Dave Paxton

We’re fortunate we have a governor who is not running for re-election this fall. Gov. Kim Reynolds has the ability to lead without schlepping for money and votes, making everything she does political.

I sort of tuned out mid-afternoon Friday after my last (two-hour) Zoom meeting on the Iowa Newspaper Association Foundation Board and missed the governor’s discussion about having schools turn their efforts toward having in person learning. I started catching up on the hand wringing and Des Moines Register fear-mongering over the weekend.

What the governor said was what the five school districts (Centerville, Chariton, Albia, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and Davis County) in our little region have been pointing to since June. Make plans to get kids back in the classroom safely. When I listened to her statements, it could have come from Albia’s last school board meeting where Superintendent Crall laid out a lot of the parameters for in-class learning.

To read the Register’s Saturday editorial and then viewing some of the posts on social media, you’d have thought the governor announced a statewide death penalty to students and teachers.

According to the latest Iowa Department of Health statistical analysis of the COVID-19 virus, just under five percent of all COVID-19 cases are children 17 years of age and younger. No deaths have been reported. Forty percent of all cases are ages 18-40 and 24 have died. Ten percent of all Iowa COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the 41-60 age range (79) with 30 percent of all cases in that age range.

Which basically means children who do contract the virus recover at a rate of 100 percent and adults 18-60 (who have the highest incidence of contracting the disease) recover at a rate of over 99 percent.

So the governor, in looking at the statistics of infection, death and recovery, compared it to the completely failed on-line learning that took place last spring across the state and determined the greater risk to the health and well-being of students was to keep them home, stuck in front of a computer screen.

The Register fomented against her decision to encourage in-person classes, but clearly the Register and its reporters haven’t been following the exhaustive work of school districts across the state. Maybe superintendents and administrators in Des Moines aren’t doing the work, I don’t know. But to virtually every point the Register made to ensure safety of students and faculty, districts in this part of the state have been planning to address. Social distancing, classroom organization, lunch in the classroom, temperature monitoring before getting on a bus and entering a school building, visitor restrictions, no mass gatherings of students and faculty.

The Register and those fomenting on social media are raging against “getting back to normal.” I’d love to know what rural school district in southern Iowa considers taking temperatures before a kid gets on the bus, or not allowing the use of lockers “normal.”

Nobody is talking “normal.” Nobody is demanding teachers and bus drivers not wear masks. Nobody is demanding parents of children with compromised immune systems or other physical issues send their kids to school. And virtually every discussion includes how to deliver education to children who are at risk attending school in person.

And in terms of wearing masks, the Governor is following the science as presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics that strongly advises against students (particularly elementary students) wearing masks. School districts are still in the discovery stages of deciding if high school students should be required to wear masks. I think it’s all together likely, administrators tell faculty and bus drivers to wear masks and have older students wear masks in hallways during pass times.

Another issue that has arisen this summer among baseball and softball teams is what happens when a coach or kid does test positive for COVID-19. The answer this summer was to end the entire team’s season for 14 days. With all of the available testing, that seemed to me to be draconian in nature.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, you do what we do when a kid or an adult comes down with Type A influenza, chicken pox or measles. You send them home, sanitize and keep a closer eye out for symptoms among other students and faculty.

While mostly Democrats, liberal media and social media hysterical types rage against sending kids back to school, in the Albia district, at least, 86 percent of parents want their children to learn directly from teachers. They are willing to take some risk to reap a greater reward. Interestingly enough, most parents in the Albia district said that keeping their kids home for on-line learning would not ruin their lives. That they could find childcare.

The bottom line is that they witnessed on-line learning and it was a disaster, particularly since it was ungraded and voluntary. In their heart of hearts, parents know their children will do best if they are in desks in front of teachers in a stable and organized classroom setting.

Governor Reynolds has received that message loud and clear, which is why she is cutting through all of the political pressure and doing what I think is the wise and prudent thing to do.

IN MY 45 YEARS as a working journalist I’ve done and seen just about everything a community newspaper guy could hope for, with one exception.

I’ve never covered a state championship team. The Lady Dee softball team heads to state ranked #1 in Class 3A with the number one seed in the eight-team bracket.

My wife asked me a couple of weeks ago what I’d like as a retirement gift. Well, this is it. Win or lose, covering a team with a legitimate shot at a title is the best frosting I could imagine on a retirement cake.

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