The Double-Binding Nature of COVID for Schools

High school student taking notes while wearing face mask due to coronavirus.

Once again we are beginning to recognize the power of the COVID variants in many states as it spreads rapidly and compromises our health within our communities. We also are beginning to see more children being affected by the contagious nature of the Delta variant. Further, it appears that this variant can be transmitted more prevalently and that those who are vaccinated can be carriers.

This sets up a difficult set of circumstances for schools, for parents and for those who are in charge of public health. I know our public health departments locally are beginning to create health and safety standards for schools which will highly recommend masks and still require social distancing, high levels of sanitation, transportation limits and other regulations.

Depending on your view of vaccines and masks, there is a no-win dynamic for schools. The polarizing forces around safety and imposed mandates are oppressive in many parts of our society. Schools can be accused of “taking rights away” or “not being careful enough” by imposing standards that some parents and politicians disagree with. 

For me I simply want our schools to be safe places for students to learn and grow. I know many administrators of school districts and private schools feel very much the same. In Lakeside’s schools we would like to give our time and energy to improving our technology, educational programs and extra-curricular programs. We also are working more towards a trauma-informed environment where we can sensitively deal with the obstacles that our students encounter in their lives.

Smiling cute little girl with school backpack and protective face mask ready for first day of school during covid pandemic.

However, we find ourselves in constant change, confusion and differing opinions which makes it extremely difficult for our staff, students and administrators. We are mandated to provide the safest environment possible for our students whether it is in the physical environment, the emotional climate or the way we build relationships. However, the COVID component places schools in procedural  double-binds where we are consistently conflicted in how to achieve that kind of safety for our students.

Once again, we are moving into an academic year where these issues may become prominent as the variants of COVID continue to have impact on our schools. It is my hope that we can at least agree together as educators, parents and students that operating a school is at best complex in today’s world. I would hope that we can come to a reasonable understanding of an approach that is safe, somewhat compromising but most of all understanding and responsive to the need to protect our school environments. I don’t know any school staff who have enjoyed the consequences of this pandemic but what makes it even harder is some of the dissonance and pressures of these difficult double-binds. It is my hope that in this school year we can come together, face our dilemmas and work towards a healthy and safe resolve that keeps everyone safe while providing quality education. 

Gerry Vassar


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