Let’s start with the facts (and, no, unlike claims from the current presidential administration, there are no alternative facts). They alone will make clear Mt. Lebanon schools need to remain closed for the foreseeable future.
First, Allegheny County had the state’s highest number of coronavirus cases earlier this week. I accept that on any given day the county might have the second, third or even fourth highest number, but we’re missing the point in that argument: The reality is the data indicate throughout the county and the commonwealth that coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing. We knew that was going to happen as the warmth of the summer and early fall gave way to colder temperatures.
We also know too many people are going to ignore the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies and will treat the upcoming holidays as their “right” to get together with as many people as possible, no matter where they have to travel to make that happen. That misguided, dare I say arrogant, choice will lead to even more coronavirus cases in January, with the expectation right now that the peak likely to be around the middle of the month.
(In case any of you’re wondering: No one in the Moretti family is traveling to Ohio to see my wife’s parents and other relatives later this month. We’re remaining in Mt. Lebanon and celebrating Christmas as a family of four. And our older son will be working in the ER at Presby on Christmas Day. His grandmother turns 70 that day.)
Next, and speaking of hospitals, all across Pennsylvania and the country hospitals already are caring for more and more people suffering from coronavirus, and the stress on those facilities and, more importantly, the care providers is obvious. You can find almost every day a story in the (legitimate) media about doctors and nurses near and far who are burned out and pleading with the public to take coronavirus seriously.
If we’re not listening to them, we need to be. The worse our behavior, the more difficult the lives of those medical professionals becomes.
Third, the state’s education and health secretaries are asking Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities to delay the start of their spring semesters because, as mentioned, coronavirus numbers will spike (yet again) after the Christmas and New Year period.
I’m aware that some local universities already have decided to alter their spring term schedule, including when it starts. As someone who teaches at one of those institutions, I say with confidence that the presidents of our area colleges are listening to the advice from the medical communities in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and elsewhere as they determine what to do in the coming weeks.
Do those leaders want their universities open? Of course. Will it be safe to do that in 30 or so days? The unsatisfactory, but obvious, answer: We don’t know.
And that brings us back to Mt. Lebanon. The decision by the school board last night, when it voted to remain with remote delivery of instruction until the holiday break and then resume hybrid instruction in January (on different dates for the elementary and secondary schools), is nothing more than a weather forecast; it’s almost definitely going to change.
Based on what you’ve read here, the Board likely will have no choice but to again (and correctly) choose to keep our school buildings closed.
I know there are many of you reading this and saying “baloney, keep the schools open.” Nonsense. Pandemic viruses relish your elitism and your arrogance; attitudes like that invite the virus to spread to even more people. Much like you wouldn’t put booze in front of an alcoholic, you shouldn’t wantonly put a virus in the path of people who might suffer the worst of it.
Mt. Lebanon residents speak often of the pride they have in their community, and, in part, that means we rally together in times of crisis. Think of the number of times we responded from all corners when one of our own was in need, in distress or in danger. That’s what a community does.
That’s what we need to do right now.
We’re fortunate to live in a community where our children have all sorts of educational opportunities. And those who choose to attend college end up in private and public institutions of all sizes. They’ll continue to do so. Short term blips in learning right now because of the pandemic and the need to keep school buildings closed? Of course. Long term ramifications? Hardly.
Keep our school buildings closed.