I thought we were good to go. Our third-grader was going to learn online-only for the first semester or until a vaccine is developed.
Then my school district sent an email.
“Dear EMS ISD Families,” the note read. “We are reaching out today to share with you that the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD Board of Trustees has called a special meeting on Thursday, August 6, at 8 pm to review the district Reconnect 2020 plan for in-person and choice remote learning.”
I almost puked.
I had seen enough of parents clamoring to send their children back to school. Living in a conservative part of the county, I assumed the schoolboard meeting was going to result in a drastic change. I was ready to pull my kid out of school for the year. There’s no way in hell I’m sending him to a crowded box where COVID-19 can run rampant. I love my child. Of course, I don’t want him to get sick.
I’ve been trying to understand the arguments for reopening schools, and all I’ve come up with, I’m afraid, is more politics.
I’ve heard all of the complaints. “Kids learn better at school.” Indeed, but if every kid is focused on simply achieving baseline results, as children will be in schools across this virus-ravaged country until life returns to normal, achieving baseline results will be good enough for one year.
“Parents have to work.” Fair enough, which is why the United States should do what many other first-world nations have done and pay us to stay home.
“Kids will be abused at home.” Kids will be abused at home no matter what. Forcing me to send my child to a virus-infested school because some children are in danger at home is a sacrifice I am unwilling to make. It’s a no-brainer. I support assorted child-protective services as I am financially able to. I’m not putting my kid in harm’s way to save another child. He’s an 8-year-old who likes Harry Potter, taekwondo, and Minecraft. He’s not a soldier.
I probably wouldn’t be as angry about this if there wasn’t so much certainty that, yes, just about every school will be rife with COVID-19.
This isn’t me being clairvoyant as usual. This is science talking.
On the website of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the governing body that oversees all schools statewide, the understanding is in very plain English: “There will almost certainly be situations that necessitate temporary school closure due to positive COVID-19 cases in schools.”
Did you catch that? “Almost certainly.” That’s like a 99% chance. Why anyone would want to put their children in that kind of environment is beyond me. As I’ve said before in other columns, I had the flu a couple of years ago, and it was horrendous. I couldn’t breathe, I kept coughing, I couldn’t sleep. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. If I knew that wearing a face mask would keep me from simply catching the flu, I would never leave the house without one. That a face mask can prevent me from becoming sick with a worse respiratory illness or, perhaps just as importantly, keep me from infecting someone else, maybe Mama Boo and Papa Boo or my 83-year-old mother, I’d wear one to bed. To say putting on a face mask infringes on our Constitutional rights is asinine. You go to the Kwik-E-Mart with pants on, right? You buckle up before getting behind the wheel. Wearing a face mask is no different. Just do it. As the old saying goes, the life you save might be your own.
The TEA isn’t the only governing body banking on COVID-19 outbreaks at school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also positively certain that schools are going to become breeding grounds for the deadly virus.
“Policy makers,” the CDC says on its website, “should acknowledge that COVID-19 policies are intended to mitigate, not eliminate, risk. No single action or set of actions will completely eliminate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission … .”
Texas schools in particular are looking at lots of closures. And reopenings. And re-closures. Great way to learn. Just the other day, Texas joined California, New Jersey, and New York as the states with more than 10,000 known COVID-19 deaths. Texas’ official death toll is definitely an undercount, experts say, given insufficient testing, especially at the start of the pandemic nationwide, y’know, right before the novel coronavirus was supposed to “miraculously” go away.
Hispanic Texans are in the toughest spot. Not only have they been hit the hardest by the virus, making up more than half of the state’s total fatalities, but most of Hispanic Texans cannot work from home (see: “Bridging America’s Wealth Divide,” pg. 8). Now by forcing schools to reopen, we are asking the Hispanic community to sacrifice their children. This should be a crime.
While the number of Texas hospitalizations is down, thanks no doubt to Gov. Greg Abbott’s July mask mandate, the positivity rate — the average of positive coronavirus test results — is still at a whopping 11.8%, nearly two full percentage points above Abbott’s “warning flag” rate of 10%. This is not good news for kids and adults about to spend six hours a day in a crowded building.
A person with common sense may wonder, If schools are unsafe, then why are they being opened to children? And adults? There’s one reason and one reason only, and it’s big, orange, and dumber than an umbrella left out in the rain.
We are in this position only because of a lack of leadership at the top. Dear Leader doesn’t speak for me, or about 65 million other people, but 62 million (and dropping) think he’s the Second Coming, and when they see him without a mask in public and downplaying the seriousness of the virus, well, that’s why we lead the world in COVID-19 cases, right above Brazil, India, and the Russian Federation, three countries not necessarily known for progressive, science-based leadership. Arguing for school reopenings is happening for one reason and one reason only: to support Dear Leader’s belief that everything is fine, just fine, and to distract us from the fact that he and his enablers in Congress on both sides of the aisle have completely and utterly failed us.
Had our president not been a self-serving alien reptile, maybe we could have locked down earlier, established a mask mandate, suspended mortgages and rents, and paid us civilians to stay home. Like most other first-world countries, maybe we would be reopening with hope instead of the dread that currently fills us.
The sad news is that it appears that at some point or another in our miserable American lives, we are all going to come down with COVID-19, especially since Dear Leader and his followers continue making more boneheaded decisions. Exhibit A: sending kids and teachers back to school at the height of a pandemic instead of paying us to stay home until new cases drop precipitously.
Saw a funny meme the other day that applies to our current situation in more ways than one: “If we don’t send kids back to school during a plague, how are they going to learn that society puts no value on their lives?”
Ever since Columbine in 1999, there have been 229 more school shootings in the United States. We have done nothing to stop them, and like COVID-19 outbreaks there will “almost certainly” be more this year. The NRA runs Congress.
All of my worry about that special schoolboard meeting was for naught. I grabbed my child and held him tight while reading the follow-up notification.
“We apologize for the time of this email but wanted to share this decision with our staff, students, parents, and community as soon as possible,” EMS wrote a day later. “The Board of Trustees hosted a special meeting Thursday, August 6, to provide stakeholders another opportunity to share their feedback on the Reconnect 2020 return-to-school plan. Following public comments, Trustees considered all the feedback received throughout the planning process. Additionally, they factored in relevant health data and updates from district leaders regarding a variety of logistical considerations. Based on this information, Trustees voted to begin the school year in full remote instruction on August 20, with options for in-person and choice remote learning to begin on September 8. Administration will continue to monitor the local conditions surrounding COVID-19 leading up to the September 8 date.”
Imagine that, a school district in redneck North Tarrant County listening to science — and probably a teacher or two. And hopefully listening also to parents like me.