District taking right approach in pandemic

July 27, 2020

Politics has been called the “art of the possible.”

For the Cape Henlopen School District board members and staff, achieving the merely “possible” would be child’s play.

They’re working on the impossible. They’re discussing plans to reopen school during a pandemic while keeping in mind … everything.

That includes: class and bus schedules; in-school and online learning; what to do if a child or staff member has symptoms, or tests positive; how to serve lunch; how to enforce social distancing, hand-washing, sanitizing and mask-wearing for all students including kindergartners and first-graders (!) and on and on.

I listened to part of the school board meeting last week and was impressed with their attitude. But as they discussed issues concerning the reopening of schools I thought: What a nightmare.

And we’ve seen this nightmare before. In fact, we’re still living it.

“Record Number Of Coronavirus Cases Is A Result Of States Reopening Too Soon Health Experts Say,” said the July 6 headline from Kaiser Health News.

By the time you read this, we will have barreled past 150,000 dead Americans, thousands of them because - largely at the instigation of the president - states rushed the reopening of their economies. (More than 90,000 Americans have died since states began reopening.)

 “Liberate Minnesota!” Trump tweeted April 17. “Liberate Michigan!” “Liberate Virginia and save your great 2nd Amendment.”

 “Liberate” means to free from tyranny or slavery. It was the word used to describe the freeing of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps. You’d be hard-pressed to find more incendiary language.

Here we were near the beginning of the worst health and economic crisis of our generation - with thousands of people dead and millions out of work - and the president decided that this would be a good time to incite civil unrest.

Because what goes better with a pandemic than hate and division?

Trump’s pressure tactics worked. Many states submitted to his will. Now citizens of those states are paying for it with their lives, amidst talk of having to shut down the economies again.

And yet the only time I’ve seen Trump look truly shaken was in that famous photograph of him after the Tulsa rally; tie undone, downcast, defeated, clutching a crumpled MAGA hat.

But it wasn’t the ghosts of fellow Americans that so haunted Trump that night. It was the specter of empty seats at the Bank of Oklahoma Center.

A man with a sliver of a conscience and an ounce of humanity would be crushed by the knowledge that his demands resulted in so much misery, death and financial destruction.

Not Trump. He’s ready to roll the dice again - with other people’s lives - on schools reopening. He thinks it will help his chances for reelection if things appear normal. (They aren’t and won’t be for a long time.)

The problem is, you can’t separate the reopening of economies or of schools from the pandemic. The pandemic has to be brought under control first. Then we can move forward.

This will require a national effort led by the federal government, an effort this president appears unwilling or unable to lead. 

Fortunately, better leadership resides in the Cape Henlopen School District.

The district’s website says, “Opening Cape Henlopen Schools will occur if and when we can open safely.  The District would love to open the doors with students and staff in the fall, but this decision will have to be carefully weighed.”

That’s the correct approach and district officials should hold steady, no matter what comes out of Washington.

Don Flood
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