Letter to the editor:

As the spouse of an educator, I respectfully disagree with the school board and administration’s decision to fully open schools on schedule, as well as not require the use of masks.

COVID-19 cases across the United States continue to rise, having just passed a one-day total of 77,000 new cases as I write. By the time this letter is published, a new one-day record is likely to overtake that.

Much of Europe is able to re-open schools this fall because they did a much greater job of mitigating the devastation of the disease from the beginning. We are nowhere near mitigating the devastation, with some indications that Indiana’s current spike in cases may surpass the original peak.

While we are fortunate to live in a rural area that, so far, has not been hit as hard as metropolitan areas, we are certainly not immune from the risks of COVID.

Yes, children thrive on the structure of school days, the low cost or free meals, a safer environment (unfortunately, than some homes provide), social interaction, etc., not to mention the quality of in-person learning, especially for elementary students. And now, federal dollars may be withheld from schools that do not fully open.

And, yes, schools can implement strategies and practices that lessen the risks of transmission. But that doesn’t require the wearing of masks, which is, perhaps, the single greatest vehicle to curb the spread of COVID. This completely boggles the mind. Of course, exceptions can be made for those few with underlying issues for whom a mask is not possible.

But there is much more that we don’t know about COVID than that which we have learned to this point. Some recent indications suggest that while cases tend to be mild for children, the long-term toll may not be so benign, such as permanent lung damage, to name just one potential repercussion.

My greatest concern, however, is for my spouse, who will be much more vulnerable to the disease with children coming and going from the classroom. No amount of precautions taken will render the schools safe. No amount of precautions taken will render my wife safe.

She loves her job and she loves her kids. She will do all that she can for her kids, including returning to the classroom and taking as many precautions as possible. But she cannot teach, God forbid, from a hospital ICU bed or a coffin.

How many lives of children, parents, grandparents, teachers, lunchroom workers, bus drivers, etc., will we end up sacrificing before we arrive at the 20-20 vision of, “Maybe we tried too hard to fully open schools too soon.”

Greg Rittenhouse

Portland