Making plans for the K-12 fall semester is among the hardest things this generation of school administrators have ever had to do.
There are so many people to consider: students, parents, teachers, staff, day care providers, and after-school program operators. The health and well-being -- physical, mental and social -- of all of them is at the top of their minds, but decisions are extremely hard to make.
Yes, some people see the issue as clearcut: send children to school or keep them home, but the issue is much more complicated than that.
Let's discuss just a few of the many issues:
Physical health -- Preventing spread of the virus requires people to stay distanced, but it isn't always clear how much isolation is necessary. Six feet apart? Wear masks or not? How much hand-washing and sanitization? How much testing? What if family members are sick?
Mental health -- Most observers are recognizing that complete isolation is not good for mental health, especially among young, developing students. Staying home for months at a time can be serious.
Unique health conditions -- Public schools have many students who have underlying health conditions, some of them known to district staff, some not. While the coronavirus typically doesn't harm children as much as older people, those with special conditions are susceptible.
Faculty and staff -- It isn't clear about the transmission of the virus from seemingly healthy children to adults. Could a healthy, active student give the virus to another student or teacher?
Care of youngsters -- Madison Central has about 1,165 students. Let's say the youngest third of them need to be supervised if they aren't in school. That's nearly 400 students who would need to go to day care, need a parent to stay home or need another friend or relative to supervise them. That's a substantial stress on a community.
There are many more issues that complicate decisions. But we feel strongly that school administrators are doing their absolute best to decide how the fall semester should go. While not everyone will agree with their decisions, these administrators certainly have the best interests of all concerned in their minds.
-- Jon M. Hunter