Home Coronavirus Former Fairfax County School Board Member Ryan McElveen: “Schools must open virtually...

Former Fairfax County School Board Member Ryan McElveen: “Schools must open virtually this fall”

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Former Fairfax County School Board member Ryan McElveen posted this earlier today on Facebook, and it stirred up a heckuva conversation, with 61 comments, 202 shares, and 996 likes/loves. Check it out. Personally, I largely agree with McElveen on this, and also with Arlington County’s online-only approach, at least at the start of the school year. I do disagree with McElveen on one point – that we were forced into this situation by “leaders” or “elected officials” generically; I really wish McElveen and others would call out those overwhelmingly responsible, starting with Trump, and be very specific about who failed, how they failed, etc…

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We decided several weeks ago to withdraw our daughter from school (pre-K) this fall. It was a disappointing decision, but it was not difficult as COVID-19 cases continued to grow alongside our now-complete loss of confidence in government at all levels—federal, state and local—to protect our family and community. Ultimately, we rest easy with our decision, knowing that—even with the inconvenience it entails—we are doing the safest thing for our child and our family.

We shouldn’t have been forced to make this decision. If leaders had addressed the crisis early and appropriately with social distancing, mask-wearing, testing and tracing, our country—like others—could have successfully reopened by now, and we could be preparing for a normal opening of school.

Instead, to adapt to this never-ending new normal, school districts have adopted plans to return in the fall with hybrid approaches that, while well-meaning, have preemptively set themselves on course for endangering the health and safety of entire communities to partially address political pressure on all sides and ultimately please no one. In the name of equity, these hybrid plans create a two-class system that merely perpetuates the demographic disparities inherent in the toll of the virus. Because of these plans, communities have unnecessarily been forced to decide whether to stay home or risk going to school—a government-sponsored game of Russian roulette.

The most exasperating element of this crisis has been the immense sacrifices made by our communities and the subsequent nullification of those sacrifices by elected officials rushing to reopen the economy and schools, minimizing the value of the lives endangered as a result.

Yet the most empowering element of the crisis has been seeing residents standing up to authority and calling on their leaders to put the health and safety of their communities first. I urge our leaders to hear them.

Schools must open virtually this fall.