An Open Letter to Staff and Residents of the West Chester Area School District

An Open Letter to Staff and Residents of the West Chester Area School District

Recently Dr. Scanlon gave a presentation along with the recommendation to start the school year with children being at home with full remote learning.

First, let me start off by saying that the last thing I want to do is make this a personal attack on Dr. Scanlon or the Task Force. I know it’s easy to sit back after the fact and criticize decisions after they are made, but my concern isn’t the decision that was made as much as HOW it was made. 

What was the ultimate driving force in going 100% remote?  There are reasons listed in the online PowerPoint presentation – Safety of the Students and Staff being the top priority, which I agree with 100%. My question is, what is the threat to students and staff?

Yes, I know the easy answer is COVID-19. But WHAT is the threat? Is it contracting the virus? Is it dying from it? Something else? The threat wasn’t laid out in the presentation. To come up with a solution, shouldn’t a clear threat be determined first?

This ultimately led to me looking into the threat, myself.  As many of you know, the CDC has statistics that are updated regularly. As of writing this, there have been 244 COVID-19 related deaths in the US for those who are 24 and under between February and July of this year.  19 of them were 5-14 years old. So I will ask again, what is the threat?

For context, in 2018 (the latest year available) there were 1,090 drownings in the US for ages 24 and under. The first 8 months (April to November of 2009) of the H1N1 flu also led to 1,090 deaths, but in the 17 and under age range.

The results show that there is little to no threat from COVID-19 directly for school-aged children, but what about teachers? The National Center for Education Statistics says that the average age of teachers in the US is 42 years old. 85% of teachers in PA are 54 or under.

For the same six month period as previously cited, 10,717 deaths related to COVID-19 were 54 and under. Yes, that is a more significant number than school age kids, but let’s add some context. In all of 2018 there were 24,583 deaths from car accidents in US for the 54 and under age group. The “regular” flu has been floated around as a comparison to COVID-19.

The statistics, however, are not as clear from the CDC. Due to multiple factors, the CDC lists between 6,059 and 24,558 deaths from the flu in the 2017/18 flu season.

I don’t mean to sound heartless here.  Any death is sad. But leadership and emotion do not go hand in hand. Compassion is essential to being a leader, but emotion can negatively effect a leader’s ability to make decisions. 

An important part of leadership is risk assessment. As parents, we do this every day.  My wife and I are lucky to have a pool at our house. The 1,090 drownings are a constant concern for us, but it’s not enough for us to choose to not use it.

We have weighed the benefits vs the risk and have chosen to let our kids use our pool as many other parents do as well every year. The same thing is true for the teachers here in PA who choose to complete errands and trips with the use of a vehicle.

You do so knowing about the 24,583 deaths that occurred in 2018. None of us lock ourselves in our houses when flu season comes around and fixate on the “possible 24,558” deaths. It’s a risk assessment.

So what are we assessing here?  Is the threat still COVID-19? At what point does the threat become something else?

Robert Redfield, the CDC Director, when asked about the financial impact on schools opening during the pandemic, said on July 14th But there has been another cost that we’ve seen, particularly in high schools. We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.

According to the CDC, in 2018 there were 8,020 suicides committed by 15-24-year-olds. At this point, he is saying we should expect that to go up this year.

The point I am trying to make here is that, after reading the presentation provided by the West Chester Area School District, I don’t feel that there is a clear indication of the threat. Is it strictly limiting the amount of positive cases of COVID-19? Is this even the responsibility of the school district?

According to the presentation, 80.5% of 8,022 parents surveyed said they preferred some sort of “Brick and Mortar” option. When 700 staff members were asked how concerned they were with having adequate training to provide remote learning, more than half – 55% said they had at least some kind of concern.

Why go with the full remote with those results? Better yet, why even survey the parents and staff in the first place? The presentation even notes that “This option presents significant educational challenges as well as challenges for parents” when referring to the full remote model.

 Keeping the schools closed will prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the schools, yes. Just as staying home prevents the virus from spreading in general. But this virus isn’t going anywhere for quite a while.

Dr. Scanlon recommended reevaluating in November, but what do we expect to change by November? Realistically there won’t be a vaccine available until mid-2021. A full lockdown has been disastrous for our economy, and the virus was there waiting for us as soon as we reopened.  What has worked? Common sense. We need to look at what has taken place over the last six months and apply that.

Did you know that, during the lockdowns, the YMCA has cared for up to 40,000 children of front line workers between the ages of 1 and 14 at 1,100 separate sites? The state of Pennsylvania, according to the presentation, has said “…this must be a local decision” and that schools “must be the ones to make these choices and accept responsibility for the plan” which I applaud. 

This is the very definition of subsidiarity.  We have the ability to look at our own community and decide what works best for us.

So what works best? Allowing our children to return to schools, in person. Use risk assessment and common sense together and acknowledge the numbers. Who is at highest risk? Who is at lowest risk? Do we decide to let our kids swim in the pool? Do teachers risk driving their cars? How many of us have gone to the supermarket? How about going to restaurants?

We are living our lives. We aren’t being reckless. Nobody WANTS to develop this virus but all of us have accepted that it is here and we cannot hide from it. We are assessing the risks. Allow our kids to go back to school, or if not – give us a better explanation as to why they aren’t aside from “increasing pressure from many audiences”.

People are emotional, they are afraid, but again – leadership isn’t about emotion. Have compassion, but lead by making logical, informed decisions. A full Cyber program was already going to be an option for this upcoming school year, so let the parents decide between sending the kids back or keeping them at home.

Let families decide on how best to protect the most at risk. 108,214 out of the 135,579 deaths that have occurred from COVID-19 at the time of writing this were over the age of 65. That’s 80%. That is who we should be focused on protecting.

A community is made up of individual components. All are equally important. All are equally ESSENTIAL. Grocery stores are essential. Banks are essential. Salons and barber shops are essential. Restaurants are essential. Churches are essential. Schools are essential. Without all of these, we are not a community.

 It’s time to show our children that they are essential, too.

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McGeary
Guest
McGeary
August 3, 2020 3:23 pm

Good for you not being not being emotional. Have you seen the pictures of the leaders working on the front lines especially ICU workers? They are exhausted physically and emotionally. I suggest we follow the lead of the Europeans who followed our protocols which most Americans do not follow and were able to reduce numbers to reasonably open schools. When the numbers are down ( and not just the curve flattened) maybe then we reconsider opening schools. Chester County numbers are currently rising. Let us not follow Israel who opened schools too early and Pandora’s box with Covid 19 raising… Read more »

AB
Guest
AB
August 3, 2020 4:08 pm

Are you high? You sound like your either too self centered to think about others or you’re too stupid to understand the consequences. Either way I’m sure your kids hate you as much as you hate them.

GuestQ
Guest
GuestQ
August 4, 2020 12:23 am
Reply to  AB

It’s called SCIENCE. Go learn some.

TC
Guest
TC
August 4, 2020 7:12 am
Reply to  GuestQ

take a class in statistics

VK
Guest
VK
August 31, 2020 8:39 am
Reply to  AB

Your kids probably hate you base on how you responded here. Shows how kind of a person you are. Data is important, and is backed by Science. People who took Social Studies as a degree or who watches to much CNN won’t understand the statistic.

Robert
Guest
Robert
August 3, 2020 4:49 pm

Are the kids in your fantasy world all living in adult-free bubbles and raising themselves or something? 1) Kids will get sick and bring the illness home to their parents, who have a much higher risk of suffering permanent organ damage and dying. Kids will then have the risk of growing up without one or both of their parents, with parents who are permanently disabled, or parents with reduced lifespans. 2) Even though children are not at high risk of *dying* from Covid-19, if they get ill, they will still suffer under the illness and will still run the risk… Read more »

ET
Guest
ET
August 3, 2020 4:57 pm

First and foremost, this is an important issue worth having a frank discussion. Second, regarding school opening, I do not believe there is decision that will make everyone happy. The article is well written but uses misleading arguments. For instance, COVID-19 is compared with drowning. The risk externality between the two are different. In COVID-19 people’s actions have consequences for others while not for drowning. The risk is not mainly for the kids, but for others in others in our community. Deborah Birx’s story illustrates this well. During the 1918 pandemic, Birx’s grandmother came home with the Spanish flu, and… Read more »

Rich
Guest
Rich
August 3, 2020 5:08 pm

Thanks for your well stated summary and review of the dangers and risks that need to be considered in managing our response to COVID. The numbers do tell a compelling story that, unfortunately, is not widely understood nor clearly communicated in the media. Although the rate of transmission may be high, the risk of sickness is low. While we should take measures to protect against the spread of this virus and to promote the overall health and welfare of our community, lockdown of our way of life is not the answer. There is plenty of evidence that shows that lockdowns… Read more »

Bill
Guest
Bill
August 3, 2020 5:41 pm

Numbers are wonderful; they tell a great story that we would traditionally follow. Our children are essential and it is up to all of us to keep them safe.

John
Guest
John
August 3, 2020 9:33 pm

So many of these people negate that most European countries (the Netherlands for example) don’t necessitate social distancing AT ALL. What to wearing a mask ONLY IF 6 FEET CAN’T be maintained? With masks the spread is minimal- all these snowflake adults only want to induce depression onto this generation, which is expendable to them.

Brian
Guest
Brian
August 4, 2020 9:35 am

Some of these emotion-based comments to this well-reasoned and logical open letter are quite telling. The point of comparisons to the ‘regular’ flu or drowning is to show that we always accept some level of risk to live our lives. Thousands of children die from the flu every year, and likely many children bring home the flu to give it to their parents/grandparents at home, who later die from it. Yet, we don’t do anything special for the flu; we let it run its natural course every Winter just because we are used to the death it brings. COVID-19, by… Read more »

DubC4Life
Guest
DubC4Life
August 4, 2020 1:19 pm

everyone here who is against going back.. Stay home and go cyber… simple

John Q Public
Guest
John Q Public
August 4, 2020 1:42 pm

I hear schools are always looking for volunteers. Everyone wants to send my family to work with the plague rats that children are, but are they willing to go be exposed? Probably not.

CSur
Guest
CSur
August 7, 2020 11:35 am
Reply to  John Q Public

Geez! You need to get a different career …. and definitely not around children, since you consider them “plague rats”.

wyatt
Guest
wyatt
August 4, 2020 2:09 pm

Use your brain here people, there can never be NO RISK in an action, at some point the risk is acceptable and you move forward. Kids need to learn in person. Online may serve the needs of a few but certainly not the majority. Compound that with the effect on parents working, etc and it makes very little sense to me. Your kids are cleared by PIAA to play sports, they’ve had open swimming pools all summer, played club sports, open beaches, socialized with friends, been to target, Home Depot, cvs, giant and countless other public places in contact with… Read more »

Kristina Nicole Caban
Guest
Kristina Nicole Caban
August 7, 2020 11:11 am
Reply to  wyatt

Yes! thank you! nobody uses their brains anymore. I had posted this article to my schools facebook page and I can’t say people have found it agreeable. But it’s true camps, daycare and outdoor sports have been running all summer long. Our cases are low. This is completely political.

Anonymous Contributor
Guest
Anonymous Contributor
August 4, 2020 2:38 pm

There have actually been far more pediatric deaths from COVID-19 than your presentation indicates. Concerns stem from both teachers, staff, and students spreading and becoming ill, with the very real possibility of death or lifelong complications from illness. Allow me to elaborate: Before we get into numbers, let’s address one thing: COVID 19 is a serious threat to public health for three core reasons: 1)No vaccine or effective treatment 2)The high degree of easy spread among the community, making it difficult to quash 3) The severity of symptoms, and fallout of symptoms that can last months, in addition to related… Read more »

Charles
Guest
Charles
August 5, 2020 7:23 am

False. The CDC and WHO’s own data bear out the infinitesimally small risk to the school age group. If we move teachers over 55 to administrative roles and the kids and their families avoid contact with high risk individuals, a return to in person teaching FAR outweighs the risks. Life has risks. Get over it.

Anonymous Contributor
Guest
Anonymous Contributor
August 5, 2020 11:25 am
Reply to  Charles

Independent of the fact that households may contain people at risk, and that administrative roles do not work that way…. at all- the facts presented are not false. You may disagree with the implications of said facts but they are in fact, facts. Simply saying false does not render them so. All of my statistics came from official publications by both the CDC, WHO, NIH and the American Academy of Pediactricts. To illustrate the most updated information, the mortalityand hospitalization rate for children as updated on July 30 has actually increased since the July 9th data, with a 40% increase… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Anonymous Contributor
Parent
Guest
Parent
August 6, 2020 7:08 am

People need to make decisions on these facts and risk. If you don’t want the risk, stay home. If you live with an elderly person, stay home. If you don’t want to teach kids, teach cyber or take a sabbatical. People want choice of their own risk. It is a sad day when China gets their kids in front of a teacher, but the US isn’t willing to even try. My coworker lost their 7 yr old to the flu in Feb. my sons friend ended up in a coma this year from the flu and my other friends 20… Read more »

Anonymous Contributor
Guest
Anonymous Contributor
August 23, 2020 10:18 pm
Reply to  Parent

The metrics have been released and right now all of Chesco is considered high transmission which recommends hybrid or online learning if physical measures cannot be made, which most schools are unable to. Teachers can’t just all quit because they’re not willing to have parents bully schools into opening unsafely out of convenience. Containing a public health crisis is not about being able to choose.

RR
Guest
RR
August 5, 2020 1:19 am

It isn’t fair to compare swimming pool deaths to deaths due to a global pandemic. Drownings don’t increase exponentially. The reason we say that an internet meme “went viral” when it spread rapidly is because that is what viruses do.

KSmitz
Guest
KSmitz
August 5, 2020 2:17 pm

It’s opinions and attitudes like this that have resulted in 160,000 dead Americans. What is the risk you ask? Only an uninformed, easily led idiot would ask that. People like you will escape unscathed while innocents pay the price.

Elizabeth Conway
Guest
Elizabeth Conway
August 5, 2020 2:17 pm

Bravo! Well written unemotional fact-based argument. It is all very simple – It should be the families choice whether to send their children back to school under the current health guidelines – they know what is best for their childern and family. It is each teacher’s choice if they want to go back to work in the schools. It is every individuals choice whether they want to come out of their homes during the pandemic. Everyone has a choice with some consequences based on their beliefs and risk factors.

Charles
Guest
Charles
August 6, 2020 1:24 pm

Great piece Mr. Danzi. You’re spot on in your analysis. School districts seem to start from the premise that Covid-19 is a death sentence, which is not based in fact or reality. The “guidance” provided by the PA Department of Health, the PA Department of Education and other governmental organizations is tinged with politics. There are plenty of credentialed, well reasoned medical and scientific reports that provide plenty of evidence in support of full day, full week in person instruction. It’s disturbing to see how many people are willing to become sheep, wear a mask everywhere they go and accept… Read more »

Guest
Guest
Guest
August 10, 2020 10:26 pm

Did anyone else just get the email today from Sara Missett, Director of Elementary & Gifted Education, WCASD? When school begins this fall WCASD is offering childcare in partnership with A Child’s Place, 5 days a week in-person child care with meals being provided to all district families, for a fee. Where is this taking place? Where else, in all of our elementary schools. Yes, in the same schools they have now kicked our children out of due to “safety for children and teachers.” Absolutely shocking. My children can not attend for education purpose but they can attend 5 days… Read more »

VK
Guest
VK
August 31, 2020 8:34 am

Transmission maybe high but getting sick and dying from the virus is low. What I don’t understand why the people who decided to do remote learning didn’t take into account the age of little kids. Little kids are easily distracted and bored. Imagine staring at the iPad for 6 hours. I don’t think this is very effective for little kids to learn. Also, parents can’t go to work because they have to help their little kids every now and then to do things. Funny, that they allow before and after Daycare though, which doesn’t make sense to me.