By Vernon A. Williams
If the hands of time turned back and my grown daughter Bridget was a child today at Vohr Elementary School in Gary – in the midst of a global health crisis – the opinions and dictates of this president, the governor or (mis)education czar Betty DeVos would be the farthest things from my mind.
My feeling would be I could care less about their recommendations, orders or directives regarding the start of the school year. The one and only consideration for me as a parent would be whether or not it was totally safe for my child to return to that learning environment. Totally.
One part of me wants to laugh and the other wants to cry contemplating the messy way the country is being run by a politician desperate to convey a positive image during an election year, with school openings. His stupidity and temerity are humorous. The thought of those who might listen is sad.
No one should weigh in on the ultimate decision but epidemiologists, researchers, and medical doctors with related training. Then the second tier of those involved should be those responsible for arranging the sanitization and logistics of the school buildings, assuring the most safe and secure climate.
Professional ‘paper pushers’ and politicians, are at the bottom of the decision-making totem pole. It should not matter if a state or a school district risks losing federal dollars from a despotic ruler that this nation is clearly afraid to harness. The children should not be used as ransom for his demands.
Beyond the clear inappropriateness of the shameless effort to try to force open schools is the fact that we know this administration has no genuine concern at all about education – pandemic or not. It would strain memory to identify an education secretary as incompetent and uncaring as DeVos.
That parents would trust their
most precious belongings to the care of this callous, calculating administration is unimaginable. Congresswo- man Ayanna Pressley summed up the reality by telling the education secretary, “You have no plan. Teachers, parents and kids are fearing for their lives.
“You point to a private sector that has put profits over people and claimed the lives of thousands of essential workers. I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant, let alone my child.”
Mic drop. Exit stage right, Representative Pressley.
Coronavirus cases are spiking across most of the country – reaching levels higher than any time during the initial outbreak that shut down the nation and the world. Understandably, teachers are wary of being placed in a room full of children, trying to teach, enforcing required social distancing and keeping themselves safe.
Nearly one of every three public school teachers is at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to age – 50 years or older. That percentage is even higher, almost 38 percent, in private schools.
By the nature of the job, teachers have more social contact than many other professionals as a result of interaction with students, parents, colleagues and, in some cases, the extended education community in public.
Older adults are more likely to have chronic conditions that limit their body’s ability to fight COVID-19. The immune system also naturally becomes weaker with age, so older adults even without pre-existing conditions are likely to be at higher risk.
Increasingly, children are being diagnosed with coronavirus. While the White House may dismiss these young sufferers as collateral damage in their war to win re-election, society can’t facilitate such child abuse. Even if younger victims do not become severely ill, they can carry the virus to parents and grandparents.
Progress against the virus
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, a native of Indianapolis, said the primary factor to consider in reopening schools will be the transmission and community prevalence rate. He emphasized wearing face coverings, social distancing and compliance with safety measures designed to lower risks.
It’s too early to tell but with the upward spiral in cases and deaths, the final determinant will be the welfare of the children and educators – not the whims of an uninformed, out of touch and non-education agenda-riddled White House. There is too much at risk to play politics with our schools.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].