With the Governor's mandate on masking in schools set to expire next Friday, scores of parents will gleefully send their children off to school buildings throughout the state (save for some districts that have elected to continue their own mandates) free
With the Governor’s mandate on masking in schools set to expire next Friday, scores of parents will gleefully send their children off to school buildings throughout the state (save for some districts that have elected to continue their own mandates) free of facial obstructions. Although there is sure to be some disagreement over whether or not this is the correct approach as we continue to navigate in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, those in favor of the mandate’s removal feel as though it is a necessary step towards normalcy in a new world — one where we live with the realities of Covid just as we live with the realities of the seasonal flu. Of course, in this area of intense debate, there are reasonable arguments that feel this is a gross comparison, and would prefer to be safer than sorry when it comes to mask wearing to prevent any further unnecessary death or illnesses. But whether you’re pro-mask or anti-mask, there remain many thousands of students who will be returning to a school building that is woefully inadequate for modern learning — whether they attend in a mask or not. Although significant progress has been made in many schools throughout the state thanks to a $250 million infrastructure bond approved in 2017, there remains an incredible amount of work ahead to get the state where it needs to be with its educational facilities where the future leaders of our nation are taught to become functioning young adults. We are heartened to see another large bond, this time for $400 million, going before the General Assembly to continue to necessary work of fixing up dilapidating school buildings. We are optimistic that Rhode Islanders will once again see the value in this type of work and approve the measure in November. However, it leaves us with lingering questions regarding whether or not the state should fight this battle alone. The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that there are only so many things individual states can accomplish on their own. When the pandemic closed down school buildings and plummeted students into the inefficient world of virtual learning, the federal government had to step in with funding to reopen schools safely and get kids back into physical buildings. Why, we ask, is the full burden of rehabilitating school buildings placed on local stakeholders? Students from Rhode Island will go on to do amazing things across the nation, just like students from anywhere else will come to Rhode Island to share their own talents. A school infrastructure fund, federally administered, should be a valuable resource to help share the load of this immense and critically important challenge. The benefits of bonds to assist districts in building new, 21st-century learning spaces can be seen clearly in places like East Providence, where its nearly $190 million new high school shines as a beacon of what every community should be able to provide for its students. If even one school building in each state could be refurbished or built to this type of standard with the assistance of federal funding, it would pay dividends down the line and create opportunities for hundreds and thousands of jobs in the short-term. The narrative always was that the federal government could be stretched no further, and that the nation’s debt was too great to make these types of investments. And then the pandemic happened, and we were forced to realize how ridiculous that assessment truly is. The American Rescue Plan Act serves as an example of how the federal government should be able to act as a support to the states that sustain it, and how not doing so could cause catastrophic results. Why, then, should the Rescue American Schools Act not come next?
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here