Summer Cable: The resource schools have is time

Published: 8/4/2020 3:50:17 PM

It is vitally important to acknowledge two truths about the current situation faced by teachers, staff and caregivers in the Northampton Public School system: 1) there is no perfect answer to reopening schools in the middle of a pandemic, and 2) the single most valuable resource we have at our disposal is time.

It has been reiterated by federal, state and local officials that young children transmit and contract COVID-19 at a lower rate than teens and adults. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has called our kids “stoppers of disease” and that presupposition has guided much of the discussion around reopening schools.

As states across the country have reopened their childcare and school facilities, it has become abundantly clear that, in fact, children do face an enormous risk from contracting and spreading the novel coronavirus. Everyone acknowledges that public schools do not have even a fraction of the resources they need and deserve under non-emergency circumstances. The resources necessary to support an “as close to normal” reopening model are so far beyond what most public schools have at their disposal that I fear it will be the end of public education as we know it.

The one resource our school district has is time. We can make informed, safe decisions and respond to information as it arises if we acknowledge that “as normal as possible” is not the best choice for the moment. I strongly encourage the Northampton School Committee to commit to returning to school with the fully remote option between September and December and devoting the money that would have gone to infrastructure — personal protective equipment, cleaning and additional personnel — to professional development for teachers to provide robust remote education and support programs for the most vulnerable students in the district.

When we all have a better sense of what the local rates of COVID-19 cases are and can make better-informed predictions for the winter and spring, the district can then make a recommendation for reopening models in 2021. These are not normal times, let’s not pretend that “as close to normal” is the best choice for our community.

Summer Cable


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