Mixed messages muddle our shared mission

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 9/16/20

Belief number one: Americans want to get back to normal life. Belief number two: most Americans want to do so only under conditions that mitigate the threat of COVID-19 as much as possible. The …

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Mixed messages muddle our shared mission


Belief number one: Americans want to get back to normal life.

Belief number two: most Americans want to do so only under conditions that mitigate the threat of COVID-19 as much as possible. The number of people who are really anti-mask, hoaxers is actually quite small. Very vocal, but quite small.

Belief number three: nothing has done more to undermine our belief that we know how to reconcile numbers one and two than the action of the government, itself.

And nowhere is that quite as obvious as here in suburban Denver.

Look at how Jeffco Schools handled things this summer. First, there was a parent and community survey, which was supposed to guide the restart plan. Then, there was news that the district was mostly considering a hybrid approach, with a couple days each week in person, and the rest of it online. Then, in a move that seemed to catch the teachers’ union and many in the community by surprise, the district announced on July 8 that the plan was a full restart, with families given the option to do 100% online. And then, just two weeks later, the plan was amended to have a remote beginning, followed by a hybrid of everything, with different approaches to different grade levels.

And, the reality is that nothing that happened seems to be in defiance of anything that we understand to be the right approach. But, perhaps, from a public relations standpoint, it was just enough vacillation and confusion to lend credence to the hardliners’ belief that we might have some gaps in our understanding of what we’re doing.

But that was nothing compared to what the Colorado High School Activities’ Association (CHSAA) did over the last few weeks.

First of all, let it be remembered that it took the governing board of CHSAA three days of meetings to decide that golf and tennis — explicitly individual sports, and, if you golf the way I do, an individual sport with extreme social distancing — were okay for the Fall. But, then they push football into the spring. Fine. But then one of the members of the board sends a public letter to the Governor’s office last week, asking for a meeting and a chance to reconsider. OK — we’re all flying by the seat of our pants on all of this. Reconsidering is good. And then, as tends to happen, word as to the nature of the conversation starts to leak out, and football players and parents all over the state start to get excited, and get geared up. Statements are made, giving people hope that a season may be commencing soon. But then, anticlimactically, the official word comes down that football will be put off until the Spring, just as originally planned.

And all of that is fine. I understand. Maybe, by the time you read this, we’ll have gotten reports of a spike in NFL players testing positive, and we’ll know that this isn’t the time to start football.

But, add that to the weird Governor’s order a month ago that bars have to do “last call” at 10 p.m. (like, what? A 25-yr old out drinking with buddies is going to go somewhere safer, smarter, with better social distancing at 10 o’clock on a Friday night?), and then the similarly weird relaxation of that rule that last call could be pushed to 11.

There’s just enough to make you wonder what the logic is guiding these decisions.

Jeffco Schools will have been in person for seven days by the time you read this. And, I gotta say, it has been beyond wonderful to hear the general noise coming from having actual children in classrooms and hallways for those days. We’ll know soon enough if we’re doing this right.

For the record, I’m happy to be back in school, happy to be jumping through all the weird hoops I have to jump through to teach kids again. And I wear a mask. But not without an occasional eye roll.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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