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The Right Note: Mixed Messages

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.

In a hastily called meeting before their traditional August break, the Arlington County Board passed an emergency ordinance that prevents groups of four or more from standing closer than six feet to each other in marked public spaces. There was no public discussion or input prior to the surprise announcement.

Under the ordinance, my family could not wait at a traffic light together even if we are wearing face coverings, without the risk of a $600 fine. However, we could walk into a restaurant and sit together without face coverings. Fellow columnist Chris Slatt rightly called it a mess.

The County Board should call another emergency meeting and withdraw the ordinance. If they cannot bring themselves to do that, they should consider rewriting it before the September meeting. It must be made clear whether family units are subject to fines. The Board must also make clear whether it applies to protests or marches.

The final point here is that the County Board should not be taking a break this August. They passed an emergency ordinance in the name of an ongoing public health emergency, but they are not planning to formally meet for nearly eight weeks. It sends mixed messages about how serious they are taking COVID-19 right now in Arlington.

Speaking of mixed messages, the Arlington Public Schools superintendent updated the community about the APS back to school plan in a presentation to the Arlington School Board.

In the presentation, Mr. Durán announced that APS was planning to make child care available to teachers with kids ages four to 11. While Durán acknowledged that child care was a pressing issue for parents as well, the schools are promising to use extended day staff in school buildings throughout the county as child care facilities for teachers. Presumably, these APS staff members will be making sure the children placed in APS provided child care are taking part in their online instruction.

When online learning begins September 8, parents will have to balance their own jobs with making sure their kids are logging in and participating in their school schedule. If your job requires you to be physically present outside the home, you will have to make alternative arrangements. Teachers with the same age kids will have a taxpayer-backed staffer and building available to do it for them.

Also, the Arlington Education Association stated that safety was the paramount concern when they demanded APS reverse course on in-person instruction. Have they weighed in on the safety concerns for the staff and possibly 1,000 children taking part in child care at the schools?

While APS is resisting the idea of setting forth metrics for reopening, the calls for specifics may grow when parents discover teachers are being treated differently when it comes to child care.

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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