Donald Morrison | Reopening schools politically safely

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Many of you have been asking about our plan for the return to classes this fall. As you know, it has been a difficult year — especially for parents. You have, heroically and mostly without complaint, endured the frustrations and hard work of remote online instruction.

It has also been a trying time for us here at the Board of Education. We have had to deal not just with the coronavirus epidemic, but also with confusing and ever-changing guidelines from officials in Washington.

Thus, I am pleased to announce a comprehensive set of protocols that will comply with all current regulations, allow us to reopen our schools safely on Sept. 1 and get those darned kids out of your hair. The plan:

- No child will be admitted to classes without proof of a coronavirus test. This can be obtained from area hospitals and commercial testing labs for a fee of $50 to $3,500. Book now, since results may not come back for weeks.

- All students must wear single-use, head-to-toe personal protective suits while on school premises. These can be ordered online, mostly from exotic-looking websites with lots of Chinese writing.

- Prices have risen sharply as a result of recent outbreaks, so, you will be competing with state governments from Arizona to Florida. But, at least you won't have to do much back-to-school shopping this year.

- All students will be subject to daily temperature checks upon arrival. Those with elevated readings will be placed in cafeteria walk-in freezers until the numbers return to normal.

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- To prevent the spread of disease, recess is canceled. So are team sports, glee clubs, debate teams, marching bands and all other extracurricular activities. Same for parent-teacher conferences. We never liked those anyway.

- Similarly, school libraries will remain closed. So will gyms, music rooms and lavatories. Students will be issued individual containers for emergency use, along with instructions in bladder control.

- School lunches are history. Your child will experience the joys and health benefits of walking home at midday and then back again — just as children used to do in earlier, simpler times. And don't we all yearn for those?

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- To make up for class days already lost to the coronavirus, the end-of-year vacation period formerly known as Christmas will be canceled, as will all other school holidays.

- To avoid crowding, parental drop-offs and pickups will be discontinued. Same for school bus service, taxis and ride-sharing services. We suggest you set your children's alarm clocks a bit earlier in the morning, depending on your distance from school.

- To maintain proper social distancing and also promote self-reliance, classrooms will be limited to eight students each — first-come, first-served. Tardy, or otherwise unlucky, students can try again the next day.

- School will be in operation every weekday, though, on staggered hours. Students with birthdays from July through December will attend classes from 5 a.m. to noon. Those with birthdays from January through June will attend from 1 to 8 p.m. Alas, we are unable to make special accommodations for families with more than one student.

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- We are aware of recent studies showing that adolescents have higher rates of infection than younger students. Therefore, all high schools will remain closed until further notice. Their parking lots will be converted to drive-in movie theaters. Students with driver's licenses, plus one passenger per vehicle, will receive instruction after dusk via movie screens and car radios. No touching or kissing, please.

- We will be hiring large numbers of new staff to facilitate our new arrangements and to replace teachers who get sick and die.

We realize these protocols may impose additional hardships on some families. Also that our increased operating costs will mean sharply higher property taxes for most households in the school district.

Please understand that our goal is both to educate and to protect your children. But, mostly, to avoid lawsuits and satisfy officials in Washington that we are opening up quickly and decisively, so they won't cut our funding.

Besides, everything will probably change after Nov. 3.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation, and see you in September! Not you, personally, of course, but your kids. Some of them. Maybe.

Donald Morrison is an Eagle columnist and advisory board member. As a child, he walked to school every day, uphill both ways. Follow him on Twitter: @DonaldMMorrison.


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