TO THE EDITOR:
I understand the impossible plight of parents, administrators, and the Board of Education. We all want schools to open, for children to learn in a social setting, and for life to return to some familiar version of normalcy. But what we want or, more precisely, what we wish for should not drive public policy during a pandemic. COVID-19 has its own agenda.
Over the past months, as the discussion for school return has taken shape, I've read the updates of the truly dedicated administrators scrambling to meet an artificial deadline. They have worked tirelessly, stuck between competing interests and ever-updating information. I truly appreciate their dedication, but it does not change the fact that what we seem to be witnessing is best intentions moving us with glacial momentum to ill-fated actions.
I think that in our collective guts we all know that students, teachers, and the community itself is at greater risk with school opening and that there will be an uptick in infection and a very unfortunate outcome for some number of persons. Life is not without risk, but this particular risk is unprecedented and being deemed “acceptable” through what appears to be an anecdotal, on-the-fly process.
Yes, tragically, children are hurt every year from accidents, violence, and other diseases, but we as a society have rightfully decided that keeping children safe is a highest-order priority and so when lice appears, we send kids home; when it is flu season, we get vaccines; when we drive, we have traffic laws and seatbelts; and when there is a rash of school shootings, we take intensified security measures. For risks far less statistically prevalent than a global pandemic, we put the children first and mitigate their risk decisively. We don't tough our way through it and hope for the best.
As we have moved to this reopening, I have tried to locate the exact study that has been used to inform the decision-making. Where is the analysis that shows us, with some scientifically-informed modeling, the assessment of safety and the estimation of new cases and projected sickness and mortality? I do not mean studies that show what we "generally" know about this virus, I mean what is the specific study being used to look at kids and adults in a closed building for X number of hours with X precautions in place? If this study does not exist, on what then are we basing the “wish” that this will all end up okay?
Conversely, if such a study does exist, why does the public not know about it? Why are parents not demanding it? How many children, teachers, administrators, and community members does this study estimate will get sick and die? Shouldn’t we as the community know this number and decide as a community if that is in fact an acceptable risk? What numbers are decision-makers working with as they gamble with people’s lives?
I am asking: why are we force fitting a so-potentially dangerous solution to this untenable situation? Isn’t a more measured and patient approach (the only known low-risk option available to us) our course of action? I believe that we need to pull the plug on the current hybrid plan and remain online until this virus is under control. Children should not be a part of economic revitalization, they should be protected to the full measure, and not to the acceptable measures, of safety. These are tough decisions I know, but though Connecticut has done well to date, we have not eradicated the virus nor are we immune to a new spike, and no child should bear lifelong symptoms or the death of a relative for their education. That should not be their cost for our policies or impatience.
I understand the emotional charge of this issue, but after reading Craft, T. (2020 August 24) Teachers: We Don't Feel Safe, Weston Today, I felt I needed to speak up. As a parent, I support those teachers who feel terrified to step into an unsafe workplace to deliver a severely compromised educational experience and who felt they could only express their anxiety anonymously—and, sadly, my support too feels most-safely expressed anonymously.
— Name withheld by request
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