Letter: Keep our schools open | VailDaily.com

Letter: Keep our schools open

This letter is in response to Superintendent Philip Qualman’s School Views column before the holiday break titled, “Hearts and Minds,” in which he said our schools will switch to remote learning “If Eagle County falls into the red, severe risk category on the state’s COVID-19 dial.”

On the contrary, my research and discussions with professionals across Eagle County has validated that most people in our community do want to keep schools open. Many parents, kids, and even teachers do not think at-home learning is safe for a multitude of reasons.

Although I take issue with many pieces of the superintendent’s column, the most unsettling part was, “even though our data suggests that schools have been, and are safe environments for students and staff, the data does not matter if people don’t feel safe.”

Does the superintendent of Eagle County Schools really believe that feelings are more relevant than data during these unprecedented times? I would argue that data is more relevant than ever before. Superintendent Qualman’s declaration about switching to remote learning if Eagle County goes into the red is misguided. Such a decision is egregious, given the state’s current guidance when moving to the most restrictive stage, Level Purple, is “K-12 is suggested in-person, hybrid, or remote as appropriate.”

Does the Board of Education base 2021 decisions on an agreement that was made using antiquated data from August or are they truly “flexible and responsive?” Last spring, the parents of Eagle County received surveys asking for our input and many of those results confirmed we preferred in-school learning over remote. Where are the surveys now asking what the community would prefer?

Whose “hearts and minds” matter? Just teachers? Just students? Just parents? Per Eagle County Epidemiologist Becky Larson, schools are not influencing the transmission in our community. Why are we threatening to shut them down?

The superintendent of Eagle County Schools is a critical leadership position in our community as he/she is directly responsible for the safety and education of several thousand young men and women in our county. At times, any effective superintendent must take a stand and do what is best for all students, even if that means offending the teacher’s union or any other constituency. If care for the “hearts and minds” of students and teachers is indeed the focus, then facts and data are critical. Moreover, as the data does indicate in-school education is safe for our community, the leadership focus of Qualman and our Board of Education should be to reduce fear, not feed it. Intentional encouragement and support for staff and students to remain in the classroom is necessary. With three boys under your direct supervision and someone who cares deeply for the physical, mental, and emotional health of all kids in Eagle County, I am begging you to do the right thing and keep schools open.

Andy Haffele


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