No matter where you stand on schools reopening and mask wearing, there is one thing you have to acknowledge right now—our area school districts have done some outstanding planning for the 2020-21 school year. Will it work? We’re about to find out.
If there is anything you don’t want to be right now, it has to be a superintendent. It would be bad enough to be a school board member (especially since you are working for free), but the buck stops at the superintendent. No matter how much help they get from their staff and input they get from board members, our area superintendents are the ones who will get the credit and the blame for whatever happens over the coming months.
It’s hard to imagine superintendents across the nation have been getting much sleep lately. They have been living and breathing coronavirus response plans for the past several months and they have been undoubtedly dreaming about them as well. And worst of all for them, there are no right answers. No matter what they do, someone is going to hate it. They all need to be commended for the tough task they have been tackling.
Keeping in mind that there are no right answers, no universal plan for keeping students and staff safe during a global pandemic, schools in our area are about to enter into a grand experiment. It wasn’t planned that way, but that’s what is about to happen.
As is the case across the nation, our area schools have developed a wide range of coronavirus safety precautions. Some area schools are requiring universal mask wearing for all students and staff, while others are only suggesting mask use, or requiring masks only when social distancing of students and teachers can’t be maintained.
Given the continuing spread of COVID-19 throughout our area, it’s unlikely the virus won’t be in our schools on day one of the 2020-21 school year. With the number of staff members, teachers, and students coming together, it’s extremely likely someone is going to bring the virus with them when classes resume. There is almost no way to avoid it.
That is when the experiment will begin. Will universal mask use prevent the spread of the virus in schools? Will it keep schools from having to send large numbers of students into quarantine when their classmates or workers test positive over the weeks and months to come? Can school districts control the virus with limited mask wearing and just social distancing? Are all the measures put into place doomed to failure?
One thing that may play a key role in school districts’ success in handling the virus could be the large number of people who are opting to keep their kids at home and enroll them in virtual classes. While enrollment is still open in many districts, some are reporting that 15 to 20 percent of students will be learning at home when classes resume. With lower numbers of kids in classes, that will allow districts to have better social distancing measures in classrooms and it will reduce the risk of infections simply by bringing fewer people back to campus.
No matter what happens when schools reopen, we should all appreciate the hard work our school administrators, teachers, and staff members have done and will be doing to keep everyone safe. Let’s all pray that it works.