Bob Dunning: Clock ticking on school options

Bob Dunning: Clock ticking on school options

Let’s begin this back-to-school discussion by saying that just about all of us would like to see our kids safely back in school this fall.

I’m sure that goes not only for the students, but also for the parents and teachers and administrators and school support personnel and the community at large.

Not to mention the many businesses in town that cater to students of all ages.

I do grant that some students thrive with distance learning and it was their preferred option even before this runaway pandemic forced us into new ways of thinking about how we educate our kids.

But for most students and parents and a few of the teachers I’ve talked with, it’s all about getting students back in the classroom and the gym and the choir room and the band room and the stage and the MPR and the student newspaper and the performing arts center and onto our many well-groomed athletic fields. And so much more.

But mostly, and this is so important, to be around their friends and fellow students as they learn the many growing-up skills that an in-person environment nourishes from pre-K straight through the final year of high school.

Unfortunately, even the many “experts” we tend to rely on have differing opinions about the best path forward.

On the same day in the past week that large school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego announced they planned to start 2020 with distance learning, nearby Orange County said it was going to in-person schooling without face masks or social distancing.

Check out this report from the Orange County Register: “While school districts across California are choosing remote learning to start the school year, the Orange County Board of Education is going a different route.

“On Monday night, the conservative-leaning board voted on its own guidelines for schools: a return to the old ways before the coronavirus pandemic. That means on-campus instruction. No face masks. No keeping six feet apart. The lone dissenting vote was Trustee Beckie Gomez, also the only board member to wear a mask during the meeting.”

And we wonder why this virus is now raging out of control.

All of the above, of course, was rendered moot at high noon on Friday when Gov. Newsom ordered all public schools in 32 California counties — including Yolo — to go to distance learning for the time being.

When we closed schools in Davis on March 13, there had been just one case in our town, none in our schools, and only a handful in all of Yolo County. At last count, Davis has 114 confirmed cases and the county has soared past 1,000.

Elsewhere in Northern California, the Bay Area News Group’s Joseph Geha reports that “Fremont’s school board decided in a split vote to begin the upcoming school year using a wholly distance-learning model.”

Futhermore, Geha notes, “The board said the large East Bay school district — serving about 35,000 students — will stick with virtual learning until Alameda County doesn’t see a single new COVID-19 case for seven straight days, at which point other models of learning, such as hybrid — mixing distance learning and on-site instruction — would be re-evaluated.”

With 8,342 confirmed cases, Alameda County is a long, long way from reaching zero for seven straight days, yet its per capita infection rate of 499 per 100,000 residents is comparable to Yolo County’s 453 per 100,000.

Nothing is guaranteed. And safe solutions remain elusive.

Unfortunately, the clock is moving swiftly toward opening day and the promised summer respite from the virus has turned out to be just the opposite.

The governor has spoken and pretty much affirmed what the Davis Joint Unified School District was going to do anyway. We can only hope that people will get serious about following the guidelines and that our kids will all be back in school soon.

It’s time for some common sense and a major dose of that old standby, common prayer.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected].



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