Do We Need an Omicron Break in our Schools?

School closed at Coronavirus days. SCHOOL CLOSED  text message sign on metal fence, closed door gate, blur buildings background, Covid 19 spread prevention measure. 3d illustration

It seems that we are struggling as a nation again in our schools with the spread of the latest version of COVID-19, the omicron variant. Schools all across the country are not recovering well from the recent holiday break in that teachers are unable to come to work due to exposure to COVID and/or contracting the virus. Our schools here at Lakeside have been hit hard with staff quarantining due to contracting COVID or being exposed over the holiday break.

I came across this article on the VOX website which reflects this same reality in schools all over the country. Here are some excerpts from this news article:

Schools in Cleveland, Ohio, will be remote for the first week of January. So will schools in Charles County, Maryland; Reading, Pennsylvania; and Weehawken, New Jersey. The Chicago public schools closed on January 5 following a dispute between teachers and district officials over how to handle surging Covid-19 cases.

All told, at least 4,500 schools across the country will close their physical buildings for one day or more in the first week of 2022, according to the data service Burbio, which has been tracking school calendars since 2020. Some level of school disruption was inevitable with the omicron variant, which is driving record case counts and swamping hospitals, transit lines, and emergency services around the country. But America’s public schools were struggling to stay open even before the latest surge hit, beset by quarantines, staffing troubles, and, sometimes, burnout among educators stretched to the breaking point by two years of pandemic instruction.

Omicron COVID-19 VARIANT (B.1.1.529) SARS-CoV-2 typography gray banner. New strain of Coronavirus. Vector symbol of mutated virus that detected in South Africa. Black text Omicron and red cell

You might not hear about it as much as disruptions in restaurants, retail, or shipping, but schools are facing a pandemic labor shortage, one that hampers their ability to respond to any crisis, let alone one as widespread as omicron. This one has been years in the making: public schools were under-resourced for decades before Covid-19 hit, with decrepit buildings, overcrowded classrooms, and underpaid teachers. Now that is coming back to haunt school districts as they struggle to stay open amid yet another virus surge.

“Our schools are in a crisis across the nation,” said Sobia Sheikh, a high school math teacher in Washington state. That crisis started long before omicron, and without real changes to the way America values and funds its public school system, it’s likely to last long after it’s gone.

Our schools were struggling even before the pandemic but now there is a national crisis that is jeopardizing our entire educational system. If this next variant intensifies and moves through the country quickly as some have predicted I wonder if it does make sense that we take a school break for a few weeks and then return full term. Many schools are returning to a virtual format which is difficult for students. But for our particular students, they do not do well in virtual classrooms.

This situation and crisis is extremely complicated with many issues on all sides of the decisions. However, in such a crisis I think it may be important to provide safe environments for both our students and teachers so we can resume our school year with some sense of public safety. I think a break is worth considering in schools with high levels of contagion. Here is the link to the rest of this news article for your review:

Gerry Vassar


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