The die may be in the process of being cast for the 2020-21 school year in the Northern Hemisphere. Every state in the USA is re-opening after two to three months of lockdown, with many on the verge of an almost total return to pre-COVID-19 normality. This despite data showing a massive surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations in those states that opened first. Ominously for schools, especially boarding schools, are stories of intra-team infections at universities such as Clemson and Auburn.
Increasing cases is inevitable since COVOD-19 is a social disease, meaning that it circulates among humans in the social space. Increase mobility and interpersonal contact and higher case levels will surely follow, a trend likely to comtinue well into fall. As Time Magazine recently headlined, “America Is Done With COVID-19. COVID-19 Isn’t Done With America.”
But, it is also clear that no governor has any tolerance for imposing a new round of restrictions, let alone a new lockdown, Don’t look to the state for help deciding whether to play sports or re-open your campus–the politicians from both major parties are all too wary of public anger in a general election year.
So, as June nears an end and summer is 1/3rd over, here’s where things stand:
- The US has made a de facto decision to accept higher disease rates–it remains to be seen whether higher death rates will follow and if these will be equally acceptable;
- Schools will in all likelihood re-open in August and September with precious little in the way of consistency or clarity from government about how to do it;
- Parents, to the extent we can tell, just want their children back in school; their tolerance for becoming teaching assistants has reached its limit, no matter how effective your pivot to remote learning; and
- Educational institutions are all over the place in terms of where they stand, from full speed ahead to keeping a foot on the brakes.
This state of affairs requires extraordinary bravery from school leaders. Bravery in the face of second-guessing and more than the usual criticism. Bravery to give your boards, teachers, and families bad news. And, most of all, bravery to do the right thing by your students, even when knowing the right thing to do is itself a challenge.