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Commentary: The questions have been building all week, since minutes after the Floyd County Board of Education voted on Monday to open in-person classes on Aug. 13. It was a 4-1 vote with the no vote coming from a member who didn’t stand for re-election this year. Imagine that.
Parents of Floyd County students were soon joined by those from the Rome City School system. They’re confused. They can’t translate the well-intended, page-upon-page of guides of in-person, hybrid or virtual learning. Are we code green, code orange, code yellow or code red? Do we wear masks?
Those color-coded levels remind us of the threat level in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Homeland Security Office would post the threat level and the media would spread the news as fast as technology permitted back then. But there’s a difference.
Today, we’re in the opening months of a deadlier threat, one that has claimed more than 150,000 American lives including 101 in Northwest Georgia and 3,642 statewide — and counting. There is no single warning beacon such as Homeland Security.
- We have a president at war with his top health advisors.
- We have a governor at war with the mayor of Atlanta and with other municipalities joining her fight to protect their residents.
- We have some local officials cautious about every move, fearing anything mandating the wearing of a mask denotes weakness and a liberal lean. They’re hanging on every social media post and not on the basic science and numbers presented each day.
- We have shifting color schemes and levels from the state Department of Public Health. And as the health commissioner pleads with people to wear masks, her boss — the governor — refuses to mandate that move. He says he trusts Georgians will do what’s best. Exactly how is that working these days, governor, as a record number of Georgians died from the disease last week?
- We have school systems in the same community, each having different takes and levels and assessments and such on how to instruct more than 16,000 students starting in two weeks. We have 655 positive tests from student athletes and coaches across our state so far; the football season will kickoff on Sept. 4.
No federal leadership, no state leadership, see-sawing local leadership — and a pandemic raging by the hour despite all those “high fives” about flattening the curve and saving Georgia’s economy.
And now we want to double down on that bet of recovery by sending our students back to school when those charged with their well being are as confused as anyone about where we’re at in this pandemic and what should be done about it. We understand so many people mean well. We’re among the 2 percent who’ve read the guidelines and related data to the point where we can’t read another line.
How the hell anyone from the governor on down can ignore a record number of coronavirus patients in our hospitals, new cases being reported by the dozens every day and a surging death rate is beyond us.
We’re not yet at the peak of this first wave of coronavirus and we’re sending kids back to school? That risk is beyond reason. And then there’s the family spread when they come home from class each day — parents, grandparents, other relatives.
It isn’t just a health crisis; it’s a crisis in leadership.
So mom and dad and grandparents and guardians, consider this your battlefield promotion. You’re in charge when it comes to back to school. You make the call for what’s best for your son, daughter, grandchild or charge when it comes to the start of the new school year.
We’ve always had strong public and private school systems to lean on to help raise our children. And we still do.
But this is a decision they can’t make. The state schools superintendent says it is a local decision regarding in-person or online classes — even as the governor says his own mandates override any local decisions on masks and other critical safety protocols.
So the only solution is to take the decision out of their hands and put it where it belongs: With you. As we’ve seen with the private sector in mandating customers wear masks in stores, those who should be making the right calls on the public side are incapable of doing so. It isn’t a lack of education; it is a lack of empathy.
Record hospital admissions. Enduring the second deadliest month of the pandemic (with two days to go). Soaring positive test results. And some still want to use our children as political collateral?
That choice is yours as well. Our “leaders” have had six months — half a year — to respond to the pandemic. They failed.
Do what’s best for your child.