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EDITORIAL: School reopening plans might be moot

The Dispatch Editorial Board
Spring Grove Area school board member David Trettel, lashes out over online petitions for his and fellow board member Doug White's removal following opinions made during the previous meeting. Monday, July 13, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Pay no mind, residents of the Spring Grove Area School District. This, too, seems destined to change.

On Monday, the Spring Grove school board rightly approved a reopening plan that, by and large, requires staff and students to wear masks. 

The move came a month after two members of the board lambasted the advice of state and federal health officials, and made spurious, conspiracy-laden claims about science itself. Theirs were claims boosted by throngs of backers shilling unsupported drivel because that's what qualifies as debate now.

It was, in every sense, just another snapshot of a dysfunctional country in which the rejection of expertise has been elevated to a populist ideal.

But those who see tyranny in a simple mask mandate — in a nation where "no shirt, no shoes, no service" is ubiquitous and women are fined for exposing a nipple — probably shouldn't worry too much about the reopening plans at Spring Grove or anywhere else for that matter.

Fact is, in no small part thanks to the pervasiveness of conspiratorial thinking such as theirs, the coronavirus is out of control, and the likelihood of schools repeoning normally in the fall declines every day.

This week, Los Angeles Unified School District — the second largest in the U.S. — announced its nearly 1 million students wouldn't return to classes as planned. In New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out his requirements for the return of students to classrooms, which preclude any spike in coronavirus case-counts. And even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who earlier spurned mandating masks because of "freedom," this month mandated people wear them.

In Pennsylvania, state Health Secretary Rachel Levine this week warned that there's evidence of a resurgence buried in the infection data. Allegheny County recently instituted local bar and restaurant closures after cases spiked. On Wednesday, school officials in Philadelphia announced that most of its students would only sit in a classroom two days a week. 

True to form, the White House, is too busy dodging blame and undercutting its own epidemiologists. And, for purely political reasons, it's threatening local schools that don't reopen.

For decades, we've listened as politicians preached about American exceptionalism. They droned on and on about some Reagan-era fantasy about a "shining city on a hill." 

And yet, the coronavirus outbreak has exposed the U.S. as a feckless, broken nation that's incapable of responding to even the most devastating crisis.

More than 138,000 dead, millions out of work: Americans have gone to war for less.

Our response, relative to substantially poorer nations, is both a tragedy and a scandal.

So, in short, these reopening plans circulating throughout York County's school boards could prove nothing but an exercise in bureaucratic legalese. They could be meaningless efforts completed solely to meet a mandate, but rendered moot by the harsh reality that reopening will cost lives.

And that result just might be the best for which we can hope.