It’s unlikely there’s a single parent, teacher or school administrator that doesn’t want children back in school for live, in-person instruction five full days a week.
The question has always been, as this school year has progressed from the late summer low infection rates to the frightening spikes of November to January, how safely can it be done?
In recent weeks an increasing swell of frustration among parents in many districts throughout Westchester and Putnam has surfaced after seeing their children languish alone in front of a computer at home for days on end. It’s understandable. Even for those children who aren’t falling behind academically – and plenty are – the lack of socialization and interaction with peers is likely to hurt many of this generation’s elementary school-age children.
But we’re not just talking about the safety of the students. Children and teenagers, while certainly not completely unscathed during this pandemic, have had vastly better outcomes if they should test positive for COVID-19.
It’s also the teachers and staff members who have a greater chance of comorbidities simply by virtue of being older than the children. Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether the level of risk for educators who regularly interact with students increases by being in a full school building. But that’s the point, as much as the medical community has learned during the past year, there is so much that is still unknown.
And it’s also about every family that has immunocompromised relatives or a multigenerational arrangement that could have a grandparent living under the same roof.
Many districts that don’t have the space have been prudently cautious about pushing for too much attendance too quickly.
As a result, while schools have a responsibility to educate, in a pandemic they also have a responsibility to keep their student and families, staff and community safe.