Open the Schools. Now.

by Kerry Dougherty

Stay with me today, friends, and I promise not to rant about the stupidity of public school closures for at least another week.

Fact is, two developments in Virginia are so alarming that they scream out for comment.

The first, a story in The Richmond Times-Dispatch Tuesday, showed that a full 20% of Richmond public school kids are considered chronically truant. That is, they’ve already missed 10% of all virtual class time.

Not good. But understandable.

Older children may be unsupervised when they’re supposed to be spending hour after hour staring open-mouthed at computer screens. The temptation to hit the streets may be overwhelming. Surprisingly, though, many of the habitually absent children are in elementary and middle schools.

These kids are likely from dysfunctional homes where parents are not involved in their kids’ academic life. Without guidance from Mom and Dad, many children just drift away. They’re lost. They need to be in school.

There are associated problems that many of us didn’t anticipate. The Times-Dispatch reports a sudden rise in what the police call “daytime crimes.”

So, not only are the kids not attending their classes, they’re getting in trouble with the law.

Richmond not only has a truancy problem now, it has a public safety problem.

Reopen schools and get kids back to their desks, Richmond. This is critical. Children already lost half of the last school year. Students — especially at underperforming inner city schools — cannot afford to fall even farther behind.

The societal cost of closed schools is unfathomable while the risk of the virus in school settings is minimal.

A piece in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, “End the School Shutdown,” points out that “tens of millions” of American kids started school completely online this year. Brown University researchers report that this was a massive over-reaction to the minuscule danger posed by completely reopening schools for grades K-12.

A group of researchers, spearheaded by Brown University Professor Emily Oster, have created and made available the most comprehensive database on schools and Covid case rates for students and staff since the pandemic started. Her data — covering almost 200,000 kids across 47 states from the last two weeks of September — showed a Covid-19 case rate of 0.13% among students and 0.24% among staff. That’s a shockingly and wonderfully low number.

Shoot, Ireland just announced a draconian six-week lockdown — a huge mistake — that means people can’t venture more than three kilometers from their homes. Yet schools will remain open. The Irish are doing one thing right.

But get a load of Fairfax schools. There, the teachers’ unions — and yes, they’re behaving like unions, not education associations — are demanding that school remains closed at least until August 2021. They’re urging parents to join them in the fight to keep schools shuttered.

I am not making this up.

The same loons that were chanting “virtual until vaccine” this summer, have doubled down. Even with a vaccine, they don’t want to teach the children until all “community spread of Covid-19 is gone.”

These are supposed to be educated people. Do they not understand that Covid-19 may be with us for years?

The union representing teachers in the northern Virginia school district is asking parents to sign a petition demanding all-online education, according to

“The metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread,” wrote the teachers.

The petition comes as Fairfax officials are moving toward a limited reopening of schools for some students, involving two days per week of in-person instruction.

Let’s stop pretending that these militant teachers’ groups care about kids. They don’t. This is about power, and demanding a risk-free environment in which to teach.


Fairfax County schools are at a crossroad. They can knuckle under to the unions or school officials can ignore their preposterous demands, reopen schools and fire teachers who refuse to work.

Either kids matter. Or they don’t.

Pick a side.

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17 responses to “Open the Schools. Now.”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Henrico held an online forum last night, and our daughter texted as she got more and more discouraged. The speakers were overwhelmingly afraid to send their children back. The strongest message for opening came from a student! It is the parents, mainly, not the teachers, who were so negative in a recent survey. A large segment of parents did not respond, of course. But the silent get ignored.

    The Survey:

    The poorest response rates were in the East End districts with the highest poverty and minority populations, as in the students least likely to have resources for pods, tutors, added on line supplementals….

    “The metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread…” Unless these vaccines are wonder drugs and the world all takes them, that is a metric we may never see in the rest of our our lives. Imagine if you applied that to influenza, colds or even pneumonia.

    1. Science tells quite another story, but propaganda apparently works. The panic porn has been pervasive and relentless for months.

      Leonard Pitts provides a striking example of the public’s often irrational risk assessment ability with regard to COVID-19. He and his wife decided to drive from Miami to California and back to avoid sitting next to a “MAGA hat-wearing COVID denier” not wearing a mask on an airplane.

      First of all, everyone is required to wear masks on airlines these days, but even apart from that his decision is so irrational from a risk standpoint it boggles the mind that he would even admit doing it.

      Here’s his telling of it:

      “We have come here, my wife and I, for a family funeral. We drove because we didn’t want to end up wedged in an airline seat next to some MAGA hat-wearing COVID denier who thinks being required to wear a mask infringes her civil rights.”

    2. djrippert Avatar

      Between the time that the Superintendent of Fairfax County Schools announced that the county’s public schools would offer part-time in-person instruction and the time that the teachers’ association threw its hissy-fit, the parents of Fairfax County students were asked to decide what they wanted for their children. It should be noted that this was not an online forum but a question that had to be answered for all the students. 60% of the parents wanted their children back in school, in-person.

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Was on an online meeting of Fairfax County parents of mainly HS kids. I was there to listen. They reported that total online education was causing significant emotional and mental stress on many kids. There’s an inconsistent policy as to whether students must use their cameras. Six to seven hours before a screen is hard. FCPS is using multiple platforms and (surprise) some don’t work so well. Teachers are not posting assignments consistently, such that students can routinely find them. This is resulting in bad grades and missing assignments. There is one confirmed case of a COVID-caused student suicide in McLean schools.

    At the same time, a number of parents expressed great fear in holding in-person instruction.

    FCPS does plan to start reopening for special ed kids and students taking vocational course. Learning automobile body work doesn’t do too well online.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Parents should send a bill to the local school boards for academic, emotional, and societal damages caused by all of this.

  4. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    I hope the war against Orangeman-Bad was worth it.
    I listen to family and friends’ children speak about Covid as if they will literally die by the millions. We hear rhetoric that Orangeman-Bad should be charged with murder because he was directly responsible for killing 200,000 people. And anti-maskers are literal terrorists. With many low information people out there I have no idea how anyone can walk this back. I really hope Biden shuts it all down. I liquidated my investments and will be happy to buy assets after he destroys the market. I have also began stockpiling some nonperishables.
    And there is no way a vaccine that probably requires multiple doses and must be refreshed on a probably semi-annual basis will prevent community spread. Especially now they have said Orangeman-Bad created it so don’t trust it.
    I’m very grateful my daughter is in school full time and is able to grasp the idea of risk management and avoidance.
    Get ready for your crime wave… and it’ll be Orangeman-Bad’s fault forever.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I canned 70 quarts of green beans out of the garden this summer. Let me know if you need a few jars.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Impresive James. Ball and pressure cooker?

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead V

          Oh yeah Mr. Larry. The pressure cooker is the best way to go.

  5. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Thanks! And good for you and your family!
    I squirreled away a bunch of .22 ammo (I can feed everyone for a long time with a .22 and I love rabbit). If it comes down to it we can trade.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I made some Brunswick Stew with rabbit this weekend. Stirred in a copper kettle with a paddle over an open fire pit. Man it was good. Canned a bunch of that too.

  6. djrippert Avatar

    One has to wonder whether it is the COVID or the COMMUTE that has Fairfax County Public School teachers refusing to leave their basements. Easy way to find out – demand that the teachers drive to school each day and use the high grade networks at the schools to teach their classes (to children at home). Something tells me that this would dramatically change the situation.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Fauquier requires the healthy teachers to show up and run the virtual class from the school site.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Spotsylvania also I think. At least the schools parking lots are full of cars like normal school days.

  7. ksmith8953 Avatar

    Children in poverty are not all from dysfunctional families. Ridiculous thought. They are from families with no voice. Explanation for limited surveys from low income parents. Weighing all the odds like limited chronic absenteeism has got to begin driving the conversation. Today, my grandchild shared her screen from school with me. She was asked to write the definition of a reservoir, bay, and river. When I asked her the name of the largest bay in Virginia, important SOL for a 4th grader, she replied I don’t know. Ditto for the name of a Richmond river and her own reservoir where her drinking water comes from. What are they learning? Poor or rich, I would avoid school too. This encounter came from a text message she sent while on line with the teacher. She sent me an Amazon ad for a gaming mouse for Christmas. So, even when in front of the screen, she was absent!

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      so geeze… if she can look up a gaming mouse but not a reservoir?

      I see the problem! 😉

      This is what we pay teachers for? 😉

      Teachers I know, tell me that the tyranny of the job is that they have to keep the kids interested and engaged and not just for giggles and grins – but so that their little brains can absorb and then later barf out the correct answers for the SOLs!

      I know perhaps two-dozen retired teachers. Only one was interested in returning in a volunteer capacity. All the rest say that it’s hard job and they feel like they’ve given themselves to that career and that’s enough.

  8. ksmith8953 Avatar

    Full-time digital schools are required to meet very vigorous standards in addition to the same standards for brick and mortar schools. See Southern Association of Schools and Colleges or now I have served on teams to accredited these schools. The distance learning provided by schools full time does not even come close to what the institutionust provide. For example, a data management system that ensures the student work is authentic.

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