How The Sweet Hot Hell Are We Gonna Open Schools?

So, there’s this pandemic, right? A real corker of a coronavirus — some people get li’l colds, some people get pneumonia, others have organs attacked, suffer strokes, or endure long-lasting neurological symptoms. And we’ve no idea if there are longer-term problems waiting in the wings. Like I said the other day, polio could wage additional damage decades after you had it.

In this pandemic, we shut the country down. Sorta. Partly. Some states went whole hog, others half-assed it, and now we’re all varying degrees of “reopened,” and cases are surging. All because we didn’t do shit, really, as a country. Some states did well. My state, PA, is doing… pretty okay? Better than a lot, not as good as some of our Northeast counterparts. But nationwide, as a whole, we took allllllll that time locked down to accomplish… eeeyyyyeaaaannnhhh, very, very little.

And now, in many places, it’s worse than it was in March. Worse than the conditions that triggered the lockdown in the first place.

We were on a train driving toward a broken track over the edge of the cliff, and we wisely said, “We’d better slow this beast down, lest we go off the edge,” so we slowed it down… but then… kinda did nothing? We didn’t build new tracks. We didn’t construct a bridge. We didn’t even cover the train in pillows and bounce-houses in the hopes it lessened our impact, if we had to go over the cliff.

We just bided our time and then started speeding up again.

The track is still broken.

The cliff is still ahead.

And the train is full of children.

What I’m saying is, how the hell are we supposed to open schools again?

Consider the following problem —

Soon, it’s going to be cold-and-flu season. That can start as early as September around these parts, and really gets its roots in by winter. Hell, autumn brings allergies, too.

Now, let’s say a kid, or a teacher, starts to have symptoms of one or the other.

Sniffles, sneezes, runny noses, coughs. A temperature.

Is it COVID-19?

Well, you won’t know, so whaddya gonna do? Just casually remove them? The virus is catchier than a Rick-Roll, and often before you even show symptoms. You pretend it’s fine, you could make sure that everyone gets it, that it runs a race around everyone in school.

So, the likely answer is, you have to shut down the school, or at least that class, until the person is tested. And once again, testing is harder to get across the country. If you can get a test, then some people are receiving results in 7-14 days. For a while there it was faster, but remember SLOW DOWN THE TESTING, PLEASE, from our erstwhile shitberg of a president? Yeah. His wish was our command, and now testing is half-fucked again. So, if the person with the coughing-sniffles gets a test, it could be two weeks before results roll in.

Two weeks where people have to freak the fuck out that maybe their kids, or the teachers, or the parents, or whoever, caught the thing that may or may not be the virus that may or may not leave you with lasting long-time damage. That’s a very big Schroedinger’s Cat situation, isn’t it?

Then, then, assume that people are going to also get this thing. Not just cold. Not just flu. But people are going to get it. Statistically, that’s gonna happen, and I’m betting it happens in the first month of school. A kid, a teacher, an admin, a parent, or even someone secondarily connected to those people — a grandparent, a neighbor, whatever, someone where there has been exposure.

Now what?

Well, again, you probably gotta shut shit down.

So, best case scenario, you’ve got a rolling series of openings and shutdowns, blunting any educational momentum the kids and teachers gain. All while school is surely hamstrung anyway, because there’s no way you can run a school the way you did before in the midst of all this.

Given that even a single cough or elevated temperature could totally knee-cap your entire school for two weeks… how’s this supposed to work? What’s the point? Why even bother opening? It’s a futile gesture, like trying to thread a needle with a blowdart from across a crowded room. I guess it’s not impossible but oof. Of course, the Sword of Damocles hanging over everyone’s head is that parents have to work and that means they have to send their kids to school and then there are kids who need school for meals and education (obviously) and social growth and maybe even an escape from abusive or problematic families. But federally, we have no response for this, no planning, no way forward — and a lot of states don’t have much of a clue, either. So onward the train goes, chug-chug-chug, choo-choo, and we know the tracks are busted, we know there’s no bridge, it’s only a cliff ahead and a damning drop to the hard ground below. But we keep going. The train keeps a rollin’.