The wheels on the bus go bump, bump, bump

Back in the day, schools taught the three Rs — reading, (w)riting and ‘rithmetic.

We’d like to add three Ts to this year’s lesson plans — transparency, testing and tolerance.

TCAPS students logged on Tuesday for their first day of school, opening the seasonal funnel of Michigan’s kids into classrooms.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic funneled them to different formats — in-person, temporarily-online, virtual for the year — like a multiple choice problem.

Only, with these problems, there’s no answer-filled Teacher’s Edition. In fact teachers, administrators, parents and lawmakers seem as confused as the rest.

Transparency, testing and tolerance need to structure this squishy environment. Safety needs to be the focus on all fronts, simultaneously. So while we were glad to learn that the state backed off its murky resistance to disclosing school outbreaks — once weekly updates on a public portal (set to launch Sept. 14), given test result-lag, this could mean two weeks or more before exposures appear.

That’s not timely enough for sensible decision-making on the behalf of parents or students in high-risk groups for whom COVID exposure could be deadly.

For school workers, too, which brings us to the second T — testing.

A Sept. 8 report in MarketWatch said nearly a third of teachers in the U.S. are 50 and older, citing the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ramping up regular schoolworker testing seems a no-brainer, just like mandated testing in nursing homes and correctional facilities.

But testing only works to contain COVID-19 spread if results are timely. Otherwise it’s just more wasted money.

The third T is tolerance, as we know how easy it is to oversimplify the many issues that COVID-19 presents in education this year.

Navigating the technology involved all-too-quickly leaves certain parents, kids and teachers behind. The logistics of offering and operating several school options simultaneously with shared resources between them is no easy feat. Parents are seeing more of what day-to-day looks like in schools; teachers and administrators are getting a closer look at students’ homes. It’s easy to criticize.

But our kids watch and learn from it all — from the happy face we put on for them or when it slides off.

School has always been much more than the three Rs, and the lessons students take away shape the trajectory of their future.

This year we need to recognize that it’s going to take dissolving the factions of teachers, administrators, parents and government to pull the kids though — which will take three Ts, if not more.

We may even learn something.

— Traverse City Record-Eagle


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