Schools, both public and private, should be transparent about how they’re faring in the age of COVID-19, especially as cases overall continue to climb and some counties face the specter of new restrictions.
Announcements of school closures should be easily found – like they would for snow days or anything else that shutters a school.
Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 posted on Facebook the closure of Prairie Ridge High School, but Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 made that information much more difficult to find for Lundahl Middle School.
Besides the fact that schools can’t assume they have up-to-date contact information for all of their families, the community at large has a right to know if a school has to close.
We understand school administrators are under much pressure from all sides to do the right thing on behalf of students, parents, teachers, the school board and the community.
Some school districts have taken the extra step of creating public dashboards that show how many cases they’ve discovered so far. That’s great, although some could go even further by identifying the school involved, not just the district, and whether the individual who tested positive was student or staff.
Some district officials have said providing this information would violate the student or staff member’s privacy. That is unlikely considering the number of students and staff at schools.
Many more districts aren’t providing this information at all, a lack of transparency that is very disappointing.
No school district superintendent wants to read in the newspaper that their district had a positive case or even an outbreak, but this information – and especially what the school district is doing about it – is important information for the public to have.
As a community, we deserve the right to decide whether it’s really safe to have schools move to hybrid models or whether, perhaps, other restrictions need to be considered so that reopening schools to in-person learning can be done.
We certainly think that in-person education should be a top priority when deciding how to mitigate our community’s risk overall.
School districts don’t exist in a bubble, and the rise in cases in each community has an impact on schools and whether they can continue in person.
We should also be able to learn from each other what’s working and what’s not. Do we need more money for school buses so fewer students have to quarantine after a case, something Crystal Lake District 47 has seen as a trouble spot for them?
What can a school district do to discourage off-campus gatherings – like the ones that led to Prairie Ridge High School’s closure this week – or make them safer?