Protect the students

| 08 Jul 2020 | 01:10

    A vocal contingent of Spring Grove Area residents is urging that public schools reopen in a business-as-usual format this fall, regardless of coronavirus-related health concerns.

    No masks for students or teachers. No social distancing. No kidding.

    Schooling is, indeed, badly needed in the district _ for these tragically misinformed residents.

    Among the lessons: The coronavirus is not a political ideology; refusing to take precautions is not an exercise of rights; and not being afraid of contracting the virus is inconsequential.

    They’d likewise benefit from a few lessons in consideration for others. Same goes for a couple of Spring Grove school board members, including Douglas White, who could also use a remedial course in civility.

    Willful ignorance is infuriating enough when it comes to climate change. Claiming to ``not believe in’’ the preponderance of evidence that human-generated greenhouse gases are causing the planet’s temperatures to spike is a convenient excuse for inactivity. It’s also an embarrassing admission of foolishness.

    For all that, climate change is not directly killing hundreds of Americans every day. COVID-19 is.

    And yet, at Monday’s Spring Grove school board meeting, you’d think the virus that has claimed more than 120,000 American lives was little more than a liberal fantasy. Fake news. ``A crock of s---,’’ as White so inarticulately put it.

    Yes, that’s how an elected member of a board overseeing the education of children characterized the pandemic. Never mind Pennsylvania’s 82,000-plus cases and nearly 6,500 fatalities. Douglas is more interested in manufacturing a political battle over state health guidelines intended to protect him, his neighbors and students in the district he’s supposed to be leading.

    ``Sometimes you have to say to the government, `F you,’’’ he stated, offering a civics lesson any educator would be proud of.

    He had plenty of support among those attending the meeting, where several residents argued that no one is afraid of the virus (as if that should have any bearing on public health policies). But then, public health is the last thing on their minds. They cited a 400-signature petition in support of reopening the district’s schools without following any state or federal health guidelines.

    Some dismissed social distancing while others denounced wearing face-coverings _ a key component to stemming the spread of the coronavirus _ because they might frighten students. Better that elementary school kids risk contracting a life-threatening illness, apparently.

    This is madness. A majority of Americans are worried about opening school at all this fall, let alone without safety measures.

    We get it: Like everything else under sun, from the increasingly sizzling planet to the efficacy of vaccinations, the coronavirus has become a political issue. President Donald Trump has led the charge, finding it easier to point fingers than oversee a response.

    His self-serving decision to return to mass indoor campaign rallies absent masks and social distancing is a rebuke of his own government’s guidelines and a dereliction of his office. His politicizing of the issue by targeting Democratic governors’ responses egged on protesters who used public-health guidelines as an excuse to air partisan grievances. And his suggestion that face-coverings are not only a sign of weakness but a political statement against him are beyond irresponsible.

    But in the words of Spring Grove social studies teacher Josh Newark, an oasis of sanity at Monday’s school board meeting, ``This is not a political issue. It is a public health issue. Wearing a mask does not make me weak. It does not infringe upon my freedoms.’’

    The school board is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the district’s health and safety plan, which will determine the use of masks, social distancing and other safety measures. A final vote is planned for July 13.

    That discussion _ and that vote _ must center on one thing: the health and safety of the district’s students and employees. Any suggestion that safety guidelines aren’t needed, or that scoring political points is more important than public health, or that the virus won’t infect those who aren’t afraid of it, are, to paraphrase White, a crock.