Headlines aren’t designed to capture nuance, and this one is no exception.
“Very few Americans back full school opening,” it tells us. But that’s because only 1 in 10 Americans think schools should reopen with absolutely no restrictions, just as it was before the coronavirus. Support for school reopening remains tepid, but it increases when Americans are asked about reopening with precautions like face coverings and social distancing.
Then there’s this detail: “It’s a little different among the parents of school-age children.”
You don’t say.
Everyone has an opinion about the coronavirus and schools. Parents in St. Joseph face a critical choice in the next four days on whether to commit to in-person classes or enroll in the St. Joseph School District’s new Virtual Academy.
In our opinion, school is the safest, best place to learn in a community that has registered 1,000 positive cases of COVID-19, about 1% of St. Joseph’s population. Many of the 10 deaths in Buchanan County have been associated with specific confined places, like meatpacking plants and senior care facilities.
We also recognize that not everyone feels comfortable sending children to school. Maybe an elderly grandparent is in the home or maybe a parent has a compromised immune system. District officials in St. Joseph, recognizing that it would be impossible to accommodate everyone, unveiled options for in-person learning with precautions and a new Virtual Academy for online learning.
It’s a lot for parents to digest on a deadline, but here are some key issues to consider:
∙ Enforcement depends on your definition. If your child isn’t wearing a face mask at a time when it’s appropriate, an SRO won’t be called in and harsh disciplinary action is unlikely. But that student could be told to put one on, and a conversation with the student and maybe a parent is possible. Eileen Houston-Stewart, SJSD communications director, likens it to the way building administrators handle a student who wears a shirt with an inappropriate message. Enforcement could change if the city adopts a face mask mandate for all indoor spaces.
∙ Will a Virtual Academy student be allowed to play sports? According to the district website, students in the academy can play sports as long as they meet MSHSAA guidelines. Students will need to contact their principal for details on band, clubs and other activities.
∙ What if COVID-19 takes a turn for the worse and a district-wide shutdown in necessary? The Virtual Academy students would experience no change and the in-school students would switch to remote learning, much like the spring semester.
The district’s job isn’t to sell either option but to offer information so parents can make an informed decision prior to a July 31 deadline.