As the country (and the world) nears two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the measures employed to keep people safe have exacted a toll on some of the most vulnerable members of our population, namely, children. In that time, children have faced disruptions to school and everyday routines emanating from a combination of cancellations and virtual schooling as school officials and teachers’ unions continue to argue over policies to ensure a safe work environment.
According to a news report by Chicago’s WGN9, the Chicago Teachers Union made a last-minute call earlier this week to switch to remote learning due to the rise in COVID cases across the city coupled with a shortage of rapids tests. Regarding the standoff between the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), CPS said in a statement, “Despite six months of active, good-faith discussions with the CTU, despite the fact that more than 90 percent of our staff is vaccinated, despite proven and implemented COVID-19 safety measures, and despite little evidence of in-school transmission, our teachers are not willing to report to work. We are deeply concerned about this decision but even more concerned about its impact on the health, safety, and well-being of our students and families.”
Meanwhile, across the country in Washington State, one elementary school forces its children to eat outside in near-freezing temperatures, all in the name of “safety.” After parents reportedly expressed concern over their children eating outside in winter temps, a screenshot of an email sent by the school’s principal indicated that parents can expect notification regarding when their children will be eating outside during the following week. The school’s principal notified parents that children can expect to eat indoors only when temperatures are at 38 degrees or below, signing her e-mail with “Stay warm.”
Likewise, Salem School District in Massachusetts adopted a COVID-19 policy that encourages children to eat outside when the temperature remains at 20 degrees or higher. Additionally, windows in the classrooms are cracked open regardless of outdoor temperatures.
Republican Governor Phil Scott of Vermont acknowledges the particular challenges posed by the pandemic and the negative impact on vulnerable children. In his State of the State address this week, Governor Scott made mention of “real-life consequences we must consider when thinking about returning to restrictive pandemic measures.” He quoted directly from students who requested the state bring back in-person activities that students can look forward to in an effort to combat the loneliness brought about by the reduction of in-person learning.
Our vulnerable children are suffering from well-intentioned measures to mitigate all in the name of science and the greater good. Is this truly the best we can promise them?