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Editorial: In a no-win situation, the school board made the right call

Last night the Plumas Unified School District governing board made a difficult decision. Its president said that it was the most difficult decision she has made since serving on the school board.

The trustees knew that whatever they decided — some people would be unhappy, very unhappy. And that of course is what happened. But the level of vitriol being expressed by some on social media is unacceptable and a very poor example to set for children.

School will open via distance learning. For how long exactly, no one is sure. But conceivably it will last until there is more expedient testing, and therapeutics that can treat the virus, and/or a vaccine to prevent it. But whatever timeframe — most experts think by spring — we should be in a far better position than we are now.

We aren’t going to weigh in on all of the reasons why students would benefit from being in the classroom. They are obvious. But what we will weigh in on is that the school board took an action that they thought would best safeguard the health of students and their families, the district’s staff and the community. They have been working countless hours — with no compensation — because they want the best for our children. Remember all of these trustees have been working on behalf of our children long before the advent of this virus. They, like everyone else, are doing their best to deal with a worldwide health emergency the likes of which hasn’t been seen in 100 years.

Yes, it’s stressful that this school year is going to be different, but even if students were to meet in the classroom, it would be different: children distanced from their peers; wearing masks; eating at their desks; and no communal play time.

But in the end, all of this is a short-term solution to address what could be a life-long problem if someone contracts COVID and suffers permanent physical damage. There is no way to predict how a person’s body might react — even a child’s — and the school board erred on the side of caution.

It’s clear from watching and reading about school districts across the nation that the predicament about how to begin the school year is not unique to Plumas. Many districts are turning to all-distance learning; those that are trying in-person instruction are quickly counting cases. And locally, Plumas Charter is still grappling with what its course of action will be. Its leadership shares the same concerns about health and safety that PUSD does.

As the school board discussed the many what-ifs last night, one thing became crystal clear. At the first hint of a sneeze or a cough, protocols would need to kick in. Maybe it’s allergies, a common cold or the flu, but no one would know until a test could be taken. By the time the results come in, further spreading could occur. Even pre-emptive measures — such as taking temperatures at the door — aren’t foolproof. Many individuals with confirmed cases of coronavirus report never having a fever — including the three locals we interviewed about their personal experiences with the virus.

It’s unfortunate but it seems that the school issue is just as polarizing as our national politics. The success of opening schools and our society relies on people following a few simple rules — wear a mask, maintain physical distance, wash your hands. Unfortunately some of the people arguing the most vehemently to open schools are also those who think wearing a mask is an infringement on their freedom. They can’t have it both ways.

Nor could the school board. They couldn’t make everyone happy. Therefore, they opted to do what they thought was in the best possible interest of the students for whom they are responsible. We commend them for that most difficult decision.

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