The Chicago Teacher’s Union is voting today, so we’ll know by midnight whether or not teachers will accept a reopening plan which would send elementary students back to school on March 1 and junior high students a week later. But while some districts are belatedly returning to classrooms next month, the Associated Press reports some have yet to commit to reopening even next fall.
“We have no illusions that COVID will be eradicated by the time the start of the school year comes up,” said William “Chip” Sudderth III, a spokesperson for Durham, North Carolina schools, whose students have been out of school buildings since March.
Eradicated? There isn’t much chance COVID will be eradicated. It’s more likely this will become another seasonal variety of the common cold. Even once we get to herd immunity here in the U.S., COVID will still be spreading in places around the world. So “eradicated” seems like a pretty absurd standard to set for reopening schools.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed that schools in the nation’s largest school district are “going to be back full-strength in September.”
“Everyone wants to be back,” he’s said.
But the head of the powerful teachers’ union, Michael Mulgrew, says it’s too soon to commit…
“It’s a goal of mine, but I can’t say they’re going to open” the United Federation of Teachers president said in an interview. His view of the mayor’s pledge: “This is not about what you want. This is about what you can do safely.”
Without naming names, Nate Silver points out that some of the discourse around this doesn’t seem willing to discuss the real world tradeoffs involved.
The situation in scary now, and people will probably come to their senses once it improves, but there's a certain percentage of the COVID discourse that doesn't even attempt to consider tradeoffs or harms from preventing in-person interaction and this is the logical endpoint.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 9, 2021
In other words, some of these teacher’s unions are living in a dream world, one completely divorced from the negative and potentially long-lasting impact this is having on children. At some point this is going to hurt the unions and their natural allies in the Democratic Party. People are putting up with it now because they understand the fear, even if the CDC and Dr. Fauci say it’s safe to reopen. But once the vaccine kicks in and infections and deaths drop significantly, which should happen by this summer, parents are going to quickly become less understanding.
That doesn’t mean we can’t consider the continuation of remote learning for some students in the fall. From what I’ve seen, top students were able to manage remote learning pretty well. Maybe some districts should make that a permanent option. Meanwhile, the more marginal students are struggling and failing in record numbers. Those kids need to be back in classrooms as soon as possible.