Arlington, VA

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

After the sudden school closure and the controversial decision not to teach any new material to our kids this spring, Arlington Public Schools have been wrestling with the question of what school will look like this fall.

According to the recent APS surveys, 73 percent of parents are comfortable with sending their children back to school with safety measures in place. Just 9 percent of parents said they were not at all comfortable. Conversely, only 38 percent of teachers want to go back while 39 percent said they were not comfortable going back to school.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that the goal should be for students to be physically present in school this fall. The benefits of, among other things, face-to-face learning, nutrition, social skills, counseling services and physical activity contribute to the overall health of students. The report weighed available scientific evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on kids:

Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection. Policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within schools must be balanced with the known harms to children, adolescents, families, and the community by keeping children at home.

In late June, APS announced a compromise position. They created a hybrid learning model so kids could get back in the classroom two days per week. They also gave parents the ability to elect an all distance learning plan for their kids. Thousands of parents had already signed their kids up for their preferred option.

Arlington teachers began pushing back almost immediately. The pressure culminated in a statement by the Arlington Education Association yesterday which called for APS to abandon its plan and conduct classes in the fall by online-only learning.

Today, new APS Superintendent Francisco Durán abruptly reversed course. In an email to parents, he announced school would resume online only in September. And instruction will not begin until September 8th, two weeks later than planned.

Parents, particularly single parents, who do not have the option to telework will have to decide on how best to ensure their kids are cared for, and participating, during online learning. This would have been difficult three days a week, and it just got harder.

Hopefully Superintendent Durán will provide a more complete explanation in future communications. And hopefully our students will not be put at too much of a disadvantage because of today’s decision.

Disappointing GOP Performance

The Arlington voters have been open over the years to competing points of view on local decisions. While Democrat Takis Karantonis ultimately took 62% of the vote in last week’s County Board special election, the performance of Susan Cunningham proved that there is still some appetite for an independent voice. But after Republican Bob Cambridge received just 5% of the vote, the Arlington GOP has some serious work to do moving forward.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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