This morning I asked our school nurse how she felt about us coming back to work and the kids coming back to school (in person) while the pandemic continues to rage through our community. We were discussing how bad our county's numbers still are, how many people we knew of that are seriously ill, how many people have died. Just yesterday the son of a friend of ours stopped by the pet store to tell Gregg that his dad had just died of Covid. The nicest man you'd ever want to meet, with three kids (two of whom are in their late teens), gone. Our school resource officer, listening to our conversation, told us his 47 year old brother just died from Covid over the Christmas break. These stories are everywhere at the moment. The nurse told me she's torn on the issue. She said her feelings about whether to come back are pretty much a 50/50 split between whether or not it's the right thing to do. I certainly understand where she's coming from.
Part of me thinks that a year or so of lost schooling, bad grades, and truancy (all serious problems since last March) can be made up, but a life can never be replaced. And so many people in our community are still being so very irresponsible. A large group of well-to-do parents at the high school our middle school feeds into took it upon themselves to host a large dance at the local country club last weekend, and then filled up social media with pictures of their two dozen or so kids dancing, posing for photos, and having a grand old time---with no masks, no social distancing, and no mention of any safety protocols. They were upset that the school wasn't hosting the dance this year and decided that their precious teenagers shouldn't have to "miss out". The district office even shared these photos on Facebook, then quickly deleted those posts when there was a huge community outcry. That was last weekend--right before we all came back to school face-to-face.
The sheer callousness and entitlement made me furious. Just furious. These people have zero respect for the lives or well being of others. I wish there was some way to make all those parents and their bratty kids stay home and quarantine until we can be sure they're not carriers, but of course we can't. And besides, what good would it do? If they'll be so blatant about an expensive social event as to put it all over Facebook, what kind of precautions must they be taking on ordinary days? Probably next to none.
But then there's another angle to our schools being out that I can't stop thinking about. There's a sweet little boy in our disabled class who lives in foster care. He's non verbal and sometimes has to use a wheelchair. A couple of months ago when he arrived at school for the day and the classroom staff went to change his diaper, they saw visible evidence that he had been abused. They called the school nurse down to have a look and to get her opinion, and she immediately said, "Call DSS. And this child needs to go to the hospital." What a blessing that this poor boy had the school staff to look out for signs of abuse and to help him! And if we'd not been at school that week, no one would have known. I shudder to think of all the things that can slip through the cracks more easily when kids aren't at school. Then, of course, we have so many kids that depend on us for things like two full meals a day. They have drive-through meal pickups every day while we're out on virtual learning, but how many poor folks lack transportation to come and get it? Despite all best efforts to provide services to poor kids, they're definitely at a disadvantage when we're forced to stay home. Also, for lots of our students school is a safe place where they get emotional support, too, and I'm sure schools closing are damaging to their mental health. (Another reason why I get so mad when I hear the wealthy parents of the popular kids whining about their little snowflakes "missing out" on parties and sporting events and dances!)
So I'm kind of like the school nurse: split 50/50 on whether it's a good idea for us to be back at school in person. What do you think? Do the risks outweigh the benefits, or vice versa?