Safe Return to School

Could You Make A List?

Illustration for Dramatic purposes:
Let’s say there’s a school district somewhere that has approximately 18,000 employees and 95,000 students. 
Now, let’s imagine if everyone in that district caught COVID-19.
Since we know approximately 1 in every 50 people who catches COVID dies, that would mean somewhere around 360 employees and 1,900 students in that district would die.
Now let’s say there are 120 schools, with around 800 students each, in that district. That’s like losing 3 employees and 16 students per building.
But since we know children aren’t as likely to die from COVID as adults are, and it’s too early to know what long-term health effects are, the number of deaths and serious immediate consequences would skew more toward the adults.
So, instead of naming 16 students you would be willing to sacrifice, it might be better to think of some more adults to complete the list. Throw in a few more teachers, administrators and counselors. Top it off with the school’s resource officer, a cafeteria worker, a custodian, along with some coaches, secretaries, bus drivers and clerks. Or maybe some of the ones you’ll lose are parent volunteers. Have you reached 19 yet?
Could you make a list of the teachers and students you are willing to sacrifice from your school building?
Expand that number to their homes, spouses workplace, childcare, grandparents, etc. How many more would die? Not to mention, how many others would experience long term health effects, financial hardships and more?
Lest we ignore the fact that some schools have higher concentrations of minority populations, poverty and underlying health conditions than others. Their consequences might be triple, quadruple, or even ten times the averages.
Let’s take this real-life example of two elementary schools in Jefferson County Public Schools. Bloom Elementary, shown as School B, on the left; and Foster Traditional, shown as School F, on the right.
School B, which is in the eclectic, affluent Highlands neighborhood, is 78% white, whereas at School F, in the Chickasaw neighborhood in West Louisville, only 2% of the students are white, and 95% of them qualify for free or reduced lunch (considered low income).
Not to mention, high minority, high poverty schools earn lower test scores and face other dire hardships. For example, despite having roughly the same populations, Bloom has approximately one fourth the number of homeless students as Foster. And that was before COVID exposed and exacerbated these disparities that have been there all along. They also have a harder time garnering parental involvement and community support.
Whether it’s health threats, low test scores, or inability to fundraise, the schools with higher non-white populations face significantly greater risk of negative outcomes and serious consequences.
Is this hyperbole? Maybe. Maybe not. For some of us it may seem like it, because we’ve had the good fortune of being able to send our children to “good” schools. and we’ve had a reasoned governor, superintendent, and school board making informed decisions about COVID. Not everyone is so lucky.
On December 30, Kentucky School Boards Association reported,
To make matters worse, Kentucky’s General Assembly also starts Tuesday, where the supermajority GOP is hellbent on stripping emergency power away from our governor, in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
So, go ahead and make that list. Or better yet, keep practicing social distancing and staying home. And more importantly, keep advocating for those who can’t or won’t.
Sorry if this post upsets anyone. Those who have lost loved ones unnecessarily have an even greater reason to be upset.
This isn’t over yet.

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