This op-ed is updated as of 4:20 p.m. March 15.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Louis Park Public Schools plan to close for nearly three weeks from March 17 to April 6, according to a phone blast sent out March 15. Although this decision should’ve been made sooner, the Echo Editorial Board applauds the district for acting with an abundance of caution when it comes to the pandemic.
In just a few days, the number of cases in Minnesota has increased from 21 to 35 — including at least one in St. Louis Park — warranting the district’s decision to close. However, it is disappointing that schools were not closed sooner considering COVID-19 symptoms can take anywhere from two to 14 days to show up meaning students and staff may already have been exposed.
Although school may be closed, St. Louis Park Public Schools have announced it will pursue distance learning over the 9-day shutdown. It is incredibly important that this online-learning is done well, as otherwise students risk falling behind in their classes or forgetting what they have already learned. Although we may have to put a pause on coming to school, we cannot do the same for our education.
The Editorial Board encourages the district to create a guide for teachers and departments in order to streamline the distance learning process. If every teacher approaches their class differently, students will be left scrambling to understand what is expected of them.
At the same time, teachers must be considerate of what students are going through. Although the pandemic hasn’t majorly affected St. Louis Park yet, the number of cases and eventual deaths are expected to rise substantially across the U.S. For this reason, teachers should do their best not to overload students with work.
As for students, we shouldn’t view our time off as just another break. Even if COVID-19 isn’t especially harmful for people our age, there are still lives on the line. If we ignore health officials’ recommendations of social distancing and isolation, we risk spreading the disease throughout our community, killing the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
Students should utilize their time off to relax as best they can, catch up and stay on top of school work and avoid physically interacting with others as much as possible.
For the safety of our community, of our parents and of our grandparents, we must do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.