When is it Safe to Go Back to School?

Jim SharpeSeptember 16, 2020
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During our 806th Friday night takeout-dinner date, my wife and I declared to each other that we’d finally had it.

We’d already had it with COVID-19. It has robbed people of their lives, it’s stolen millions of jobs and it’s pilfered a good chunk of life’s little joys for the rest of us. But sometime between takeout dessert and the last available episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, my wife and I decided that we’d specifically had it with not taking our 5- and 7-year-old daughters anywhere.

Emotional issues were surfacing because they never got to see anyone except their dogs, their parents and each other. (The “my sister is my only playmate” thing is not going well.) So, the next day, we launched a foray into the frontier beyond the front door.

Our grand adventure consisted of a trip to the Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting on Saturday afternoon and breakfast out on Sunday. Besides a few trips to the store, it was the first time our girls had left the Sharpe Compound since March. The dogs didn’t know how to deal with a house devoid of humans, but we humans felt great – and very responsible, as we were masked, sanitized and social distanced during our entire out-of-the-house voyage. Our expedition went so well, we rented an Airbnb in San Diego. And we’ve signed the girls up for gymnastics and swimming lessons.

I know some people think that leaving our house for any reason other than going to a store (or a protest) is completely irresponsible. To them, I ask: “Are you moving the goal posts?”

Why shouldn’t we go do a few things if they’re done safely? The community benchmarks that allowed these places to be open have been met, and my girls will wither emotionally if they’re not meeting anybody who is not in their immediate family.

They do see their teachers every day, and I can’t say enough about how great and engaging those underpaid public servants are. But my girls can’t wait to meet them in person, to hug them, and I’m afraid that won’t happen anytime soon, because of the aforementioned goal posts. After all the criteria has been met, some teachers will still insist they aren’t going to school. Even if a majority of them are willing to show up, a sizeable-enough minority marking themselves absent could leave some schools too short-staffed to open.

If a teacher, or someone they live with, has a serious underlying health issue or is elderly, they should get a pass and, until there’s a vaccine, we should find a way to ensure they get a paycheck. Unfortunately, I’m hearing from way too many teachers (who aren’t in that category) who insist they aren’t going back to class “until it’s safe!” For them, “safe” seems to be miles beyond the metrics, safety protocols and benchmarks established by public health experts.

Which would make them appear to be healthy enough to go to work – because moving a goal post requires being able to lift a few hundred pounds.

Jim Sharpe is the host of Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR-FM 92.3 (weekdays 5-9 a.m.). Visit ktar.com to find more information about his on-air work.