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Vitriol of parents unwarranted regarding Harford schools' return to virtual learning | READER COMMENTARY

I made a regrettable mistake the other day and looked at some of the comments on the Harford County Public Schools Facebook page after the announcement of a return to virtual learning. I know I shouldn’t have, and I know while some of the parental concerns are valid, the vitriol is unwarranted.

Many of the parents generalize with “think of the children," but in reality they’re only thinking of their own children, not the children as a whole. And that’s normal. However, schools are supposed to serve the greater good and meet all children’s needs. In order to do that however, some special interests have to be sacrificed for the whole, based on the resources available.

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Parents are rightly concerned about their children’s needs being met, both educational and social. Unfortunately, the virus is something beyond our control, and teachers don’t have a say in the system’s policy of going virtual or not.

In order to take proper precautions for in-person learning, schools would need to have more resources (human, technological, spatial, material and more). Resources are limited, and to have in-person learning when class sizes are already hovering around 30 in a classroom designed for 25 makes social distancing impossible. If students were to be spread out to multiple rooms, we would need more school buildings and teachers to spread out with them. How many positions has HCPS cut in recent years?

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For the people saying that COVID-19 is overblown and is not that dangerous, please bear in mind that it isn’t just the fatality rate that needs to be looked at. The lingering damage (and so far reports have shown it to do damage to lungs, blood vessels, heart and brain) is something that must be considered.

Many teachers are in the high-risk groups with the average age of teachers being over 40, many of whom have underlying conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or other medical issues. Students also have underlying medical issues, with a huge increase in type-2 diabetes among people under 18 in recent years. Many of the students who require the special services that parents are clamoring for have medical issues as well.

While ADHD may not be an underlying condition for COVID, how many of us knew someone in elementary school with asthma?

Moreover, the economic damage of COVID is something that cannot be ignored. In our healthcare system, people are bankrupted by long-term care and even short-term hospitalizations. If the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, then COVID becomes a pre-existing condition, and insurance can cap how much they will pay in a year.

I see a lot of comments about docking teacher salaries if they are unwilling to return to in-person learning. Teachers on the whole make almost 20% less in salary than workers in other fields with the same level of credentials. A teacher in Harford County (which pays a salary significantly lower than some other Maryland counties), who is hospitalized for two weeks is going to pay serious medical bills regardless of insurance.

Even so, if a teacher is hospitalized, or quarantined, kids get a substitute. Think back to how much work you got accomplished when there was a substitute. Even when a teacher is out for one day sick and has a sub, the students fall two days behind. So your cries of virtual being a disservice to the students would only end up harming students' education more when the teachers fall ill.

Let’s stop wringing our hands and crying “won’t somebody please think of the children” and allow the county schools to do their jobs of keeping their staff and students safe.

As a final thought, if you want your students to not fall behind in their education, take the phone or XBox controller out of their hands and replace it with a book. Our students under-perform when they lack the patience and endurance to read and the vocabulary to understand across disciplines.

ROBERT DANNENFELSER

Belcamp

The writer is a teacher for Harford County Public Schools.

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