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Back to School – Or Not?

This week, the County of Los Angeles announced that schools that had TK to sixth grades could open back up once they passed a safety plan.

It is all well and good that the county has decided it is safe enough for small children to return to school.  But the children aren’t the only ones involved in this decision.  There are teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers and support staff involved in this.

And then there are the parents.  They have a huge say in whether or not there are kids in the classrooms to teach.  No kids –  no need to have all the adults there.

So, what does everybody think of this idea?

Overwhelmingly, the parents and grandparents we asked are against the idea of sending their kids back to school before at a minimum the teachers are vaccinated. “I think it means COVID will continue to spread.  There is no way to police the children into social distancing in school.  You can’t even teach their parents to do it in the grocery store.  We might as well just tough it out, get everybody vaccinated and hope it works,”  said Betsy E.

For some, it isn’t just a matter of the kids getting exposed.  “I don’t like the idea (of sending them back before everyone is vaccinated).  As difficult as it has been with them being home…it would be far worse if they got sick or brought it home.” For another parent, “It is counterproductive.  Kids can spread the virus, so it isn’t just about if they are safe in school.  And it can be traumatic to go back to school only to be sent home again.  This could cause another spike, especially with the UK and South African variants spreading so rapidly.”

It is logical that parents can’t go back to working in their offices until the kids are back in school.

For some parents, they know what they will do, but understand other families may feel differently.   “I personally won’t do it yet (send them back), but completely understand why other parents would.”

The initial push is only to get the kids back in the classroom.  The pandemic however, isn’t just a concern for the health of the students.  Thousands of teachers are of sufficient age  to be concerned about the health risks involved.

Anyone under 65 is still waiting for their age group to be qualified.  Are we willing to risk the exposure for those who are close, but not 65 yet?  As early as last summer teachers at public and private schools were concerned about exposure in the classroom. Do they want to go back?   

“I know how important the socialization is for the kids, but this could kill you” one public school teacher had said.  From a private school teacher we received the same sentiment.  “It is literally a life and death situation. Part of me would love to go back, but it isn’t just the kids.  It is older adults too.”

One of our parents even questioned that, in a city that temporarily closed vaccination sites due to lack of vaccines,  are they going all to get the vaccines.   “Where are they coming from?” asked Bryna H… “Are they just going to fall from the sky?”

The State of California and the City and County of Los Angeles have all bombarded the public with messages about staying home, wearing a mask, and staying away from people with whom you don’t reside.  Now they are telling us that if you are a teacher, it is okay to be around kids and other adults.  They assume administrators and others are okay – if it means kids can go back to school.   

While many people ignored the warnings, millions did what they were told in order to protect their families.  Now they are being told, it is okay to congregate, as long as they are teachers, your kids can be around them, vaccinated or not.

Can we reasonably expect that kindergarteners will sit in a classroom all day, wearing masks and socially distancing?  Met any five year olds lately?  Following the rules isn’t likely to happen.

One vaccination center for LAUSD has opened, and it is currently limited to those that meet the state requirements.  One site isn’t going to cover all of the teachers and all the other adults working in the school system.

As of February 17th, the county has agreed to allow all teachers to be vaccinated starting on March 1,   so we are still weeks away from those vaccinations, and that is just the first dose.  A minimum of three weeks until the second dose and then two more weeks to allow for the vaccination to really take effect and we’re in April already.  That leaves all of May and part of June for the school year.   

LAUSD doesn’t seem to want to take that long.  They want the kids back in school now.

This isn’t an easy situation.  Nothing related to Covid-19 has been  easy.  There are valid points on both sides.  Parents, grandparents and legal guardians are faced with tough decisions about their children’s education.  Let’s just hope they make the right one.

Laura Levinsky is a lifelong valley resident and a graduate of its public schools.

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