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Column – Remote learning is the right decision

Area school officials are making the right decision by moving to online classes for the fall.

As sad as it is to think there will be no first-day outfits, no first-day-of-school excitement or those kindergarten memories of meeting your best friend for the first time, it is the logical and correct decision.

The risk is just too large. While it is true young people seem to handle the virus well, they have parents, grandparents and teachers who may not have the same level of success.

Classrooms would create dozens of community petri dishes giving the virus an opportunity to spread and cause further damage. It’s hard to imagine a group of 20 first graders being able to effectively socially distance.

While remote learning is not ideal, it is what we need to do now to keep our children safe. Thousands of children are home-schooled without access to professional instruction every year and many of them perform very well academically. Access to broadband internet and the child care needs of parents who work are problems, but the potential of getting children or teachers sick with this virus is not worth the risk. Teachers should not be treated as essential workers when an alternative to in-class education is readily available.

There were a lot of questions surrounding the opening of schools. Combine the questions with an uptick in cases in Virginia and in-person classes became unworkable.

State Sen. Frank Ruff, who has been a proponent of in-person classes, asked a question in his column last week in which he, perhaps unknowingly illustrated the problem schools were facing with in-person classes. While discussing deep cleaning, he asked if students bring the virus to school, won’t the desks be sickly an hour after arrival at school? Yes. No matter how much deep cleaning is done, the virus travels with people. That’s the problem.

Our state delegation has repeatedly criticized the governor’s 130-page guide to reopening schools. While it would be nice if the reopening plan could be as simple as GOP talking points, it just doesn’t work that way. This is a complex situation that cannot be solved with a slogan, a tweet or just plowing ahead as if the virus was not present.

Most schools in the area are sticking with remote learning for the first nine weeks and then seeing what the conditions are like at that point. If we want to get our students back to school, it is up to us.

Multiple health experts have said we can begin to control this virus if we wear masks while in public, remain socially distant and stay home when we can. That will help.

California, Florida, Texas and Arizona have shown us that when you open up too quickly the virus takes off. Virginia has been fortunate so far, but the trends are beginning to be worrisome and Gov. Ralph Northam is hinting at putting restrictions in place.

The past few months have shown us that following the politicians has been a disaster. Let’s try following the health experts for a change and see if we get better results.

ROGER WATSON is editor of The Farmville Herald. His email address is Roger.Watson@ FarmvilleHerald.com.