I know some schools in North Carolina have already shut down. For some it is a big relief for others a massive juggling act has begun. No matter what we shouldn’t downplay the virus upon us, or the impact of schools shutting down.
Currently, the CDC guidelines, caution total school closures. Many of my social media friends argue the CDC data is flawed due to the lack of testing kits in the US. Others simply argue that we can’t trust government agencies during our current administration. It is difficult to trust anything right now.
Here in Wake the debate is especially relevant since we have known cases in the county. As a parent I read the statement by the CDC and the Wake County School System. The school system is following the CDC. The statement cautions against pre-emtive school closure, but one of the reasons really stood out. The fact is that we don’t have infrastructure for a shut down. Many kids will simply congregate somewhere else.
The World Health Organization even mentioned how complicated the decision to close school can be. For the last two Mays I’ve assisted in helping with distributing food for day of action for our teachers. I witnessed first hand the amount of coordination, volunteer hours, and work that goes into getting food distributed to students for just one day. The food itself came from the community and we were reliant on the food that was provided. It was a mess of different individuals, non profits and our school systems all trying to get food to our kids. We did it, but it certainly didn’t feel like a well oiled machine.
So, many of my friends are simply withholding their kids from schools. This assumes Wake remains open. It is a great measure of privilege. They are in a position to not have to work or work remotely. Maybe their kids are older and can be trusted to self isolate. What happens to the schools where privilege is sparse. In Wake, we have many Title I schools where free and reduced lunch numbers are high. Will we see an uptick in the virus spread in already dense vulnerable areas? If schools close will we have a distribution method of food that rely’s on home delivery rather than massive amount of students and families congregating for free breakfast?
Meanwhile, there are real people in these buildings. Not only do we have our most precious children, but those who devote their lives to our children. Everyone in the building is a value and deserves respect. If we don’t close the school, we ask even more of our teachers and staff. We ask them to put their own health and safety at risk. Many will just have to take leave due to their own health issues. Many have kids in counties who have already shut down. This decision needs to include our educators.
So, I feel like there isn’t a win in this situation. What I’m reminded of, however, is how much our public schools serve as the central figure for social services. Public Schools feed our kids. They care for them during the day. They provide instruction, but they also are the primary location for before/after school care. I honestly don’t know how parents who work, even if from home, will be able to do their job and supervise online learning. Schools have everything from special needs services to coat closets. Perhaps as a nation, a state, and a county, we need to think more broadly how our social services work.