Gov. Roy Cooper hit the digital airwaves with the state plan for public education on Tuesday. There weren’t too many surprises in the presser. Of the three proposed plans, the governor is hoping we’ll use Plan B, which would have a mix of in-person learning and online instruction, with an online-only option in every school district for kids who need to stay home.
Daily temperature screenings and health assessments, moderate social distancing and mandatory facemasks were also part of this solution.
There are no good options here — Plan B is just the most prudent direction we can hope for. And, of course, we can only do it if our coronavirus numbers start slowing down, which they are not.
It’s a dangerous game we’re playing with the lives of our children, sure. But as far as science can tell, children are not as susceptible to COVID-19 as adults, they don’t transmit it as readily and, if they do get sick, it’s usually not too bad.
It’s worth the risk because most of these kids need to be in school. It’s a better learning environment for most, particularly students with technological challenges at home, and the sort of social setting that children need as part of their human development. For kids with particularly challenging circumstances, school can be their only safe space, or their sole steady source of nutrition.
During Tuesday’s Guilford County school board meeting, board members outlined three possible outcomes for students come fall. One has students learning remotely five days a week. Scenario B has students coming to school two days a week while the third option picks half the student population to physically attend schools, with the groups alternatingly weekly. The final plan will be decided by the school board at the July 28 meeting, though Superintendent Sharon Contreras has recommended that schools be online only the first five weeks. Two new tuition-free virtual schools were also approved for students who prefer to learn from home. Applications opened yesterday.
The kids themselves are just one of the stakeholders here — primary ones though they may be. We must acknowledge that the teachers and other school staff assume most of the risk, just as we must admit that COVID-19 outbreaks in our public schools are as inevitable as the afternoon rain.
A NC Public Schools Workers Bill of Rights has been circulating online, written by school staff that demands full funding of both school operations and new health guidelines, and getting input from the educators themselves on the plan. It has 4,743 signatures as of Tuesday evening.
Plus, there are parents themselves, most of whom earn their living while their kids are at school. A disruption in childcare could put families on the street, not to mention the far-reaching effect it would have on the economy.
And remember, too: We can only do this if we reduce the spread of the virus in our state. If things continue on the trajectory we’ve set, these kids could end up staying home for the rest of the year.