School attendance guidelines have been changing almost daily over the past COVID-19 year. And many parents and children are saying “Enough!” They are tired of pretending their bedroom is a schoolroom, and they are tired of not being able to see or play with their friends. With the complex distribution of vaccine, it hasn’t been easy for officials and school administrators to decide when it is time to fill the classrooms, especially since teachers were one of the last of the Essential Worker groups to be added to the list of those who get early vaccination. And while children have been less likely to catch the virus, and less likely to get seriously ill if they do, they could be carriers and go home at the end of the day to infect grandparents and any others vulnerable in the population. Now that many of the older adults have been vaccinated, there is less chance of going home and making grandma or grandpa sick.
With Dr. Anthony Fauci standing by a study that was done in Massachusetts that showed there were no more children getting sick when staying within 3 feet of each other than 6 ft., it changes the ballgame. Administrators who follow that guideline (which has now been accepted by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there is half the space needed for social distancing in the classroom. Some are wary of acting on the results of a single study done in a particular locality with limited variables accounted for. But now parents have the words of Dr. Fauci to back them up when they say “ENOUGH”! There is more at stake than first meets the eye, they say. And statistics back up their fears that a year of isolation has resulted not only in more limited academic achievement, but problems are apparent with slow social development, and a young population that has high numbers of anxiety, depression and suicide. The economic impact is also staggering of parents having to stay home monitoring their children (at times 3, 5 or more) instead of being contributing to the family finances. The emotional toll on them is also staggering.
With the numbers of people already vaccinated or about to be vaccinated, the pressure to send students to school has become overwhelming, as seen in these photographs of parents and children in the Washingtonville School District. Between masks, vaccines, mitigating treatments, distancing and plastic partitions they are convinced it will work, and they have taken to the streets and social media to demonstrate for it, and in fact demand it. One teenager commented “Anyway, as long as they have the remote option set up for anyone who can’t or doesn’t feel safe to attend, why not let the rest of us come back to school.
These protests are growing, and have already spread from town to town in Orange County as well as trips to Albany to insist that lawmakers open the schools. They come armed with lengthy petitions and placards. And chances are that unless numbers of virus cases experience a very big spike, most Orange County students will be back in school at least for part of the remaining school year.
(PHOTOS BY HENRY SMITH)