The start of the new year is nearly upon us. We'd all hoped the pandemic would be behind us and we could go back to normal. However, we've ample evidence that not only we're not going back to normal, but that 'normal' might never fully return.
The situation has been extremely difficult both because it's been made political and it seems difficult to determine a trustworthy source of information in a rapidly changing situation. An obvious example is Governor Abbott banning all mask mandates across the state and all school districts.
Predictably, the COVID infections have surged and the Austin area health infrastructure is again, struggling to keep up.
For months, I've stressed the importance of continued diligence and making sure we represent ALL families in Dripping Springs ISD. Neither disregarding safety protocols nor a perpetual lock down is good for the students (or anyone). We still don't have a comprehensive risk metric, but they're a few items which standout as critical gaps in DSISD policies:
- Age 5-12 have no options for vaccination. Therefore safety protocols are a critical part of the equation. It was a great step to provide a virtual option (details are still unknown), but for any parents who cannot leverage virtual, we still have onsite challenges.
- Indoor activities have not be adequately adjusted. The cafeteria layout is generally the same, indoor pep-rallies are planned, and even the 'meet the teacher' sessions have been largely without protection. There seems little evidence for responsible protection of unvaccinated children.
- Inconsistent (or lack of) contact tracing. This item bothers me more than any other topic. It is not just reckless, it is irresponsible not to have appropriately anonymized data available to all parents about the environment the children are in. How will parents be able to make responsible safety decisions?
- Informal enforcement of district policies. As an example, the student absentee process is based on casual attendance arrangements in the event of a quarantine event. Not only will this be difficult for facility to manage, it almost certainly will create situations, perhaps even incentivize students or families, to NOT quarantine from school when they should.
We're all exhausted of this seemingly never-ending complexity. But, it's the responsibility of the DSISD Board, Staff, Teachers and parents to consider the safety of the children and their families. Currently the district is not helping to reduce hospital admissions through common-sense protocols reflecting current infection realities. Much of the district's role is for the community good. Neighboring districts seem to have a higher priority of risks to our medical infrastructure.
After last year, we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't work. Even if the infection rates decrease, COVID isn't going away - let's create policies reflecting this reality.
Below are a couple of my graphics while campaigning.