Cathy Slemp: A school assignment for us all

Opinion, Charleston Gazette-Mail

August 10, 2020

The pandemic in West Virginia is not headed in the right direction. It took us three months to reach 2,500 West Virginians with COVID-19, one month to double that to 5,000, and, at our current rate, we will top 10,000 by late August.

We are seeing outbreaks related to travel, churches and bars. Disease is spreading through intergenerational families. Hospitalizations, patients in intensive care and the numbers of those on ventilators are rising. After months of almost no nursing home outbreaks, they are again occurring. Historically, we have done well with our disease rates, yet there are no guarantees that will sustain. States across the South and Midwest are seeing COVID-19 quickly get out of hand. Putting the genie back in the bottle is difficult and painful.

It has been agonizing recently to see so many wrestle with decisions around how to perform perhaps the most critical of societal functions — educating our children safely and effectively. I hear parents, teachers, students, bus drivers, social workers, administrators, health professionals and others support, recognize and yearn for the benefits of in-person school done safely. The reasons range from education to socialization; nutrition to healthcare; and contact with caring adults to links with social services. The pandemic again uncovers issues of equity with not all students having internet access or the family flexibility to support remote learning and maintain job, housing or food security. Those most at risk may be the first to fall behind.