By Drew Sarmiere - August 5, 2020
A Response to “How to Safely Educate Our Children During the Pandemic”
After receiving feedback from some senior staff at Peak, I’d like to add some clarifying comments regarding my previous blog post regarding whether or not students should return to school. They did not feel it was a clear representation of what they know me to believe and shared some concerns that it could be misinterpreted.
When I initially wrote the blog I knew that I was dealing with a very complicated issue, and I knew that there was no way for me to address all of the complexities of the issue in any great detail in a short blog post. Therefore, I attempted to keep my views short and concise so I could avoid getting bogged down trying to address the innumerable factors that must be considered when making these decisions. The resulting abridged version of my viewpoints, however, did not do a good job clearly conveying my views. So, to clarify a few things . . . .
I misstated my views when I wrote that elementary students “have to go back to school full-time.” This is not something we have to do. In fact, I do not believe it is truly safe at this point for any students of any age to return to school. Some families may choose to keep their children at home and that is fine. In some cases, it will be the smartest choice. However, the point I was trying to make is that a return to school full-time is currently the only effective means we have of teaching elementary-age students. We do not currently have an online format that will work effectively. Elementary students can stay home. In some cases, that may be the best choice. However, they cannot stay home and achieve the learning goals typically expected of them (with some exceptions).
I also stated that “the current data suggest that they [elementary students] are the safest age group from this virus both in terms of sickness and transmission.” This is true. That said, I didn't mean to argue that returning elementary students to school full-time is safe, only that they are the safest age group (based on what we know now).
In regards to middle school and high school students I wrote “Students and teachers will get sick and some of them will die.” I did not mean for this to seem glib. The sickness or death of even one student or teacher would be very sad indeed. Despite advocating for elementary students to return to school, I do not feel that it is completely safe to do so. All families should take the appropriate considerations under advisement in order to make the decision that is best for themselves and their children.
I also advocated that MS and HS teachers should teach from their classrooms at school, even while teaching online. I do believe this is the best approach when possible. I understand there may be some instances in which this might not be the best choice. I also understand some teachers have their own kids at home, making a return to working at school a challenge. I understand there are many factors that each school district needs to consider in order to make the best choices. That said, when possible, it is my opinion that teachers should teach from their classrooms.
In regards to post-secondary students I attempted to apply a bit of humor which may have missed the mark given the seriousness of these matters. If anyone was offended, my apologies.
In summary, do I think we should try to send elementary students back to school full-time? Yes, with exceptions. Do I think we should send any other students back to school full-time? No, with exceptions. Regardless of whatever choices schools and families make, we all need to work together to achieve the best outcomes we can.
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