My daughter’s school has been open for seven days so far this year.
The school where I teach has been open three days.
Masks optional at both.
Do you know how terrifying that is for a father – to send his only child off to class hoping she’ll be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t get sick?
Do you know how frustrating it is for an educator like me trying to teach while unsure how long your students will be well enough to stay in class? Unsure how long you will?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns we should wear masks in school to protect from Covid-19, especially the more virulent delta variant.
So does the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Nationwide Children’s Hospitals Care Connection, the Allegheny County Department of Health…
And just about every doctor, immunologist and specialist at UPMC as well as the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
Heck! Even the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s editorial board – not always a bastion of good sense – called the decision to mask in schools a “no brainer.”
But somehow my duly elected school board couldn’t find the courage to enact that advice.
The school directors where I work refused to even explain their reasoning behind denying the precaution.
But BOTH groups promised to abide by any mandates handed down from on high.
It seemed that neither group had the courage to make the decision, themselves. They just passed it on to parents knowing full well that there would be no consistency.
Gather together a large enough group of anyone and it’s doubtful they’ll all agree on anything. And all it takes is one or two people to come to school unmasked to infect everybody there!
Thank goodness for Governor Tom Wolf.
Today he announced a mask mandate at all preK-12 schools, both public and private, and licensed child care centers beginning next Tuesday.
The mandate comes after three weeks of Wolf refusing to take this step.
At first, he said he was going to leave this up to the individual school boards – but they dropped the ball.
Only 36.8% of districts throughout Pennsylvania enacted some form of mass mandate on their own, though they serve 53.25% of students.
That’s 184 districts with some form of mask requirement, 307 optional and 9 unknown.
What a disgrace!
It just goes to show that the great majority of school directors in the Commonwealth are cowards, stupid or both.
If the voters don’t rise up and replace these fools, we will only have ourselves to blame.
They have betrayed the public trust.
They should be hounded from our midst, unfit to even show themselves in society.
To put kids lives at risk because you haven’t the guts to take the responsibility! Or worse, to be so idiotic as to distrust nearly every medical professional, scientist, immunologist or specialist!
As a state, and as a country, we have been given an intelligence test – and our leaders have mostly failed.
I am thankful Governor Wolf acted.
Wolf’s emergency powers to sustain a state disaster declaration were curtailed by voters in the May election.
Another failure of voters to turn out and support one of the few people with the courage to protect our children.
However, May’s referendum did not affect the Wolf administration’s ability to implement a masking order or other public-health rules under the state’s disease-control law. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has the authority to issue a statewide mask order for K-12 schools under a state law that empowers the department to take appropriate measures to protect the public from infectious diseases.
To his credit, Wolf tried to work with the legislature to get this done.
He asked the Republican-controlled state House and Senate to come back in session and vote on the matter. But since they prefer politics to safeguarding children they refused.
We are fortunate to have at least one adult in Harrisburg – and he lives in the Governor’s mansion.
However, we can’t get complacent.
This mask mandate is only step one of what needs to be done.
As many other states have done, we need to require all school employees to get the Covid vaccine or provide proof of regular negative COVID tests just to enter educational buildings.
Right now children younger than 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated. We need to require those young people who are eligible to get the vaccine or provide them with an alternative like remote learning. And when the vaccine has been cleared for all children, we need to add it to the long list of other vaccines children already need to get to enter school.
We need an influx of funding to make it possible to keep kids in school and still keep them socially distanced. As it is now, this is nearly impossible – I speak from experience.
The school where I teach has hardly any social distancing, and frankly we can’t have in-person school without more classrooms, more teachers, more space.
We need to bring back cleaning protocols to make sure every classroom is properly disinfected between periods. We need to ensure that school buildings are properly ventilated.
Will this be expensive? Probably, but if we could waste $300 million a day for two decades in Afghanistan that resulted in NOTHING, we can afford to properly fund our schools for once!
But most of all, we have to come to an understanding – the pandemic is not over – and it will not be over until enough of the general population is vaccinated.
Are you frustrated by masks? Are you frustrated we have to keep going back to these safety precautions?
But these precautions can’t go away just because we’re frustrated. People have to understand that the only way they will go away is if everyone does their part.
Going out in public unmasked should bring severe social consequences.
People who recklessly put the lives of others in danger just because they don’t feel like being bothered deserve the cold shoulder.
They should be stigmatized, rebuffed and ostracized.
Let me be clear. I’m not talking about physical violence. I’m talking about social consequences for acting like an Asshole.
We need to grow up.
Actions have consequences.
We need a functioning society.
And communities that can’t even come together to protect their own children are nothing of the sort.
It’s way past time we took action.
Gov. Wolf has put us on the path, but this is not over.
This is just the beginning.
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