Best Laid Plans

Sign with good question

As the saying goes, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”.1 The same could be said of school superintendents.

Not too long ago, late in June to be exact, the head of our overly-large school district announced a hybrid back-to-school plan where some students would start the year entirely online, while some would be in physical classrooms two days a week. He wasn’t alone, since several other area districts offered similar ideas for their communities.

Flash forward all of a month and all of those proposals are in the trash. Every district in the DC area will open with online schooling, along with most of the rest of the country. Schools that have already opened in other areas (including other countries) are already finding all their plans to brings hundreds of children together into spaces that were never designed for social distancing to be falling apart.

Even with evidence all over the news about schools being “hot spots”, I still see lots of posts on social media, and in Post opinion columns,2 demanding that schools “open” regardless of the risks. They often blame teachers and administrators for raising objections, with some demanding a refund on their taxes and anyone they disagree with to be fired.

However, it didn’t have to be this way and many of those amateur pundits deserve a big dose of their own blame. Too many people in this country lacked the patience and commitment to follow even the relatively simple advice of doctors and scientists on how to control the pandemic. At least not for more than a couple of months.

Of course, we were also badly served by a willfully ignorant president and his equally clueless cronies, all of whom were more worried about the short term results of their portfolios and their political lives than the health of the nation. It’s possible some of them have learned that you can’t intimidate a virus into submission, but I doubt that’s more than a few.3

Anyway, starting September 8th here in Fairfax, students will be in virtual school for at least the first quarter of the school year. I suspect it will not be until the second semester before large numbers of students will be allowed in the buildings. Teachers started their work year today and they, along with administrators, and an assortment of support specialists, have about a month to figure out what opening a new school year online will look like.

Admittedly this is going to be hard for everyone, families and students especially. But it also presents everyone with the opportunity to reconsider many of the decisions made last spring when the shift from physical classrooms was abruptly made. As well about school in general, live, online, or some combination.

More thoughts on that soon.


The photo above has been making the rounds on Twitter and I could not find the context. But it’s a good question if you ask me.

1. As best I can find, the saying is an adaptation of a line from the poem “To a Mouse” by Scottish writer Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

2. The most galling comment from that particular column: “Still, should teachers be expected to join the front lines in this particular war? Admittedly, at no personal risk, I’m inclined to say, you bet.”

3. For a very comprehensive and well-written assessment, read How The Pandemic Defeated America by Ed Yong in The Atlantic. Long but well worth your time.

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