‘Leaders, make the tough decisions and protect us’
WE'RE all in this together.
Except we're not … because our children are at school. And our teachers are ready to strike.
Well, Queensland children are at school - and Queensland teachers are ready to walk off the job. Meanwhile, Victorian kids are about to be sent home and while NSW schools are technically open, they are functionally closed.
I have to admit to a sense of solidarity for our state teachers.
Surely, this is a time for unity (albeit socially distanced unity). Surely, this is a time when it's better to be safe than sorry.
This is not a choose-your-own-adventure scenario. If anything, it's a choose-your-own-nightmare vision.
We need to close the schools. All of the schools.
The truth is that our short-term future is unavoidably painful, but we can still exercise some control over how long this goes on - even if the definitions of "short" and "long" are unknown quantities.
But certainly the more brutal we are now, the greater the likelihood that this will be over sooner. (And no, that's not just my opinion … it's the advice given by Grattan Institute CEO John Daley.)
So let's close our classrooms.
And yet, I write this as a parent who has, in fact, sent her kids to school today.
Because what is the point if we're not all in this together?
That's not some feel-good catchphrase but a call for necessary behaviour, we need to work as one to kill this coronavirus.
I could keep my kids home this week, but what good does that really do?
I'm actually not worried about their health (I mean I am, but it's all relative right now), but I am worried about the health of our city.
Yet my hands are tied because the public health impact of me keeping my children home is minimal … even if their entire school shut down, it's not going to do much to flatten the curve until every Queensland class is closed.
Even if health experts argue about the real impact of a national school shutdown, isn't the messaging just as important?
Daily life should not feel normal right now, yet here I am making lunches and doing drop-offs.
I understand the Prime Minister's concerns about the impact on education, there is no way that home schooling is as effective as traditional schooling (not in this home anyway).
The problem is that until schools are closed, we cannot expect teachers to cater for kids at home when they still have live classrooms to teach. So by keeping my kids out of school right now, I feel like I'm doing them an educational disservice (as much as they may beg and plead to stay home).
And then of course there are the teachers themselves.
Not only can I think of a number who are in a vulnerable age group, but I can think of far too many who have immunosuppressed children at home. What's the point of keeping those kids away from class when their mum or dad is still being exposed to hundreds of children every day?
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says teachers who are at high risk of coronavirus should speak to their principals and consider staying home from work.
But if a teacher chooses to stay home, what happens to their sick pay? Surely this is not the time to burn through it.
Ms Palaszczuk says while parents can choose to keep their children at home if they wish at the moment, they will have to be kept there by parents and homeschooled, not allowed out in the community.
In other words, the onus and responsibility falls on school principals, teachers and parents … who are already overwhelmed.
Leaders, this is your time to lead. I know it's stressful but it's what you signed up to do. Make the tough decisions and protect us.
Close the shopping centres so kids don't congregate. (It doesn't mean we can't still shop online - in fact, Kmart is doing free home delivery for orders over $45. Silver lining, y'all.)
If we close the schools we can ensure teachers and children alike are safe and that no one is being disadvantaged financially or educationally by opting in or out.
Then we can all truly be in this - and get out of this - together.
Originally published as 'Leaders, make the tough decisions and protect us'