We are in this together - a friendly conversation about VirusSafeSchools
Over the past few weeks I have received messages and comments and concerns regarding VirusSafeSchools and today I received a message that I will paraphrase and then post my reply.
Context - I live in Texas and my children attend Plano ISD (Independent School District) schools and in a discussion forum I had mentioned that I had been interacting with Plano ISD using the VirusSafeSchools questionnaire and that I had received push-back. So, I volunteered to help with their program and to help them gather the answers (I even went through their volunteer application process and was approved; however, I am still waiting for them to take me up on my offer to help - I'm trying to be part of the solution). In response, one of the readers of the post was concerned that I was singling out Plano ISD and the commenter indicated that they felt Plano ISD was trying their best and they believed I was trying to get Plano ISD to check all of the boxes. They also pointed out that not all parents have the luxury of keeping their kids home and that it was irritating for someone to tell them how it should be. All of the points were valid and thoughtful and I think my response is helpful to outline why VirusSafeSchools is so important and why we all need to work together to find the best solution for each of us.
Here is my response:
Thank you for your comment. I agree all school districts have a lot to deal with; however, I'm not sure about the targeting thing. Plano ISD is the school district for my children, so I think it is appropriate for me to ask questions so that I can make a personal, risk-based decision for my children and my family. I have a personal perspective on how I see Plano ISD's risk mitigation program and believe that they could have done more (ASHRAE published recommendations for Air Handling, some of which is pretty easy to do; however, I have not received any evidence that they took any of those recommendations prior to my contacting the district). I also think that creating standards around mask wearing and social distancing is easy to do - and fairly quick. And, contracting with a 3rd party to perform an independent assessment of their program should have been quick and easy as well.
My goal isn't to get every box checked, it is to find out what boxes Plano ISD checked so that I, as a responsible, informed parent, can make the correct decision for my family. Part of that decision will be the personal mitigation we can implement (and have our children abide by - easier said than done) and part of that decision will be around our work/life situation and whether people will be living under our roof with significant pre-existing conditions.
I absolutely DO NOT want to tell you what to do. Each of us needs to make our own risk based decision and take responsibility for that decision. Plano ISD and all of the other districts out there have an ethical duty (maybe even a moral obligation) to fully and transparently tell us what they are doing so that we can make that informed choice. Merely saying they are following CDC and TEA (Texas Education Agency) guidelines is not very helpful as the guidance provides for a very wide range of possible implementations - we need to know HOW the district implemented the guidance to understand the risk.
I personally support whatever choice you make regarding sending your children to school in September. Your family is 100% your responsibility and I am sure you will make the best choice possible for you. I'm reaching out my hand for your agreement to let all of us make our own best choice for our family and support each other so that we can ask for and receive the information we need from the district to make a truly informed decision.
This isn't about politics and who is right and who is wrong. This is about each of us taking individual responsibility and making the right choice for each of us. All we need now is a bit more transparency from the schools/districts so that we are each empowered to make the best informed decision for us and our family. That is what https://virussafeschools.com is about.
All the best,