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PD Editorial: What’s next for students?

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How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid touching your eyes and face

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow

• Stay home when ill

• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text “COVID19” to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

During these uncertain times, it’s up to our elected officials to provide whatever certainty they can. It’s not helpful, then, for Gov. Gavin Newsom to drop a bombshell warning that students might not return to school until fall and not follow it up right away with what California will do about that.

The decision to close schools was appropriate in light of the coronavirus. Schools are among the largest daily gathering places in any community and could quickly become sites of rapid virus spread. This risk only increases because — how shall we put this delicately? — children don’t have the best reputation for hygiene. When kids spread around the common cold or strep throat at school, the results usually are only sniffles and sore throats, not a high mortality rate.

Yet if students don’t return to K-12 classrooms soon, many difficult questions need answers, spanning both practical and educational concerns.

Immediate practical concerns include how to get meals to students who participate in free and reduced-price lunch programs. They participate specifically because their families lack the resources to provide adequate nutrition at home. Their numbers are likely to increase, too, as many parents suddenly find themselves out of work. Many schools and local businesses have stepped up to help fill the need, but that likely is only temporary as they begin to face their own financial crunches. A statewide strategy is required.

Likewise, day care is a crucial concern. Parents who still have their jobs can’t simply watch young children all day. It also wouldn’t make sense to send kids to a crowded day care to keep them away from a crowded classroom. Again, what assistance can California and local governments provide?

Maybe the answer to those and other challenges is that families will have to deal with them without much help. Perhaps there are no good solutions at this time. If that’s the case, say so.

Then there are the educational issues. Will students have to repeat the grade that they didn’t complete? Will they advance without mastering the material that forms a foundation for future learning? Will high school seniors lose college admissions?

It’s all well and good for officials to suggest that parents homeschool and that school districts implement distance-learning systems, but neither is easy.

Parents who work might not have time, and many parents don’t have the expertise to teach their children. It’s been a long time since they had to multiply fractions, properly use adverbs and subjunctives, calculate a coefficient of friction or explain the Teapot Dome scandal. At least the federal government has canceled standardized testing for the year.

Most schools, meanwhile, aren’t prepared to simply change to a new learning model that requires significant hardware investment and training. Assuming every student has a good internet connection, which they don’t, some subjects don’t particularly lend themselves to online learning, whether they are group discussions about a poem or a chemistry lab that can’t happen in the kitchen.

Uncertainty increases anxiety. The governor and state education experts must come up with answers to these issues and fast. Local school districts will need to make some rapid decisions, too.

It’s hard, and the answers might not be what anyone wants to hear. But good leaders provide them during a crisis.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com.

How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid touching your eyes and face

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow

• Stay home when ill

• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text “COVID19” to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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