, however, as each side insists on an all or nothing approach. We are spending far more time arguing than we are problem solving.
This issue affects not only the lives and well being of our students, staff, and faculty, but also the greater spread of the virus and the burden on our hospital system. Reopening the schools will cause the virus to spread and it will result in the deaths of both students and teachers. The only point in question is how bad it will be. The virus has already killed 3x the number that the flu and pneumonia average for a year, so even if some of those numbers are misrepresented it still poses significant risk.
However, there is also the important factor of moving our children’s education forward—the stalling of which could have long term and unforeseen consequences. Other issues with children staying home include, but are not limited to, an increased burden on parents without child care, as well as increases in neglect and abuse. Not to mention their overall mental health, which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The polarization comes where one side refuses to reopen in any way, shape, or form, while the other side refuses to take necessary safety precautions seriously. Consider motor vehicles; thousands die in car accidents every year, but we take steps to mitigate those potential deaths and injuries through safety precautions, law, and regulation.
It would be unrealistic to insist on shutting down all motor vehicle traffic to prevent death or injury, just as it would be equally unrealistic—and irresponsible—to claim a right to drive as fast as you want, not require a license, or not require manufacturers to include safety equipment.
What we need right now for our schools is the equipment, laws, and regulations necessary to provide as much protection as possible without a complete shutdown. The problem is that currently safety precautions seem to be optional and people are not taking them seriously. Laws and regulations are not doing a good job with education or enforcement, to the point that they may as well not exist.
Adopting the methods that have worked for other countries, as well as limiting the number of students and/or faculty inside the school on a given day could both go a long way towards mitigating risk. Right now, however, students aren’t even doing something so simple as wearing a mask. Whether you think it works or not isn’t the issue, if it is required by law or school policy then it should be followed and enforced.
I will be keeping my children home because I have the capability to do so, as I believe everyone with that option should do. By those of us that are able keeping our children home, we reduce risk. Just as having some teachers stay home and exclusively manage online class would reduce risk.
Another simple way is to let the children choose one friend to have close contact with. Rather than telling them zero contact and having them not listen at all. Giving them a person to have legitimate contact with—though not perfect—will reduce the risk that would otherwise be much higher.
We have to find ways to compromise so that we can move forward. There will be risk involved no matter what we do, but this fighting and digging in our heels is only making matters worse. I don’t pretend to have all the answers—and I’m sure that at least some of what I’ve said here is entirely wrong—but my point is that we need to start working together, rather than against one another, regardless of what are own opinion may be. If we can’t do so simple a thing for the sake of our children, how can we even begin to expect them to act like reasonable young men and women?