New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | October 30, 2020

Editorial: COVID-19 is forcing tough decisions, so don’t be naive to understand why they are made

By Andre Jones | August 18, 2020 5:24 pm

Monday night’s decision by New Kent’s School Board to revert back to an all-virtual start instead of a hybrid start was indeed a tough decision. But it is also probably the right one for the time being.

Now before some of you begin to bash me for what I just said, please understand that I can see how the impact of the decision is affecting families. I was probably the first one who favored a hybrid start because there are families where the adult works and would not have any supervision of the child. No supervision means the escalating of childcare costs for parents, something many families can’t afford right now.

The one thing I am highly disappointed with is that even in today’s society, there are some people who do not understand that the well-being of employees are the same as it is for students. With nearly a quarter of employees seeming to opt out of working inside of school buildings, the feasibility to teach in a structured environment without overpopulating classrooms with standards set by the Center of Disease and Control (CDC) has made it nearly impossible.

And please don’t get me started on lack of Internet service. New Kent actually has more accessibility and options than my hometown of Charles City. It’s lacking in both jurisdictions and there are several parties trying to resolve an issue that honestly should have been taken care of years ago. County leadership in both Charles City and New Kent have admitted that.

But now, let me get to my rant that really hurts me to my heart. The question comes out the most when it comes to instructing kids is, “Well, if this person can work in a restaurant or at a grocery store, then why can’t my child go to a school building?”

So, for those who do not know the logistics, I can break it down from the inside.

Most of us wish we could stay at home and collect a paycheck without risking the possibility of contracting COVID-19. However, essential workers such as doctors, police officers, firefighters, grocery store workers, and farmers are the ones who are truly risking their lives every day. They are the essential backbone to keeping food on our table and trying to provide us the best coverage to stay healthy.

The next tier are those business owners who have to open up to survive and the employees who have to work in order to keep providing for their family. This is the tier that most of us fall in. From restaurants to general contracting services, it’s a lot to take in and it’s a tough decision to know if we can go out. The lack of Internet services mean we have to take a risk and go out, even when we don’t want to.

Trickling down to the education portion, please remember that educators and workers would be part of the most exposed group of people if (and when) schools reopen. Teachers want to educate. They want to be there to help your child. They want to spend time doing hands-on activities with your pupils instead of behind a monitor. Simply put, they can’t.

Those important school employees are working to make the best out of the situation. As the athletic director of Charles City High School, I am dealing with a whirlwind of when students can come back and use the premises for weightlifting or have open gym. When sports shut down last year, I was devastated. I want my students back in athletics, but I want to do it safely.

Just like cashiers, taxi drivers, general store clerks, restockers, overnight workers, security, and more, they may not want to be there, but they are there to help support their family. In the school system, it’s not a matter of choice. It’s a matter of valuing life.

If you want to know how school systems really feel and what they are thinking, here is the brief question and answer. “Who’s going to be the first?”

Which institution is going to be the first to contract COVID-19? Which institution is the first to have a plan to combat it successfully? Which institution is going to be the first one that sees a death as the result of it? I’m sorry if that hurts to read that last sentence, but that is what it comes down to. It’s about liability right now. Look at the University of North Carolina for example. They returned to in-person classes and had 138 cases within the first week. They quickly switched to all virtual and hopefully everybody recovers.

Here are my final comments and I will leave it at this: We are going to have to learn to live with COVID-19. It’s not going to go away, even with a vaccine. I have said that before and I have said that again. What we need to do is learn to live with it in a manageable environment. That is the first step.

I’m hoping that you, as a reader, do your part in this issue. I only go out when I need to and I wear a mask, no matter how much I despise it.

Let’s stop arguing about the reason why certain choices are made and start remembering the value of human life. Some people may never contract the virus, but there is a line from the production of Hamilton that I really think could apply to us:

“Death doesn’t discriminate from the sinners or the saints. It takes, and it takes, and it takes.”

Let’s not let our pride, foolishness, and misunderstanding be the reason why somebody loses their life.