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Can schools reopen safely? Gauging confidence in Greater Lafayette | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

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LAFAYETTE – Greater Lafayette’s school districts – along with those across the state and nation – are wrestling with how to open a school year set to start in a matter of weeks, even as the number of COVID-19 cases grow during a pandemic.

Here’s the question posed to nearly 300 member of a J&C readers panel: How confident are you that it’s safe to reopen schools? And what do you think the best way would be to do that?

Steve Painter, Lafayette: I’m a public school teacher, and I admire all the hard work that has gone into each school corporation’s reopening plans. However, having in-person school in any reopening plans is impossible to meet CDC guidelines. Because of the spiking numbers and inability to meet CDC guidelines, I absolutely feel reopening schools is very unsafe to students, staff and the public, in general.

Frank Arnold, West Lafayette: Tippecanoe County schools are doing the best they can under exceptionally difficult circumstances, but it still might not be good enough. If at all possible, we won’t be using school buses. Opening the schools will be relatively easy, but keeping them open for an extended period of time may not be doable. I have no easy answers, because there are none.

Carlos Gambirazio, West Lafayette: I’m pleased West Lafayette’s mayor issued the mandatory mask in public places. I’m dismayed the school corporations think masks are not needed in school property.

More: Coronavirus: Mayor issues order for mandatory face masks in West Lafayette

Dan Sommers, West Lafayette: I believe it is much safer than the media and the politicians would lead you to believe.  Too much incentive to inflate the numbers.  If it’s OK to protest/riot, it’s OK to let the kids go back to school, let businesses stay open and let fall sports go on. 

Eric Thiel, West Lafayette: I’m not confident at all that it is safe to reopen schools, since no one seems interested in doing the work and taking the responsibility to make it so, like countywide mask mandates – hello, Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski and Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tracy Brown. We’ll probably wind up in a lockdown again this fall.

Tom Lawrence, Lafayette: I believe the schools should be opened starting this fall. The risk for these folks is far from the seniors with underlying complications. Life has risk every moment of the day. We can reduce risks by being careful. Like seat belts. Or we can stay in and allow our fear to consume us. The death risk for students is like zero. Wash hands, keep some space, don’t go if you are ill.

More: Purdue brings first students back for summer ‘preview’ of a reopened campus, not revealing COVID-19 results

Roberta Stoike, Lafayette: I think it is a mistake to reopen schools the first semester. It would be risky especially for adults. Kids are little germ factories under the best of circumstances, let alone a life-threatening virus. I realize this would be a sacrifice for parents, but we are all having to make sacrifices now.

Frank Rosenthal, West Lafayette: I am not confident at all.  The combination of the current increase in COVID cases in Tippecanoe County, the arrival soon of 40,000 students at Purdue and no universal testing programs for K-12 students, teachers and staff is a recipe for possible disaster. 

Larry Vanderwielen, Lafayette: I definitely think all schools should open.  The longer the students are at home, the more the students will suffer.  All precautions must be in place such as testing, wearing masks and social distances.  

Monica Casanova, Lafayette: I am not confident at all that it is safe to reopen schools. I have read LSC’s reopening plan, and I find it hard to believe that social distancing is possible in schools. I am concerned that there is no mask mandate and that schools are not supplying masks. Students and their parents will be responsible for them to bring their mask every day. I don’t see that happening. Perhaps the best way and the most inconvenient way is to continue e-learning until the new year when hopefully we’ll have our positive COVID numbers under control. 

Furman A. Powell, Lafayette: Nobody knows if it will be safe or not to open K-12 schools.  President Trump is betting the lives of our children that if he can re-open schools he will win re-election.  Our children’s lives are the chips and markers.   I am convinced that the reason Tippecanoe County is doing so well is Purdue’s Mitch Daniels, our county health department, both mayors and our great teachers and the three school superintendents.  If reopening the schools becomes tragic, I trust our local leaders will immediately close the schools and consult with the doctors and scientists for the next steps. 

More: West Lafayette parents call for broader district e-learning plan

Nancy Marshall, Lafayette: Masks mandatory for all. Anyone with a “health condition” precluding a mask should be directed to an online option that is available for anyone.  All CDC guidelines should be implemented. If local levels of new cases of COVID-19 increase, school should switch to online only until those levels drop. 

More: Coronavirus: Tippecanoe health officer explains why new cases are not just from more testing

Noemi Ybarra, Lafayette: Though we all want “normal,” it is definitely not safe, yet.  We have crowded classrooms already; how will we keep the students “distant?” The best way would have been for our leaders to take this virus seriously from day one.  Now?  It will take even longer.

Mark Acles, Lafayette: I feel like that they need to go back to school. By following the proper CDC rules in place, there really shouldn’t be a problem. Day cares have been open a lot of the time with no issues. The science and stats don’t lie.

Brian Leung, Lafayette: It’s safe to reopen schools as long as children are kept on campus 24/7 and are not allowed to share the same air space with senior adults, people with medical conditions, nor those in other categories that make them susceptible to COVID-19. But this seems cruel. So, it’s not safe.

More: High school marching band competitions to be canceled this fall

Roger Daugherty, Flora: The reopening of schools will be far more dangerous for teachers than students. Children can contract, carry and even spread the virus. Its effect on them hasn’t been truly studied, but I am sure will be soon. As a former teacher, I would not go back into a classroom at this time. It is too risky, and the virus seems to be raging. Who really wants to put our kids in danger and why?

Mark Rumps, Lafayette: If it is safe to protest something that happened 160-plus years ago, it is safe to reopen schools.   

Michael Dubbs, West Lafayette: The science and the virus convince it is not safe for schools to reopen for either students or the community at large until COVID-19 is under control.  That said, parents need to work (can’t stay at home with their children) and kids need to be properly educated.  So, smaller classes, masks, social distancing, etc., are the best we can do, and this will not work well. The K-6 age bracket will be impossible to mitigate, and they will take the virus home in increasing numbers. Private schools have more money and smaller enrollments and may have more flexibility in coping with the virus than our public schools.

Jon Held, Lafayette: Compulsory government education has been the left’s god for nearly 200 years. The new idol is a “risk free society.” Nearly every measure shows e-learning a total failure. How much are we to sacrifice chasing the dream of a germ-free existence, ignoring over a century of study. 

More: Coronavirus: Purdue keeps student test results secret for now, but here’s what campus doctor expects in the fall

Jack Lahrman, Sheffield Township: Send them to school and maintain a normal posture.  If your child is sick keep them at home until they have recovered.  Stay calm, there is not enough places for all to hide.  

Jerry Hirschinger, West Lafayette: It makes no sense to mandate vaccinations to attend school, yet open schools during the vaccine-absent Trumpandemic.  We should fund assistance and technology necessary to give every student the means to gain their education remotely, in order to protect our teachers.

Carl V. Covely, Jr., Wea Township: The only alternative to opening schools is to not open them and have every student in the state miss one whole year’s educational opportunity.  This will handicap them for life.  Not very smart. I will leave it up to the schools and the medical experts to figure out the best way to do that.

Michael Morris, Lafayette: Considering that school age kids are way more vulnerable to seasonal flu than COVID-19, and studies from Europe indicate they do not normally pass COVID-19 to adults, by all means.  Open the schools, or rebate our tax money.

Don Wood, West Lafayette: Online only.  There’s no vaccine, many people still will not wear masks in public. 60,000-plus contracting the virus daily.  

David Dimmich, West Lafayette: Read the information being forwarded by Dr. Scott Atlas, former chief of neuroradiology at the Stanford University Medical Center.  Schools should reopen as usual because the young people are in virtually no danger.  Precautions should probably be taken for older teaching staff members and those vulnerable due to pre-existing medical conditions.  The greater damage will be done by not opening schools.   

Mary Finnegan, Lafayette: With the coronavirus on the rise, I don’t believe it is safe, yet.  There does not seem to be any consistent plan for how the schools can be opened without jeopardizing the students and the staff.  

Ray Faber, Crawfordsville: Going back full scale is a bad idea. It will increase the spread of COVID. To limit exposure the kids could go back two days by alphabet. Limit the classes to small numbers. That way contact tracing is easier. Increase the days a week later in the year.

Brian Arias, Templeton: The science is clear that children are mildly affected by COVID-19. I think the issue with reopening schools is less about kids and more about teacher safety from the kids. It’s up to teachers and parents – the front lines.

Beth Goodman, West Lafayette: I think it’s important for kids of all ages to be in school. Mandatory masks for students and all school personnel, arranging desks as far apart as possible. Lunch in a classroom in small groups, not cafeteria, for starters.  I am sure there are other things that can be done, as well.

Greg Lambert, Greenwood: With the large increases in new cases, I do not feel schools should be opening.

Megan Stoner, Fishers: I do not think it is safe to reopen schools. I think all schools need to give the parents a choice in determining what is best for them. 

Jeff Hoon, Lafayette: If the COVID19 new cases continue to move up in our state there should only be computer learning from home with no students in the school. However, if and when COVID-19 data for our state shows a steady decline of new cases then it would probably be OK to have students in school. Lafayette Jeff and Lafayette schools then should mandate facial masks for all persons in the building, all people entering the building submit to having their temperature done and to get in it should be a normal temperature. The classrooms and lunch rooms should have strict seven feet between each desk, and to enter the cafeteria each person should have temperatures checked again. 

YOUR TURN: If you’d care to be considered for future reader panel questions, send your name and town and preferred email address to dbangert@jconline.com.

Reach Dave Bangert at 765-420-5258 or at dbangert@jconline.com. Follow on Twitter: @davebangert.

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