And so it starts - was everyone well informed before going back to school?
We are just a few weeks into the school year (at least for some districts) and we are seeing school disruptions because of COVID-19 already occurring. The issue is that we could see it coming and yet we decided in many communities to go forward anyway with limited information provided to parents.
Welcome to school in Mississippi where more than 100 students have been sent home to quarantine for 14 days.
In Georgia a second grader tested positive on day 2 and his entire class plus teacher were sent home for two weeks.
Day one in Indiana at Greenfield Junior High a student tested positive within hours of the school opening and everyone who had contact with the student is required to quarantine for 14 days.
Let me be clear, the issue isn't that people were going back to school, most of us really want school to restart (at least those of us with kids certainly do). The issue is that it seems pretty clear that some of the schools may not have been quite ready - and certainly it seems that the schools and district were not extremely forthcoming about how they prepared and how they intended to mitigate the risk of transmission.
The question is - did the students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators know what the risks were before the return to school in each of those cases?
Did the parents know whether the school allowed single layer masks or required three layer masks? (Multi-Layer masks have been found to be much more effective.)
Did the parents know whether the students were in enclosed rooms with poor ventilation or were the classes conducted outside? (Covid-19 spreads through the air, were proper air handling recommendations from ASHRAE implemented?)
Did the parents know whether mask wearing was a requirement for all students or whether there were exceptions or allowances for students to only wear a mask over their mouth?
Did parents know whether schedules were going to be staggered so that the entire school didn't occupy the halls during short passing periods?
Did parents know whether students, teachers, staff and administrators were going to be properly trained in mask use?
Did parents know whether a third party performed an assessment to validate that the school/district mitigation actually achieved the desired level of mitigation?
Did the parents know whether the school even performed a formal risk assessment and whether all risks were treated to meet the school/district risk retention threshold?
Or, did the parents send their kids to school without understanding the risk because the school/district was either unable or unwilling to provide the level of detail required for a parent to make a good risk based decision...and thus the parent ended up relying upon Hope as the strategy going into their student's return to school?
I think we can do better than this. Let the parents ask questions and assess the risk so at least they are making an informed decision whether their children should return to school. Each family has unique living arrangements - some with a young healthy parents/guardians (at lower risk) and others with multi-generation families that include older family members with significant pre-existing conditions (at much higher risk).