OPINION – As a 15-year Robla School Board Member, I can proudly say our Board strives to make data-driven decisions that put our students first. I can also say with confidence our approach to responding to and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 has been no different.
In order to make a determination on whether Robla schools would begin the year with in person instruction, distance learning or some combination thereof, Trustees and district staff sought the advice of county and state health officials, along with access to key data they would use to inform their recommendations. This is where the process went off the rails.
While recommending continued school closures, Sacramento County and the State of California have yet to offer any substantive facts to support their recommendations. They offer no data; they offer no science. This is eerily reminiscent of initial calls to shut down schools.
Despite the fact that the Center for Disease Control did not recommend blanket school closures, local health and education experts said we should close. At the time, one would be hard pressed to find a single nationally recognized virologist or epidemiologist who was advising we take such drastic measures. But we closed our schools anyway.
Four months later, one would think there would be a wealth of information at our disposal to inform us on whether or not to reopen. We should know who is getting COVID; We should know how they are getting it; where they are getting it; and who is at serious risk for hospitalization and/or death. We should be able to deduce from this data how best to proceed.
None of this data was offered as a part of recommendations to remain closed.
What we do know is that the number of reported cases in Sacramento County and the State have gone up. Hospitalizations, while also up in both the county and state, have not increased as dramatically. We also know that deaths are still down. And in Sacramento County there have been a grand total of 21 deaths of those under the age of 65, and zero deaths of school age children. These facts do not support a recommendation to continue school closures.
But instead we have recommendations one can only assume are based on politics and fear.
The California Teachers Association has thrown down the gauntlet, telling the state that they are against allowing schools to reopen. Los Angeles Unified School District has caved to their unions’ demand that schools remain closed. And now the rest of the political and governmental establishment are falling in line out of fear.
For some, that fear is truly about keeping kids safe. But for many, it is about not shaking the political applecart. State leaders, including the governor, have refused to oppose the will of one of California’s most powerful labor unions. On the other hand, some are also hesitant to question the judgement of the state’s most powerful political leaders, no matter how uninformed it may be.
Lost in this process is the fact that the future of our communities most vulnerable students is being put at risk. We cannot ignore the impact that continued school closures will have on low-income, students of color if we fail to provide them with an equitable opportunity at a quality education.
To be clear: I do not favor opening schools if it puts our students and staff at risk. I do not oppose the idea of continuing distance learning. But whatever we decide to do, it should be based upon data and science. To date, not much of either has been offered by those who we trust to advise us on these matters.
By Craig J. DeLuz | Special to The Observer
Craig J. DeLuz has served on the Robla School District Board of Trustees for over 15 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @CraigDeLuz or reach him via email at email@example.com