By Dr. John Maddox, Pediatrician
Pentucket Medical/ Haverhill
School staff and families are experiencing tremendous fatigue from the heroic work to maintain in-person education during the COVID pandemic. Millions of hours and millions of dollars have gone into mitigation efforts (like masks and distancing and ventilation).
Most schools use a hybrid model, with each student only in the building 2 days per week. Furthermore, close contacts are quarantined. These modifications significantly reduce the likelihood of COVID spread.
Given the benefits of in-person education and the health risks of COVID, decisions about if and when to temporarily shut schools are very complex — requiring wise judgment. It’s important to avoid being reactionary, when fear clouds fact. The fundamental question should be: “is having our school open right now making the pandemic here now worse?”
Massachusetts has its system of red, yellow and green communities, which marks the degree of caution each district should be using in its decisions. This is a particular challenge for urban cities, where both the rates of COVID and the harms of remote education are highest.
To use a baseball analogy, closing a school is like shifting the infield to double play depth when a runner is in scoring position with one out. It’s a tool that gets you out of a pinch. If this school year were a game, we’d be in the top of the 3rd inning. We need to encourage and reward good managers, who keep an eye on the long view and the final outcome.