It is still far too risky to send our kids back to school. Our family will choose the all-remote option offered by the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) for the fall, but this is a far larger issue than the choice of one privileged family – it is an issue that affects the safety of the entire Princeton community.
We’ve seen what happened in states that reopened too soon.
The virus is not gone, and people are now congregating in places like the Jersey Shore (didn’t learn Florida’s lesson), and families are going on road trips, coming into possible contact with COVID — and may bring it back for the school year.
All it takes is one or two kids to be infected — and a very high percentage of cases are asymptomatic – for it to spread like wildfire. A daily temperature check will do nothing to pinpoint asymptomatic carriers.
Children, even without symptoms or the potentially deadly Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, can spread the virus to those for whom it may be fatal.
And I have serious doubts, despite the best efforts of teachers and aides, that children of any age will maintain social distancing, let alone wear masks all day. This will put not only children and their families at risk, but teachers and staff.
And what is the plan if a child or teacher develops COVID while in school? Will the whole system shut down to contain it? By then it will be too late. An article in the Nation asked if parents would have to sign a “death waiver,” should anyone in their family die as a result of in-school learning.
Some proponents for reopening schools say that in-person learning is required for the mental well-being of our children. But, as illustrated on the Movement of Rank and File Educators website, being repeatedly commanded to stay six feet from your friends in a “distanced” classroom, unable to move around or share materials, learning from teachers wearing masks, with restrictions placed on recess, hall movement, and lunch, and the awareness that any person or random object could make you or your family very, very sick, with an illness that could kill you, your siblings, your parents, or grandparents — well, I don’t think that will do much for our kids’ mental health.
The safest course by far is to continue with all-remote learning in the fall. A great solution was proposed in the New York Times on July 20:
“Allow schools to offer only virtual classes this fall, and convert schools and other large unused spaces into Safe Centers for Online Learning (SCOLs) [for students who cannot stay home]… Students who can keep learning at home should do so… SCOL staff members [not necessarily teachers] would simply help students connect to online courses provided by their schools… students need only a desk and a laptop… mobile partitions can convert large venues into units…”
Another recent NYT piece is by a teacher who loves her students but has declared that if forced to go back to school in the fall, she will quit:
“Asking me to return to the classroom amid a pandemic and expose myself and my family to COVID-19 is like asking me to take that [school shooting] bullet home to my own family. I won’t do it, and you shouldn’t want me to… Nothing I have heard reassures me that I can safely teach in person. The “lowest risk” for spread, according to the CDC, is virtual learning. I can’t understand why we would choose more risk than is necessary.”
The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the progressive caucus within New York’s United Federation of Teachers, is saying unequivocally that it is too soon to return to school buildings:
“As teachers and parents, we are united in saying we should not be returning to school buildings this September… The science is becoming more and more clear. Sustained interactions in indoor, poorly ventilated spaces pose the greatest risk of community spread.”
Our priority is human life. The lowest risk for virus transmission, serious debilitating illness, potentially lifelong health complications, and death, is to continue all-remote learning in the fall. This is for the good of our children, our elders, parents, teachers, and the health and safety of our entire community.
Princeton Public Schools parent