Wilton editorial: Good choice on school reopening
If ever there was a question that had no good answer, how to reopen schools is it.
All summer, Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith and the Board of Education have been struggling with that question. There has been pressure from the President who to this day erroneously insists children are not susceptible to getting or spreading COVID-19 to the governor who only until recently was pushing for a full reopen. Finally, he relented and gave school districts the ability to choose what was best for each.
Every school district will choose the method that is right for them and they all won’t be the same.
Under normal circumstances we all would want our children to return to class on Aug. 31 for a full day with their teachers and classmates. But these are not normal circumstances, not by a longshot.
The hybrid model will probably work best for high school students, but won’t be easy. Ninth graders, in particular, are likely to find the transition from middle school to high school more difficult than they normally would.
It will be most difficult for the youngest children. For them, a strong teacher-student bond is essential for success and this will be more difficult to achieve when they are in school for only two days. The importance of school in a young child’s social life cannot be understated. Here, more than in our far-flung neighborhoods, is where they make friends, learn how to get along with one another and how to work out differences with their peers.
For all students, the dependence on technology is an unfortunate side effect of hybrid or remote learning. No children should be subject to the amount of screen time that will be needed. And no matter how well things go, it will not be as personal as being in school in person.
Teachers, too, will find this system a challenge. Not only is learning how to best present their lessons a new challenge, the stakes are so very high if they do not succeed.
But what is the option? As Board of Education member Glenn Hemmerle said recently, the health and safety of the children and staff are of the utmost importance. Students can’t learn and teachers can’t teach if they are sick.
The slow opening that the hybrid model affords, lets everyone dip their toe in and get used to the water. Better that than a full reopen only to have to deal with a slip-up, a crisis, a closing. Better a hybrid model than a full remote-learning scenario.
There will surely be criticism. Our schools were not meant to operate this way. But we are in a new reality and, really, who’s got a better idea? It was a herculean undertaking to get this far.
Truer words were never spoken than those by Kevin Smith when he said this would be a community-wide undertaking. Beyond what happens in school or in the households of students, the entire community has a role to play here.
The only way schools will stay open at all, and possibly open in full, is if the COVID-19 positivity level is kept low. That means:
Wear your mask. Whether you are on River Road or the Norwalk River Valley Trail, wear your mask.
Social distance. Do not be like those twits in New Jersey and elsewhere who hold big house parties where people are cheek to jowl with no space in between.
If you don’t feel well, stay home. No one wants you anywhere if you are sick. Not at the supermarket, the post office, or buying takeout. And least of all, no one wants you in school, no matter how old or young you are.
This is science, but it’s not rocket science. Do your part to stop the spread and the kids can go to school and you can go about your business.