Carlo Dallapiccola: Why Amherst should send its children back to school

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Published: 9/23/2020 5:08:39 PM

Children around the world are returning to their schools. So should our children.

Across the world, in regions where the coronavirus pandemic has been sufficiently brought under control, children have been returning to their classrooms. This week, my nieces in Veneto, Italy, were among the more than seven million children who returned to their elementary, middle and high school buildings in a show of resolve that has united families, teachers, school administrators and regional governments.

The threat of a spread in infections is, of course, on everyone’s mind, but there is an unshaken belief that there is a moral imperative to reopen the schools — the economic, emotional and psychological well-being of the whole of society is at stake.

Here in Amherst, families are grappling with a very different start to the school year. Even though the rate of new infections in Hampshire County is comparable to that in Italy (about 10 positive cases per week, per 100,000 residents in Hampshire County, versus about 17 positive cases per week, per 100,000 residents in Italy), all children in the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District have begun in the school year fully remote.

According to the school plan agreed upon by the superintendent, the School Committee and the teachers, elementary-school children will slowly return to the school buildings in phases that begin on Oct. 1 and conclude on Nov. 16. Meanwhile, middle and high school children will not see the inside of a classroom until Nov. 16, and only for one day a week, at that — expanded to just two days a week in February 2021.

The failure to make returning our children to their classrooms the utmost priority, in light of the very low coronavirus case rate in the region, and the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatricians and public health experts and centers of disease control around the world, is inexplicable — especially considering that the Amherst community takes pride in its progressive values and concern for the most disadvantaged members of our society.

In the 11 years that my children have been attending Amherst public schools, I have had uniformly wonderful experiences. The teachers, staff and administrators have always shown a keen dedication to the children and I am convinced that they will be putting in 110% effort once again. 

Collectively, however, this moment will not be remembered as Amherst’s finest hour.

Carlo Dallapiccola lives in Amherst.

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