For those without any “skin in the game,” the decision on when to reopen schools seems to have taken on the kind of divisiveness resembling the last four years in American politics and society.
While one side asserts that schools resume in-class teaching because their children “deserve it,” the other side expresses their fear that with COVID-19 still raging out of control, reopening schools serves as a choice too dangerous to consider.
In the District, Mayor Bowser has said that while there’s a plan in place, it will only work if teachers are persuaded that it can be done safely. We understand that teachers want to return to their classrooms and would rather be with their students and not continue in virtual settings. But teachers should not be forced to choose between their jobs and the welfare of their own health or that of their families.
In Maryland and Virginia – two neighboring states where coronavirus infection rates and hospitalizations have within the last few days reached numbers not seen since June, there remain advocates on both sides of the fence. Some say reopening schools can be done safely if all prescribed protocols are enforced and followed.
But that’s a big “if.”
Meanwhile, as much as we all want to see life return to some semblance of normal, COVID-19 has forced us – all of us — to refrain from engaging in those practices and routines with which we’ve long grown familiar and comfortable.
Perhaps it’s true that many children are not doing as well in their studies because they’re being taught in a virtual environment. Perhaps it’s accurate that children are struggling to adjust – many of them failing miserably despite their best efforts to conform. Certainly, many parents have grown weary and frustrated in their undesirable, sudden roles as teachers for their children – a job which they never realized could be so difficult.
But in these extraordinary, unprecedented times, every life matters – students, of course, more than anyone else. But teachers and administrators and the families who live with them must also be considered – their lives matter just as much.
We can ill afford to reduce the decision to reopen schools and when to be based on anger, impatience or because of evidence that lacks scientific and medical support.
Schools will open again and children will benefit from in-class instruction. But only when it’s safe for all concerned.
We have not reached that moment yet.