If you are teacher who will be teaching this fall…
If you are an administrator who will be running schools…
If you are a leader in the Park City School District…
There is one article you should read today in the New York Times. “When Covid Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well.“
I know there is a lot of debate among teachers, parents, and others about reopening schools in Park City. Two weeks from now, though, it is happening.
Here’s what happened in Jerusalem according to the Times, “Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May. Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world. The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.”
The problem was that schools caved to pressure from parents. “Then a heat wave hit. Parents complained that it was inhumane to make children wear masks in steaming classrooms where open windows nullified the air conditioning. In response, the government exempted everyone from wearing masks for four days, and schools shut the windows. That decision proved disastrous, experts say.”
Instead of closing schools, they told students they could take off their masks because it was so hot. They closed the windows. That removed the benefits of ventilation. They made bad decisions. They didn’t execute.
One bad decision, driven by parents and accepted by schools caused a catastrophe. In Park City … parents, students, teachers, administrators, and the district personnel will all have the chance, many times a day, to make good decisions or bad decisions. Those decisions could keep us on the path to making it through the year or careen us into the ditch. This can’t be emphasized enough. We all need to work together to give education a chance, but any single one of us can ruin it.
So what happened in Israel? Two students in one high school tested positive. Then the whole school was quarantined and everyone was tested. Sixty percent of those infected were asymptomatic. “Teachers, some of whom had been teaching multiple classes, suffered the most and a few were hospitalized, the principal said.
This is what happened across the country next, “Seeking to contain the contagion, the Education Ministry vowed to shut any school with even one Covid-19 case. It ultimately closed more than 240 schools and quarantined more than 22,520 teachers and students. When the school year ended in late June, the ministry said, 977 pupils and teachers had contracted Covid-19.”
Some people in Park City would argue, “can you even open schools safely?” It’s a fair question, but that debate has passed. Now it’s all about the execution. What’s at stake are lives and in the broader sense the Park City winter season. If that goes away, much of the best parts of Park City will go with it and may not come back.
Every day, every student, parent, teacher, and administrator has a part in a grand game. Can we generally do the right thing? Can we make good decisions? Can we have discipline?
If not, Israel’s experiment tells us what it will look like.
And if we look like this school in Georgia on its opening day, we know where we are headed.