Safety should be primary in deciding on reopening schools

This newspaper recently featured the results of an Associated Press/NORC poll about schools reopening in the fall.

The article stated only about one in 10 Americans think day care centers, preschools or K-12 schools should open this fall without restrictions. Most think mask requirements and other safety measures are necessary to restart in-person instruction and roughly three in 10 say that teaching kids in classrooms shouldn’t happen at all.

Few schools, however, plan to return to business as usual. Many of the nation’s largest school districts have announced that they’ll be entirely virtual in the fall or use a hybrid model that has children in classrooms only a couple of days a week.

The poll finds only 8% of Americans say K-12 schools should open for normal in-person instruction. Just 14% think they can reopen with minor adjustments, while 46% think major adjustments are needed. Another 31% think instruction should not be in person this fall. It’s little different among the parents of school-age children.

Here in the Upper Peninsula, the numbers are very much a cause for concern. Back in July 1, there were 161 cases reported in the U.P. As of Sunday afternoon, that number has climbed to 416, according to Michigan’s COVID-19 data site.

Obviously once July kicked off, safety went out the window for a great many of our citizens and as a result, in-class schooling will be a dubious move for our children in the fall. Any rational parent would question sending their child to school under these circumstances.

Patty Kasbek, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, said in the article that she desperately wants her two children, ages 5 and 10, to return to school. After months at home, the family is stressed and anxious. But with the virus surging, she doesn’t see a safe way to reopen.

“School shouldn’t even be considered right now,” said Kasbek, 40. “We need to get this under control before we play with the virus. It’s just too dangerous to put our kids out there like guinea pigs.”

Her local school district is planning to reopen with new safety measures, she said, but she’s opting to enroll her children in a virtual school. She isn’t as worried about her own health but fears that reopening schools could spread the virus to others.

“I just see it going very badly, and I’m very, very worried for the teachers,” said Kasbek.

In the initial months following the COVID-19 outbreak, our community did a fantastic job with staying in quarantine and following all the protocols with social distancing. Just because nice weather arrived does not mean the virus, and the risks it poses, go out the window. We need to all do our part moving forward, so that we can all eventually get back to a somewhat normal life — especially our children.

This is not a political issue — it is a public health issue that affects all of us, and all of our loved ones, regardless of which side of the aisle you align with.


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