Opinion Blog

Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org.

Education Opinion

A Superintendent Explains Why Having to Decide About Fall Reopening Is the ‘Absolute Worst’

By Larry Ferlazzo — July 16, 2020 3 min read

(Today’s post is a special edition of Classroom Q&A.)

I wouldn’t want to be a district superintendent right now.

If you want to know why, read in this guest post what Superintendent PJ Caposey is dealing with right now.

You might also be interested in his earlier post, A Superintendent’s Thoughts on Reopening Schools in the Fall.

I’m adding this piece to the more than 60 other columns compiled in School Closures & the Coronavirus Crisis.

“Mental gymnastics”

Dr. PJ Caposey is an award-winning educator, author, and speaker who serves as the superintendent for Meridian CUSD 223 in northwest Illinois.

So, here is the situation as simply as I can state it as a school superintendent in Illinois right now. In my area, coronavirus cases are increasing. They are not, however, at a dangerous level. As such, we are doing everything we can to have in-person schooling as much as possible, but here is a quick example of the mental gymnastics we are currently all playing.

  • I am of the strong belief that the best place for kids is in schools. Those people who state that the flu is more dangerous (strictly in terms of mortality) than COVID for kids—particularly young students—are correct.

  • I have spent over $500,000 to attempt to make reopening schools as safe and effective as possible.

  • I know teachers did not sign up for working in an environment that may literally kill them, but neither did bartenders, grocery store employees, flight attendants, etc.

  • None of us knows the extent of the mental and psychological toll this entire pandemic will have on our students, and getting back to a semblance of normalcy cannot hurt.

  • Remote learning was not effective in the crisis format used, and even with significant improvements, will not be the same as in-person learning

  • A number of our constituents are sincerely convinced masks are the enemy and ineffective and are bold in showing their limited studies and memes to this accord.

All of the above is true, but so is. . .

  • I do not think being in classrooms is the safest or best place for my staff and I did not sign up for this job to weigh the cost-benefit analysis of someone’s (potential) life versus being an economic driver for the country and making sure kids can read and do math on time based on the arbitrary human-created guesswork we call standards.

  • Remote learning will be a decidedly better product the next time it is deployed, but yes, still not as good as in-person learning.

  • I already have people telling me they should receive a refund on their taxes if we are not teaching in-person this year.

  • Our liability insurance will not cover COVID-19 related claims—imagine the blowback when taxes go up as a result of this.

  • If we attempt to follow guidance by social distancing, not allowing a 5-year-old to hug their teacher, and eliminating PE, band, and choir as we know it (just to name a few), then we effectively extinguished many of the parts of school that kids and adults love.

  • I cannot do in-person school safely and by paying any attention to the guidelines provided if we are at full capacity.

  • 36 students tested positive 70 miles from my district after sports camps where safety precautions were in place.

  • An athletic director in Georgia died today from COVID.

  • I can reconcile that the death rate per recent CDC publications is around 0.5 percent, and that makes me feel better until I remember I have over 200 staff, and that would mean if we pass this around, that one of us may not be back in 2021.

I could go on and on, but this is why this decision is the absolute worst.

Thanks to PJ for contributing this guest post.

Good luck to him, and good luck to us all this fall.....

The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

7796 - Director of EAL (K-12) - August '21
Dubai, UAE
GEMS Education
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read