There may be no people in a more difficult position this summer than public school administrators who have to decide how to reopen schools safely for the upcoming academic year.
That is except maybe for the parents who have to decide whether it’s safe for their children to return to their classrooms.
The discussions have been healthy and intense locally and across the country, and there are no easy choices with so many points to consider.
Children need to have their daily routines restored.
Some lessons, especially for some groups of children, require a physical presence and touch.
There are large gaps in Internet service, especially in rural areas.
Child care is difficult to manage even when schools are in regular sessions. Irregular routines may make it impossible to find.
Many caregivers are ill-equipped to help their children with lessons and homework. That’s even more challenging in larger families with students in ranging grades.
Another year of academic loss could be devastating to a generation of children.
It’s nearly impossible to keep children apart. How can schools keep them 6 feet apart constantly?
Children naturally spread germs with constant touching, runny noses, sneezing and rampant sharing.
Keeping masks on young children will be challenging.
Fitting schools with shields and additional cleaning requirements is costly.
Schools don’t have the space or the number of teachers required to reduce class sizes.
Children themselves may have less severe symptoms, but what might they bring home to their parents and grandparents?
Some teachers are older and have higher risk conditions.
Large groups of people together in a school will spread the virus wider into the community.
Children traveling in close proximity on a bus are likely to spread germs.
Not all caregivers will be conscientious about keeping ill children at home.
How many COVID-19 positive students or staff in a school will it take to shut down the whole school?
You get the idea, and you likely can add many other concerns of your own.
We’ve seen those topics discussed in news reports and through social media, and arguments are being made by rational, well-intentioned people.
A report in The Meridian Star this weekend highlights some of those questions and the steps being taken by local public school districts as they prepare to open.
Because of the many legitimate concerns being raised, with many legitimate counterpoints, we know there is no perfect solution.
We favor plans with choices, such as those presented by the Meridian Public School District, reducing contact and increasing cleaning days, and offering a distance learning plan for any parents uncomfortable with returning their children to classrooms, yet comfortable enough to help them through distance learning programs.
The key is offering choices for people of good conscience.
We hope that administrators, teachers and parents faced with these difficult choices will base their decisions on sound recommendations from both health and academic leaders, science and doing what is best not only for themselves but also for their community.
Decisions should not be made based on the pangs we all feel for a return to normalcy.