Coronavirus threatens public education

Thanks to COVID-19, universal public education as we’ve known it in the United States may be dead.

Here are just some of the areas of concern:

— Parents/kids. Many parents had already been concerned about sending their kids to school where classmates had colds or the flu or something, and now we have COVID-19, which can kill. Will those same concerned parents be willing to send their kids (some with pre-existing conditions such as asthma) to school this fall with COVID-19 lurking? Some will not. They will seek alternatives. Home schooling? Maybe. Private schools that have rigid precautions in place? Maybe. Online learning? Maybe. But not public schools.

— The teachers. Some are among the “most vulnerable,” and they surely will be hesitant to pick up where they left off. Other teachers? They will be concerned, at the very least. The net result. A worsening teacher shortage in public schools.

— The physical facilities, which cost millions upon millions of dollars. Are they safe in the age of COVID-19? Most likely no. Social distancing? Frequent sanitizing of everything, including heating and air conditioning systems? Impossible … or impossibly expensive.

— The fallout. How do authorities respond if a teacher or a student tests positive for the virus? Close the school? Quarantine all teachers and students who came into contact with the infected person? It would be a nightmare with profound impacts on the teaching/learning processes.

Public school administrators and state and federal government authorities seem to be particularly inept at dealing with COVID-19.

In West Virginia, authorities reportedly have decided there will be no monitoring of children at the school house doors. Instead, parents will be allowed to decide (1) if their children have COVID-19 and (2) if their children should go to school. That is to say, at least some kids with the virus will likely be dropped off at school as mom and dad go to work.

It would be helpful if our authorities would address these issues now, instead of waiting for the problems to develop. But, they seem unable or unwilling to face the realities, and that, more than anything else, could cause the death of universal public education in the United States.

Charlene Snodgrass



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