This past spring, students around the country missed classes, proms and graduations as government health officials looked for ways to stem the COVID-19 tide.
Now, midway through the summer, students are wondering if they'll return to the classroom this fall. Parents, teachers and students all want to get back to work. Students need to get caught up on lessons and recover from the isolation of the lockdown. Parents need to get back to jobs.
But the stakes are monumental. What if a child gets sick?
The Centers for Disease Control says that while some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most cases. But teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, janitors and others are also part of the education equation. Nearly one-third of public school teachers are 50 or older
What if one of them gets sick or even dies?
The state of Minnesota has offered school districts essentially three choices going forward:
- Keep kids at home and use distance learning to keep up with their studies.
- Return to the classroom, while also conforming to safety guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health.
- A hybrid of the two, where the schools would open at a reduced capacity.
According to a report from Post Bulletin education reporter Jordan Shearer, the Rochester School District has developed three task forces to build strategies for the three scenarios. One task force will focus on the academic piece of the plan. Another will focus on operational needs, such as food service and transportation. And the third group will focus on professional development, as well as how to help families cope with the different models.
And all of this comes with the backdrop of devastating new outbreaks in some areas of the country. Florida reported a record 132 deaths on Tuesday, and authorities in Texas and Arizona are preparing refrigerated morgue trucks to meet demand. Minnesota's rate of infection, hospitalization and death are not as dire as those in other states. That's good, and we want to keep it that way.
Kids are social, they need social interactions to develop and mature emotionally. Most parents aren't trained teachers, and putting them in the position of managing their child's education is not a sustainable solution, even more so if the parent also has a full-time job. The school district needs to develop a solution that protects the physical and mental health of the children, provides a quality education, and does not put an unsustainable burden on teachers and parents.