The school reopening debate is tearing one of America's elite suburbs apart

And yet for all that credentialing, when the 1,000 or so Brookline educators went on strike in November, it appeared to be an implicit response to Panel 4’s expert advice. Panel 4 had recently advised that 6 feet of distancing might be revisited in certain specific circumstances, especially given new science that showed the disease was less transmissible in younger children. Soon thereafter, the school district had refused to put language permanently guaranteeing 6 feet of distance into the union contract that was under (protracted) negotiation. “Six feet is just a proxy for how many people are in the classroom,” said Eric Colburn, a ninth grade English teacher who has worked in the district for 18 years. “I could easily be convinced it should be less in some cases, but I certainly think my union should be involved in making that decision.”

On the Brookline schools’ Facebook group, the comments read like a church going through a schism. “I trust teachers to teach, and scientists to guide us on science,” wrote one person, capturing a common view among parents. “[T]he point is that teachers aren’t being heard, all I hear is how amazing panel 4 is, I get it, a collection of brilliant minds working diligently on the matter,” shot back another Brookline resident. “If you all trust your teachers so much open up your ears and listen to what they are telling everyone,” that commenter added. Wender-Shubow, in our conversation this past September, took pains to say that Panel 4 had the best intentions. But, she said, “what they don’t know is how you teach children.” Their expertise stopped at the schoolhouse door. These kinds of fights, she said, “were happening everywhere, with a group of privileged white parents who are extremely skilled at promoting their position. They are squeaky wheels who know how to operate within civil society.”