European officials are set to reopen schools to, as the Associated Press reported, “narrow the learning gaps between haves and have-nots that deepened during lockdowns — and to get their parents back to work.”
Seems like a sensible plan.
Authorities in France, Britain, Spain and other European nations will mandate mask wearing in schools, plus they’ve hired extra teachers and are building new classrooms to provide social distance.
And even though the virus has invaded classrooms in recent days from Berlin to Seoul, and some teachers and parents warn that their schools aren’t ready, European leaders from the political left, right and center are sending an unusually consistent message: Even in a pandemic, children are better off in class.
France’s prime minister promised Wednesday to “do everything” to get people back to school and work. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called reopening schools a “moral duty,” and his government even threatened to fine parents who keep kids at home. Italy’s health minister abruptly shut down discos this month with one goal in mind — “to reopen schools in September in complete safety.”
Meanwhile in America, everything is in chaos.
An Arizona school district has been forced to cancel a planned reopening this week after more than 100 teachers called in sick.
“We received an overwhelming response from staff indicating that they do not feel safe returning to classrooms with students,” J.O. Combs Unified School District superintendent Gregory A. Wyman said in a statement. “In response, we have received a high volume of staff absences for Monday citing health and safety concerns. Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to re-open on Monday as planned.”
The future of the school year is unknown.
“At this time, we do not know the duration of these staff absences, and cannot yet confirm when in-person instruction may resume,” Wyman wrote. “Please know that we are acutely aware of how polarizing this issue is, and how challenging these ongoing developments are for our entire community. We will continue to work closely with our employees and our families to develop solutions that provide a safe and healthy return to school.”
“The district said that all classes, including virtual learning, would be canceled,” Arizona Central reported.
And some school districts are cashing in. For instance, the public school system in Durham, NC, will reopen six schools – but charge parents.
The half dozen schools in the Durham Public Schools (DPS) system will operate six “learning centers,” and families who send their children there will pay $140 a week, plus a $35 registration fee.
“Opening our school year remotely is the right decision to protect our students and staff from COVID-19,” said DPS Superintendent Pascal Mubenga, WRAL reported. “However, there are many families in Durham who need additional support during the school day. It will take a community effort to support each of these children, but DPS is doing its part.”
The DPS Learning Centers will provide a safe space to complete online learning, meals and snacks, and social-emotional activities. Students will be assigned to small pods with daily wellness screenings, distribution and required use of facemasks, and planned circulation and seating of six feet social distancing.