Here are some of the hybrid questions that have come up this week.
What we've heard: Some studies say it is safe to reopen schools; some say it's not. It all depends on which studies you read.
It's confusing when the news media report conflicting information about COVID trends and safety measures. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make sense of it all if you are not a public health expert. That is why, since the beginning of the pandemic, district leaders have relied on our federal, state and local public health authorities for guidance.
We know that public health officials cannot guarantee everyone's safety. Their job is to look at all the costs and benefits to the population as a whole and to determine the course of action that causes the least harm in a bad situation.
A week ago, the CDC came out with updated guidance encouraging schools to reopen, including a science brief on COVID transmission in schools. Our Washington State Department of Health continues to support reopening at current infection rates with appropriate safety measures in place.
Although there are risks no matter what we do, public health experts have training, experience and tools that we as educators do not have. We believe the wisest choice is to continue to follow public health guidance.
What we've heard: Reopening schools conflicts with our stated commitment to equity. It puts families, students and staff of color at risk because communities of color are disproportionately impacted by COVID.
This issue deserves a lot of introspection because communities of color are disproportionately impacted by both COVID infection and by school closures. We are deeply mindful of the toll COVID has taken on BIPOC communities.
The CDC's latest guidance illustrates this dilemma:
The absence of in-person educational options may disadvantage children from low-resourced communities, which may include large representation of racial and ethnic minority groups, English learners, and students with disabilities. Plans for safe delivery of in-person instruction in K-12 schools must consider efforts to promote fair access to healthy educational environments for students and staff. Thus, essential elements of school reopening plans should take into account the communities and groups that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 infections and severe outcomes. Schools play a critical role in promoting equity in education and health for groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Ultimately, it is not our place to say what is best for the families we serve. Over 80% of BIPOC families responded to our commitment survey, and 44% said they want their children back to school in person. We trust our families to make the choice that is right for them.