It took just days after schools opened in Corinth, Mississippi, for the first student to test positive for COVID-19, and about a week for 116 students to be told to quarantine. A week.
The quarantine instruction to 116 came after a total of six students and one staff member tested positive. But the school remains open, and will remain open, Superintendent Lee Childress insists, saying “Just because you begin to have positive cases, that is not a reason for closing school.” Well, actually ...
How far is Childress going to take that position? How many positive cases? What would be the trigger point for closing if seven infections in a week is not? His position at this point is basically that he always expected positive cases, so, shrug. “What are we going to try to do to return to some sense of normalcy,” he asked in a Facebook Live. Since the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, “We’ve got to look at how to navigate a solution or solutions to this pandemic in a way that we can return to school, and in a way that we can return to work, and also begin to enjoy many of the personal activities and events that each and every one of us look forward to. But we’ve got to try to look at doing those in as safe a manner as possible.”
Does … does he think that’s what’s happening here?
Through much of the course of the pandemic, White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has had notably rosy predictions (by the standards of people who are supposed to know something about the virus and public health), but on Sunday she said “we are asking people to distance-learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control.” But no, the superintendent of schools in Corinth, Mississippi, does not see any reason for any such nonsense, so students there will continue to have a choice between in-person and remote learning despite the positive cases.
Donald Trump says “My view is the schools should open. This thing is going away. It will go away like things go away, and my view is that schools should be open,” but Lee Childress knows this thing isn’t going away. He just still thinks schools should be open. And Childress is right about the importance of school in kids’ lives—but somehow he thinks that illness and possible death is a fair trade.
Corinth isn’t the only district running an uncontrolled experiment on students, school staff, or both. Gwinnett County, Georgia, didn’t make it through the in-person planning period before 260 school employees were quarantined. In Cherokee County, Georgia, a second-grader tested positive on the second day of school, forcing an entire classroom into quarantine. An Indiana school district had a student test positive on the first day of school, and had to tell people who’d come in contact with that student to quarantine.
Expect the number of such examples to keep rising until school district leaders everywhere come to their senses and do the right thing by moving to remote learning until community spread of the coronavirus is under control and schools have been made safe.