Tomorrow, many more children will return to school, many for the first time physically in over a year and a half, due to the precautions and protections of Covid19. Several states children have already returned to school. It is at this moment, are we learning anything in the past few weeks, what works and what does not work, in regard to living in a world of Covid19 and our schools?
The first day of school has always been exciting for me, and much to the chagrin of my daughters, it always meant a photo that morning. But as my daughters begin tomorrow, that excitement has been tempered by caution and wariness.
To be clear, I want my daughters physically in school. The last year and a half, honestly has had mixed results in both grades, study habits, and social skills. When all is said and done, I believe the best thing for them all around, is to be in school. But I also want to be clear, this can only be possible if done safely.
After a year and a half, we are all “experts” now in Covid19, what works, what does not work, who is to blame, what precautions need to be done and what are foolish. Many of us have gotten our experience and degrees in Covid19 from social media. Most of us, have come to accept, this crisis was new to not only us, but to science. And while we expect science to be the “truth”, it is what it is, science we are learning, is about getting to the truth. Which means, we are learning as we go along. What we think is the problem and solution, can change. Just because something may be discovered to be a wrong thought, does not mean when the correct answer is found, that science cannot be trusted, quite the contrary. It is because science did correct itself, that we should trust it even more. Science did not stop looking, just because it thought it had all the correct answers.
Schools in Texas, Georgia, and my home state of Florida have been back for several weeks, and other states around the country have also returned. In these three states however, one thing stands out, all have governors that stood in the way of taking precautions, during what is called our “4th surge” of Covid19, and the count of children sick with Covid19, once thought of as inconsequencial because of its lower risk to children, is quickly becoming a major concern. Pediatric hospitals being inundated with children needing hospitalization, way beyond what we saw last year. And yet, the governors, and many residents of those states, still fight for any mitigation efforts to protect their children and the staff responsible for them.
For me, I am not thinking about the start of my daughter’s senior year being a milestone, getting a “last photo” of her last year of high school, or the fact that her sister is right behind her. No, instead my thoughts are two-fold. Has the school district done all that it can to assure my daughters safeties, and what about all the potential “nut jobs” willing to disrupt and cause problems with the efforts of the district?
The answer to the first question is easy. Yes, I know that my daughters school district has done everything possible, and are following not only federal recommendations of the CDC, but also of the state’s health department. Further, the district has the benefit of an extra layer of caution, having a county that has its own health department. The district is following all the levels, federal, state, and county when it comes to mitigation.
The steps that district has taken has earned it recognition by the CDC, to earn status as a subject for a retroactive study on the mitigation. Retroactive meaning, looking back, to see “why” the things worked the way that they did for the district. Engineering controls such as air handlers and sanitation efforts are critical, and yes, cost money. But this is a key step to getting the kids back in the classroom, especially when a district this size, is unable to make the classrooms comply with the social distance recommendation. So, of course, that also leads to vaccines and masks. With my daughters in high school, they are of age to have been vaccinated. But does this mean that all teen student have been? Of course not. And definitely, none of the elementary students have had any opportunity. That means there is only one other possible form of mitigation to help, not fully prevent, but help reduce the opportunity for spreading Covid19, masks. I will not spend time on this post about how many in the district feel about this. All you have to do is go back to a couple of my recent posts.
There is one more very important layer that the district employs. I mentioned that the district has access to the county health department. This allowed the district early on, to impose contact tracing and testing of its students and staff. In other words, they can catch most cases before infecting anyone else. This is important with the likelihood of selfish or ignorant parents, having been exposed to Covid19, sending their children infected to school anyway, for whatever reason, which is not acceptable.
I will say, my daughters district does appear to be more of the exception than the rule in that state, by looking at social media posts from friends elsewhere in the state. One friend’s school district may as well be compared to Florida’s attitude, so it is likely just a matter of time until that district realizes its mistake.
As I look at my daughters first day of school tomorrow, I have hopes this will be a year where they can get back to focusing on school, joining clubs, going to activities, and hanging with friends. My daughters are doing their part to go in that direction, even though vaccinated, respectful and caring of those who may still be at risk. None of us, want the return to virtual studies, but if the district ends up compelled to do so, so be it. Whatever keeps everyone safe. If all could just work together, instead of against each other, this may have been over a long time ago.
With Texas, Georgia, Florida and others, we have had a chance to see what is not working, at the expense of students and staff. As schools continue to open this week and the coming weeks, hopefully they have seen what is not working. We just have to wait and see.