The mantra of the last year or so is this: don’t be an asshole. There are various types of assholes in the world, we know this. But with COVID-19, there are special kinds of assholes around every corner. There are those who were born this way, and others who due to circumstance or personal beliefs grow into assholes like those who choose not to cover their noses when wearing a mask.
Let me say this another way: people who know the rules and willfully choose to break them are assholes. A rule breaker when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 is a special kind of asshole, the kind who cares only about their safety and no one else. But with the implementation of a few simple rules, our kids and their teachers can learn (or teach, as it were) in an environment that helps them stay healthy. What will it take to safely reopen schools? Common sense and diligence — and we need both in order to open schools safely and keep them open.
Earlier this week, the CDC released five strategies to help schools across the United States which are as follows: wear a mask and keep physical distance, in addition to keeping facilities clean, and following handwashing and respiratory etiquette. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated in a CNN report, “I want to underscore that the safest way to open schools is to ensure that there is as little disease as possible in the community. We know that the introduction and subsequent transmission of COVID-19 in schools is connected to and facilitated by transmission of COVID-19 in the community.” Other recommendations to keep the school community safe include keeping students in cohorts to limit exposure, color coded charts to describe transmission levels, and vaccinations for teachers — and, when it becomes possible, students.
The Biden administration is committed to getting kids and teachers back into the classroom safely … that is, if people can follow the roadmap outlined by the CDC. It is not rocket science, people; it is so simple that my five-year-old twin daughters can follow these rules. Yet for some, apparently, following these protocols is easier said than done.
Take the example of Summit High School in Bend, Oregon, which opened its doors to in-person learning but had to close again after a party led to a COVID outbreak. There were 24 confirmed cases through primary or secondary exposure, and distance learning was once again implemented because people just can’t be safe. We would be fooling ourselves to think this is an isolated incident; as long as there are kids (and parents who will allow it), there will be parties and gatherings that just aren’t safe right now.
Until people, parents and students alike, can follow the rules needed to get us to a better place with lower infection rates and higher instances of classroom doors staying open for longer than a few days here or there, it’s going to take our collective common sense to keep our kids and their teachers safely in school. The constant jerking around — the start of in-person instruction and then the abrupt stop because someone decided to travel across state lines or attend or host a Super Bowl party — is concerning on many levels. The choices we make as a collective community, especially right now, matter for the mortality of us all.
When school officials decide to revert from in-person instruction to remote learning because of the fear that someone in some grade had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, abstract words like “may” and “possible” and “might be” sprinkle emails and news reports, which then ultimately stall the academic momentum of those attending in-person learning.
What role can we take as parents to further protect our kids and their teachers as schools begin to reopen? For some of us, it means stop being assholes and follow the rules. Your kid doesn’t need their friends with them to celebrate their 13th birthday party. You don’t need to have a get-together or shindig for any reason at all. It means trying out Instacart or curbside pickup to lower your risk of exposure. It’s basic kindergarten learning: hear the facts and follow the rules.
When we reopen schools, and school officials commit to showing up for our kids, we need to do our damn part and make sure our kids are following protocol. Not only their education, but the safety of those around them, depends on us all using common sense and following the rules. There is only so much the CDC can advise us on — the rest is up to us.