Gov. John Bel Edwards calls our transition from pandemic restrictions “a new day.”
For many, it is. In his speech opening the 2021 regular session of the Legislature, the governor could not help but note that the first coronavirus case was reported the day he opened the 2020 regular session.
Truly, much has changed since then.
Although the pace has slowed, if enough people will get vaccinated then society — especially our beloved sports and festivals in Louisiana — can get back on track. We’ve missed a lot, although one thing we won’t miss is the economic and social costs of unemployment, particularly in our staggeringly hard-hit hospitality sectors like restaurants.
A new day would be welcome in 2021. But to achieve it, in the economic sphere alone but also for the longer future, the comprehensive reopening of schools by late summer is understood by everyone to be vital.
Well, almost everyone. Except the Louisiana Association of Educators affiliate in Baton Rouge.
The Monday “sickout” — essentially, an illegal strike — by some teachers might have shut down about five schools, but Superintendent Sito Narcisse deployed central office staff and others to fill the gaps for a day.
Yet one more day was probably lost to learning for many students, when the nation is still in the process of reopening schools and assessing the impact on students’ lives of last year’s events.
The LAE affiliate’s protest was sparked by Narcisse’s plan to reopen schools about two weeks early in August to try to catch up on the learning gap, amply documented in national studies.
Perhaps teachers, for all the creativity and emotional sensitivity demanded by their jobs, are more creatures of schedules than the rest of us, ruled by the bell. And Narcisse is a new superintendent and teachers — like everyone else — are more than a bit stressed over the past year. But when a system gives months of notice, in what by any standard is an emergency situation, cannot vacation plans be changed?
God knows it is not as though the last year and more has demanded vast changes in lives of Americans, not least in education.
We appreciate the vast majority of teachers, including the Baton Rouge affiliate of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, who declined to join the wave of absenteeism. Many will probably speak out, for or against the early return, at a public meeting of the School Board in Baton Rouge today.
That is after all the orderly way to discuss policy. That’s what teachers try to impart on the young in their classrooms. Lying about illness shouldn’t be the example we want schools to demonstrate.