Opinion: WCSD Bonehead Decisions Put Kids’ Best Interests Last
The Wappingers School District has made a series of terrible decisions that have led to the unnecessary punishment of parents and students on Monday morning.
Let me start by saying very clearly that I couldn't care less if my son wears a mask at school or not, and neither does he. This article has nothing to do with the debate on mask use, but everything to do with the misguided decisions of one Hudson Valley school district.
Recent data shows that transmission of COVID-19 is very unlikely among children in a school setting. As a result, the New York State Commissioner of Health, Howard Zucker, released an open letter to the CDC on Friday explaining that New York was seeking to change guidance for schools and camps. The letter explained a proposed policy change that would allow unvaccinated children to go maskless and ended with a request for confirmation from the CDC that they would be allowed to alter guidance.
If there is any data or science that you are aware of that contradicts moving forward with this approach, please let me know as soon as possible. We plan to make this guidance effective on Monday June 7.
Within hours of seeing the letter, the Wappingers Central Schools foolishly sent out a district-wide email announcing that masks were no longer necessary for students in every grade level. Like a president standing in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner, the letter incorrectly stated that the message from the state was "very clear" and that students and staff no longer needed to wear masks outdoors. Furthermore, mask-wearing inside classrooms and other parts of the school would now become "optional" effective Monday, June 7
I immediately turned to my wife and said, "well, this is not going to end well" -- That was an understatement.
This knee-jerk decision was not run by parents or teachers first, nor was it even based on any actual guidance from the state. The letter cited in this decision was a request to the CDC for feedback over the guidance adjustment, not an official change in policy.
After seeing the data about transmission in school settings I'm quite comfortable allowing my son to go maskless at school, but I know many parents who are not. With only a few weeks of classes left, why in the hell would the district suddenly drop this huge policy change without any official guidance from the state or a conversation with parents and teachers first?
Well, that misguided decision was just the beginning. After the state learned that some school districts like Wappingers jumped the gun, they sent out a clarification pointing out what the original letter to the CDC actually said. This was not a policy change, but a head's up that change would likely be coming soon as long as the CDC was on board. The state instructed schools to hold the mask policy in place until that time.
That seems pretty reasonable, giving parents and teachers time to all be on board with the change instead of just dropping it on everyone by surprise. I'm not a professional educator with a doctorate or anything, but even I know that when it comes to keeping kids safe parents have some pretty strong opinions. Easing into a major policy change like this is important. It's mind-boggling how Wappingers didn't anticipate the fallout that would happen, especially after the outrage that occurred just a few months ago when parents freaked out over their decision to end snow days.
As predicted, parents went completely ballistic. Those who were misled by the official message from Wappingers were now irate that their kids would still have to wear masks at school. Parenting Facebook groups populated by an army of "Karens" were plotting protests by planning to send their kids to schools without masks and force the school to expel them. Others began organizing a "sit-out" where they would keep their kids at home and force teachers to work with them remotely.
Meanwhile, normal everyday parents like myself were completely confused by what was going on -- Then came the final blow.
Late Sunday night at 8:30pm parents in the Wappingers Central School district received a message that in-person classes were CANCELLED on Monday. The letter cited "confusion" over the mask policy as the reason, along with the warm temperatures that were expected. Students would have to participate in remote learning, forcing parents to scramble for childcare. Unlike an impending snowstorm, no one saw this coming. This decision shows just how little regard the district has for parents who are struggling to make ends meet by forcing them to take the day off because of a temper tantrum.
Some will argue that kids shouldn't have been wearing masks in the first place, that the state has been unclear in their guidance from the beginning or that the parents forced this decision by getting all "Karen" on the district. While that all may be true, the responsibility for this mess lies directly with the Wappingers Central School District.
If they responded to the guidance request letter like the majority of other school districts in the Hudson Valley kids would be in school today and parents would be at work. Most districts met the guidance request with a prudent response. Clear communication with parents and teachers and a pragmatic approach to important policy changes aren't a lot to ask for. If Wappingers had any clue on how to communicate with parents and teachers, we wouldn't all be in the mess we've found ourselves in today. It's honestly embarrassing.
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