When the townsfolk start sharpening their pitchforks, you know an angry mob is about to form.
Clearly, COVID-19 is still a significant concern. An August wedding in Maine – with only 65 guests – reportedly resulted in seven September deaths. Reasonable minds can agree that crowded classrooms and hallways create some risk of spreading the virus. Not surprisingly, many school districts decided to err on the side of caution and opt for e-learning. Quite literally, they were making a life-and-death decision.
However, remote learning creates its own set of challenges. Most experts agree that in-person learning offers a superior educational environment. And there is stress – on parents, teachers and students alike. The stress and anxiety created by this disruption cannot be disputed and should not be disregarded. It is real.
We have nothing but empathy for the teachers who are trying their best to make this work in the middle of a pandemic, the parents who are trying the impossible balance of working from home and remote learning, and especially the children who are enduring it all.
This stress had led to protests from angry parents throughout Northern Illinois in the past two weeks, with groups by the dozens and sometimes hundreds showing up in Wheaton, Crystal Lake, Algonquin, and Dixon, among others.
Unfortunately, at protests in some places such as Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, the majority of participating parents were maskless.
The CDC Wednesday released new indicators for decision making for schools to reopen. At the top of the list is the correct and consistent usage of masks.
When you show up in a pandemic to make a protest that children can safely return to school and you fail to follow even the most basic social distancing guidelines, you tend to lose some credibility.
School districts had to make a decision, and that process involved data, statistics, expert opinion and reasoned logic.
Conversely, the main argument of the protesting parents seems to be, “I want my kid back in school!” The anger seems to be growing. It would not surprise us if school districts began to cave into the demands of angry parents.
We understand how disruptive e-learning can be. But part of life is learning to adjust to adverse circumstances. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had to get through World Wars and the Great Depression. Surely, we can manage some social distancing precautions for a period of perhaps 12 months? Our parents and grandparents told us that when the world gives us lemons we should make lemonade. The message we are passing onto future generations seems to be that if the world gives you lemons, demand to see the manager, then scream and threaten until they give you oranges.
We believe that children should return to classrooms as soon as it is safe to do so. If that time is now – then so be it. But let’s have the decision stem from thoughtful logic based on actual data. The decision should not be based on who screams the loudest.