A worrisome rise of the Delta variant in children across the country has raised concerns about mask refusal and school safety. Politicization with contradictions and poor messaging by both political parties creates a dangerous scenario for children.
Americans must work together and be realistic about the dangers of this illness to children, not make promises that can’t be kept, not drive home ultimatums, not emphasize learning loss as what’s most important, and not promote lies and half-truths for political points.
There’s one choice, and that choice is to protect students. Every decision surrounding schooling must be weighed according to the threat of the virus. Doctors must work with educators to better understand the difficulties teachers face with mitigations in school settings.
The CDC and Medical Experts
Understandably, the CDC updates their recommendations due to changing information, but they aren’t always clear or explicit enough about how schools should proceed.
Recently it was the American Academy of Pediatricians who first stated that everyone should mask up in school. The CDC played catch up.
These glitches make recommendations sound weak. Some parents don’t take them seriously, and teachers are often blamed for what isn’t under their control.
It’s also troubling that officials have not better-understood teachers’ difficulties with their mitigation requirements, such as expecting young children to practice social distancing or assuming schools have good ventilation.
In the meantime, masks and vaccines are critical to safely opening school buildings.
Florida’s Gov. DeSantis threatens to deny school districts funding when leaders insist that students wear masks in school. Florida leads the nation in Covid-19 cases in children, as schools start.
DeSantis is not the only member of this terrible club, ignoring public health experts, steering parents, and children in such a dangerous direction. Texas Governor Abbott, Arizona’s Gov. Ducey, South Carolina’s Gov. McMaster, and Iowa’s Gov. Reynolds banned schools from requiring masks in school.
Arkansas Republican Governor Hutchinson regrets a statewide ban on mask mandates as Delta variant cases in children rise. He’s trying to get the legislature to amend the ban.
Other Governors encourage students and staff to wear masks in schools.
Louisiana’s Gov. Edwards temporarily reinstated Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate indoors for those five and older. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations across that state are hitting children hard. Parents and teachers are praising Edwards as a governor that cares about children!
AFT President Randi Weingarten emphasized student and teacher safety last year amidst criticism. Since President Biden’s election, her Covid-19 message did an about-face. It’s easy to understand with the vaccine’s success, and she’s pushing the importance of vaccinations and mask-wearing.
There is no doubt: Schools must be open. In-person. Five days a week. With the space and facilities to do so. We know that’s how kids learn best and that prolonged isolation is harmful.
But there is doubt! There’s doubt about the virus and how it’s affecting children now and will affect them in the future!
This messaging gives an illusion that school leaders and teachers can choose what will happen with this virus. Some conservatives have likened it to school choice!
Weingarten will be seen as back-pedaling, and teachers blamed again if school buildings close due to safety concerns.
For example, one report mentions Education Secretary Cardona wanting to keep schools open. The author of the report says he should keep teachers’ unions in line. . . .
It’s also contradictory that both unions aren’t insisting that teachers should be vaccinated.
Teachers are key to continuing instruction for students no matter what. They have taken on that challenge and worked admirably since the start of the pandemic, but they have little control over viruses. They can get vaccinated and wear masks. They’re responsible for doing their best to keep students safe, and they set an example for parents.
The real choices with these viruses are to choose to wear masks and get vaccinated. This will help, but it might still not be enough. If school buildings must close again, parents and educators will need to work together to assist students and not blame one another for a virus that’s not under their control.
This pandemic has shown us that the only way Americans can be more in control is by being honest, flexible, and helping one another to protect students. It will mean putting party politics aside and recognizing that the real enemy is the virus. And the most important objective is keeping students safe.