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School re-openings in North Dakota

Karen R. Sanderson, Minot

I do not think schools should open in North Dakota. We shut them down in the spring when we had zero deaths in the state. Now we have over 90 dead and 5,126 positives, and we are talking about re-opening. Dumb. I would support a teachers’ strike, and I will march with you.

(Just while I was finishing this article – now 96 dead, 5,367 positive – July 22 – according to ND DOH)

Governor Burgum won’t man up and make a decision, so he punted the ball to ND State Superintendent Baesler. Baesler won’t make a decision and punted to the school districts. Now school districts are doing surveys, in essence, punting the ball to parents and the community. No super heroes here – in North Dakota we just say, “With no decision comes no responsibility.” When people start dying, all our leaders and administrators can deny any culpability.

I have been exchanging messages and emails with parents and teachers and these are some of the things I have learned:

– One parent told me they have to make the decision to attend 100% or stay at home with online instruction. (Online in one district may be outsourced to a third party. What third party?)

– Parents, you must decide because the administrators won’t. And once you decide, you can change your mind only every grading period.

– One district sent out a survey to parents, community, and staff. I saw the charts (lots of them). Statisticians would love these charts. They gave me a headache. But these charts make it look like “we’re doing something, we’re taking feedback, and making these colorful charts.”

– In one district masks are suggested but not required; in another there is a reintegration committee.

– A teacher I messaged with – said their district is still in planning mode mere weeks from the start of the school year, and she doesn’t know what’s going to happen.

– From a Mom – “They lose their hats, gloves, scarves, socks, lunch boxes, pencils, homework, and everything else. How can we expect them to keep track of a mask?”

Another parent told me that masks will be required. Starting when? I live a few blocks from an elementary school, and I guess summer school or other events are happening there. I drive by every day on my way to the park. I’ve not seen one mask – not one – on kids or parents. The masks or no-masks has been politicized to the point that people are being bullied in public spaces. Do you think our kids may be bullied for wearing a mask? How can that help make returning to school safe?

Some districts are using a ridiculous blue-green-yellow-red system for opening and closing. Like traffic-light bingo with our kids’ lives. I’ve seen two days on/three days home, 1/2 the kids one day, 1/2 another day, rotations, swing your partner, I’ll do-see-do left, you allemande right. Swing your child right into a hospital bed.

I’ve seen documents from a school district with happy words like “hybrid,” “blended,” “challenges,” “be flexible,” “do our best,” and “together we can do this!” I guess whoever wrote all this is part of the cheerleading squad. Rah-Rah-Rah!

Not every family has viable options. Some parents have to get back to work and don’t have the privilege of making a choice. Some don’t have decent internet. Some parents have kids that can’t be left alone at home. What about our wee ones who struggle with online learning? Children with special needs is another dropped ball. It’s a mess. But Burgum and Baesler can ultimately say, “I did not make that decision.” Their hands are clean, right?

Kids can get COVID-19, carry it home to parents, parents get sick, parents carry it into the community. Oh, here’s grandma visiting and, because they are a loving, close-knit family, here grandma, have some COVID. Grandma carries it into the community, shares it with her friends at the mall over coffee. Spike in cases, sick people, dead people, more dead people, and then we have to shut down again.

Parents and administrators and kids say they are anxious to get back to the classroom. No kidding. But this was not your typical summer break, was it?

When do we react? When there are 10 sick, 10 on ventilators, 10 dead? North Dakotans – take this seriously! Shut it down, North Dakota.

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