Fictional dragon sacrifices forsake young villagers to spare the village, but COVID-19 can’t be deflected with any number of casualties, and anyway, some have forgotten the heroes are supposed to reject that bargain.
Teachers and medical experts had already pointed out the return of in-person classes, even with all the precautions in place — social distancing, hand-washing, regular disinfecting, ventilation of outside air into buildings, and mask wearing — still left students, their teachers and their families exposed to unnecessary and unknowable risk before Thursday’s School Committee meeting.
That risk involves death and long-lasting health effects including chronic fatigue and neurological damage.
But during Thursday’s meeting — a remote meeting, not in-person, because officials are avoiding the very risks they are preparing to expose staff, teachers, students, and all those peoples’ family members to — members discussed the dilemma posed by their inability to enforce mask wearing if a student refuses.
That this painfully obvious drawback, or, rather, this neon lit, bedazzler-strewn, blinking Achilles heel — in the state’s fall school reopening plan should be sandwiched among planning concerns rather than acknowledged as rendering any in-person schooling plan a non-starter, is grave negligence on the part of RIDE.
RIDE has asked districts for plans under four scenarios: Full in-person, partial in-person, limited in-person, and full distance learning. All three of the already flawed in-person plans are unthinkable if students may attend without masks. The Warwick School Committee and Warwick Public Schools should stop humoring those plans.
Rhode Island, currently the subject of praise for its swift and competent handling of the pandemic, risks joining the ranks of states making dire COVID-19 missteps needlessly costing people their lives and health.
Rhode Island is not helpless to commit to these sacrifices. The end of the 2019-2020 school year resorted to remote learning to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Nothing has changed since then, besides a possibly temporary decline in daily COVID-19 cases that remote learning contributed to in the first place.
Other school districts in the country have announced plans to reopen with distance learning in the fall:
- Tennesee is offering remote learning to students,
- LA and San Diego are going remote learning in the fall.
- San Francisco will start fall classes with remote learning.
- Arlington schools are embracing remote learning for the fall.
- Several districts in California plan to begin fall with distance learning.
Rhode Island should follow suit. There is no medical or moral reason to subject anyone to the risk of COVID-19 illness, death and debilitation, not when there is a reasonable, proven alternative in remote learning. Whatever flaws you might attribute to distance learning, it’s better than death or unknown permanent damage to your health.
Children at home in the fall present additional challenges to the state COVID-19 response, that’s true. Precious time in solving that problem has been wasted on a fall school plan hamstrung from the get-go.
Heroes find a way to avoid human sacrifice in literature. It’s time for life to imitate art.
[CHECKS WATCH] Actually, that’s a little overdue.