Ross: Inquiring minds, part one
There are several very important issues dominating public discussion this summer. All are confusing by their nature. Some are real, some are manufactured. All are hard to resolve because the public often has few reliable sources of information, and no serious leadership has emerged to provide answers.
The most pressing issues are those that deal with the public school systems. In this area there seems to be no plan. Some schools will open on schedule and resume normal education practices. Many schools will open with a hybrid schedule in which students will be in school some days but will remain home for "remote learning" on other days. Some are committing to continue with remote learning entirely.
So far, there is no leadership from the governor or the secretary of education that commits to a common plan for the state. The key words in the previous sentence are "no leadership." Leadership means making a decision, setting out a plan of action and seeing that it is implemented. No leadership, no plan. Gov. Scott's editorial in last week's Journal started strong, but quickly became a series of platitudinous waffles.
What passed for education after the schools shut down in March because of the COVID emergency has been a failure at all levels. Not much learning took place by remote methodology. Five months of intellectual and social development went down the drain. Why must we prolong this nonsense any longer?
Principals, superintendents and the Vermont NEA are all presenting various spurious arguments to justify not doing their jobs. Some claim they can't plan because of the large number of home school applications received.
Parents want their children to learn. If they do not see a plan from their school to provide learning, they will provide it themselves. This boom in home-schoolers will die out if parents see that their schools will open and function normally. Some principals claim that they will have staffing problems because some teachers will be afraid to come to work. They need to be reminded that they are employees who signed contracts committing to work. If they choose to resign, so what? It is their prerogative to do so. There is no shortage of would-be teachers on the market. If there would happen to be a temporary shortage of staff, since Vermont is famous for small class sizes perhaps it would be OK to have 15 or 16 in a class instead of 9 or 10 until the missing staff are replaced.
There will be some adjustments to be made because of the need to monitor temperatures, masks, etc. These can be dealt with easily and safely. All of the data we are bombarded with has said that young people are less vulnerable than adults to become ill with the virus.
Vermont's data indicates that we are one of, if not the most, virus free states. Teachers and other staff can easily protect themselves with masks and responsible behavior. Their contact with students will be far, far safer than the situation with retail workers, postal workers and others who deal all day with random walk-ins from wherever.
If there is a little extra expense to be met for extra cleaning of rooms and other housekeeping chores this should not be a problem. School districts all finished the last year with with significant surplus monies that were not spent during the spring shutdown. Coaches didn't coach, extra-curricular activities, field trips, etc. didn't happen, many buses did not run, large parts of buildings were not in use.
Every school should be held to account for what money they actually spent versus what was appropriated in last year's budgets.
Students need to be in school. Parents need to be able to plan their days and work schedules accurately. The rest of us, the society at large, need to know that the education we are all paying for is actually being delivered. We can not afford to risk losing a generation of
kids to failure of the "leadership" to lead!
Weiland Ross writes a regular column for the Journal.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.