For Local Kids, We Need A Plan, Not Platitudes

Recently, Supervisor Rodefer released a blog post on MyMotherLode speaking on the COVID-19 crisis. As I was reading it, I kept track of actual positions for any issue. 

My final total: 1. Maybe.

It took 806 words to say schools should reopen, but with no consideration for how or impacts of doing so. Instead, we are presented with platitudes. Something for everyone without anything substantial. 

Schools reopening is a goal for all of us when the time is right. It's been hard on parents and kids to adapt to remote learning especially while trying to pay the bills in this uncertain economy. That's a truth that needs to be recognized. But reopening schools will be a result of effective policy, messaging, and leadership –– it’s a goal, not a path. Doing so prematurely puts kids, educators, and families at risk while also threatening further State sanctions and closure.

Supervisor Rodefer used his blog space to elevate his own experience and correctness, but not to lay out any meaningful path towards that goal. In fact, his actions have endangered our plan to reopen. That’s not leadership; that’s pandering.

Just yesterday, the Superintendent of Schools and Tuolumne County Public Health reviewed State regulation and safety of our kids, and issued a statement that “it is unlikely schools will be able to re-open for in-person instruction before the end of the first grading period.” I don’t doubt this will be met with some opposition and I applaud their bravery and forthrightness. 

We deserve public officials that explain their thought process, present ideas, and lay out an actual plan with other leaders.

The COVID confusion has made planning for kids’ education chaotic. It’s especially hard on parents who are not only caregivers and providers but also teachers, daycare, and counselors. And too often, staff and teachers are left out of the discussion –– folks who’ll be at risk from these decisions and are in the process of remaking how they do their job. 

We need a comprehensive plan with a focus on consistency and reliability to successfully navigate through this crisis; a plan that provides for flexibility in learning options that work for children, teachers, and parents; that allows parents to plan more than a couple of weeks ahead; that protects teachers and staff; that will not lead to a significant increase in cases that could threaten our economy.

It’s better to have kids in school. And yet, pursuing a policy that leads to frequent shutdowns will not lay the foundation for a permanent reopening.

This is why I believe our superintendents should choose a conservative approach and focus on alternatives for remote learning for Fall. Here are three reasons why.

  1. The best learning environment is consistent for kids and predictable for parents. Each time we exceed State criteria, schools may close for a two week period. Providing materials at home to kids (especially those without internet) is logistically challenging, but yo-yo-ing between open and shut is impossible for parents and educators to plan for. A learning environment that constantly changes is the worst case for students, especially for those with learning challenges. 
  2. Children can also spread illness and do not follow public health measures on their own. A premature opening will jeopardize schools reopening permanently while putting our economy at risk. It’s a myth that children aren’t affected by COVID. Up to 2.5% of children require hospitalization and they can still infect up to 18.6% of those they come in contact with. Case in point, 669 kids were infected in Stanislaus County as of Monday. That virus can then be transmitted back to high-risk groups or public spaces. Rodefer’s plan will lead to exactly the “lock down, open up, lock down, open up” situation he laments about.
  3. Teachers and staff are rising to meet the needs of our students but they need a firm plan. First, in-person education facilities need to provide for their safety –– many are high-risk populations and should not be expected to risk their lives. Second, teachers need time to adapt to new skill sets and material distribution. Indecisive answers leave them in the lurch, unable to write a syllabus or choose the tools for their job. 

As I write this, we are on the verge of a shutdown due to an exponential increase in active cases, we’ve just had our first deaths, and startling information is coming out on the long-term effects of COVID-19 on survivors.

This isn’t the time to gamble, much less with kids, parents, and grandparents.

It is in uncertain and difficult times that public leadership is most important, and it’s what we’ve lacked since this began five months ago. Supervisor Rodefer, the actual “way ahead” for our county is doing something. Repeating “return to normal” is a non-actionable nothingness that does not get us closer to recovery or planning for our future.

Only Karl Rodefer will begin a letter with he’s “not a medical professional” and then regularly undermine “medical [epidemiological] professionals” in Public Health for months. Only Karl touts crisis management experience in a crisis that is undeniably being poorly managed. Only Karl Rodefer would give the ‘all-clear’ in a letter that elevated our risk just for a political win –– draw your own conclusions from this chart.

To Rodefer and the Board: do something proactive. Embrace ideas and protect our community.

I continue to hope Karl does better even at the risk of it hurting my campaign, but I don’t care about that. I want a safe community, healthy kids, an economy that still functions, and a crisis that is under control. So far, it has been more of the same. 


––– Jaron Brandon, Candidate for County Supervisor, District 5, Tuolumne County

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  • Thomas Maguire
    commented 2020-08-01 18:57:37 -0700
    I like this, Jaron. You have a typo on the second sentence of the third paragraph.