As I write this, many schools across the nation are considering whether to return to virtual learning as the COVID-19 Omicron variant is picking up steam. It should be no surprise to anybody that this has resulted in much wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who believe either that we should continue school no matter what happens or those who feel like even the most infinitesimal risk of illness should close schools. At this moment, my school has decided that we’re going back, though this is, of course, subject to change as conditions change.
I think most people agree that there are conditions where schools should be stopped. The real question on most people’s minds is where we draw the line between an abundance of caution keeping us out of school when it’s reasonable to do so, and an overabundance of caution keeping us out of school even when it’s not necessary. Certainly, teachers and students would both like to have some idea of where this line lies.
Unfortunately, there’s no single line. Different communities have different ideas of what’s safe, and within these communities you may see next door neighbors having vastly different ideas of what’s right. This also doesn’t even keep in mind other factors such as:
- State, local, and CDC guidelines for schools
- Infection rates, both based on hard numbers from testing and anecdotal evidence (which can sway public opinion).
- Local beliefs about the appropriateness of vaccination.
And doubtlessly many more.
So, what do we as teachers and students do, given all of the factors involved. Simply put, we trust the people who make these decisions. Though I consider myself to be somebody who keeps track of the news fairly well, I don’t have the same resources available to me to make the call for cancellation and I certainly don’t have the time to digest it all. I have to trust that the administration of my school is making the right decision based on the information at hand.
That last phrase is an important one: “based on the information at hand.” Sometimes we may find out that the people who make these decisions have needlessly closed schools, and other times we may find out that they left them open when they should have been closed. Given that we’re learning more about COVID every day, it’s not at all surprising that we might learn that what we all did was wrong. Remember, hindsight is 20/20, and it’s easy to say that somebody should have done something given updated information.
My advice to all of you is to trust the people who make these decisions. They know more about the situation than you or I do, and they very much want to keep both students and faculty safe during the pandemic. Nobody is perfect, but anybody who has devoted their lives to helping kids, as they have, will always make an informed and considered decision. We can count on that.