COMMENTARY

We need to come together on education

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It seems no matter what the subject these days, there are no clear answers or lack of opinions.


Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask.


Defund police, defend police.


Reopen schools, keep schools online.


Virus is deadly or virus is overblown.


Diet Coke or Coke Zero.


Trump or Biden.


The list goes on and on and on. And on. You know what I’m talking about here.


We’re supposed to be better together, except it seems like we can’t get it together because there’s not much anybody can agree on. Everybody has an opinion – and a Facebook post or tweet on Twitter to give it.


We’ve become a world of experts on health, the economy, religion, civil unrest, history and education. Social media has become the battleground as the “experts” give their opinion on how to fix any of the above. We are drawn to their nonsense like a moth to a flame.


We can agree on this much: The coronavirus has us losing our minds.


The magnifying glass seems to shift almost day to day and the latest dissection is on our educators who are deciding how to reopen their schools safely in the next 4-6 weeks. Those school superintendents and school boards are facing difficult decisions on bringing everybody back in person or going online like they did in the spring. Most are choosing a combination of the two, giving parents the option of one or the other.


And if they do choose the return-to-school option, the issue of the face mask covering and the opinions that come with it are diverse.


“I’m not bringing my kids unless everybody wears a mask.”


“My kid will never wear a mask.”


Welcome to their world. Pastors can sympathize. They’ve heard similar statements from church members as our houses of worship have been reopening the last couple of months. It’s impossible to please everybody. Educators know it and so do pastors.


My wife, her mother, her two sisters and my daughter were or are educators. They all agree that educating our children is going to look a lot different going forward. They also agree that keeping a mask on small children – or older ones for that matter – for eight hours is asking too much.


Even in public spaces, where masks are now supposed to be worn in Kentucky, people aren’t being asked to wear them all day long. At church, we wore them in and wore them out. But as long as we were social distancing the mask could be removed. It’s the same at school, but can the desks be spread six feet apart and still get 30 in a classroom? Can the first-grade teacher stay six feet away from children who are calling her mom?


There’s no such thing as no danger but we have to figure out a way for kids to return to school in the safest way possible. It’s imperative to their social and emotional health and to the sanity of parents who are finding out the teacher is a very valuable person in their children’s lives. Many parents became the teacher in the spring, so they have a newfound respect for them.


Our schools need to reopen so our economy can reopen more. Parents of children are the workforce. They can’t be that if they teacher-sit at home, making sure everybody is doing what they’re supposed to be doing.


Besides masks, the CDC has recommended schools spread out desks, stagger schedules, have meals in classrooms instead of cafeterias and add physical barriers between bathroom sinks.


And then there’s the compromised health of the teachers, who will be on the front-line in crowded school rooms. Some are questioning if it’s worth it.


Welcome to 2020. The bumpy ride is far from over.


MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at mark.maynard@kentuckytoday.com

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