Larry Bustetter | Meeting the Mission of Educating Kids

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During a recent town hall phone call (with our Rep. Mike Garcia), I was very encouraged to hear his clear support for fully opening our schools NOW in the 25th Congressional District. That was a positive note and very encouraging. Abiding by reasonable COVID-19 restrictions is expected; hopefully it would be with mostly a pre-COVID-19 format.

In July 2020, I submitted a written request to two school boards in Santa Clarita asking that all schools be safely opened to mostly pre-COVID-19 class delivery formats. The following comments include much of the 2020 missive’s intent to urge the school boards, faculty and teacher unions to act in support of our children and their families. 

It is interesting to note the “coincidence” of schools now being opened in California as the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is becoming a hopeful possibility.

The decision of our school districts should be based on both a mission-driven and data-driven focus. It is our educators’ responsibility to fulfill a mission of assuring supportive learning opportunities for all children (i.e., putting mission above personal concerns). 

As a former member of a university faculty union, I can appreciate the union’s intent to support faculty. But when a mission dictates a significant need (e.g., faculty as classroom front-line deliverers of learning), that need should be the priority. Current data demonstrates the risks (very low coronavirus transmission and infection in K-12 students) and fosters the wisdom for protecting all children including the most disadvantaged from the potential emotional distress, physical abuse, development impact and learning difficulties being seen in COVID-19 lockdown.

A closing perspective might prove useful in a district’s choice of learning format.

During the Vietnam War, I served as a medic instructor in the U.S. Air Force Air Training Command School of Healthcare Sciences. Our mission was to train 5,000 medics per year. Faculty signed on to provide training in spite of a viral epidemic in Texas (red measles). Some students came to us with the disease and some of us were infected, including me. As a result, I am now legally blind. 

The mission demanded our presence; the data showed minimal vaccination availability and high infection potential. Despite the risks, we continued the same teaching format. Our mission was accomplished. 

Today, teachers signed on to meet the mission I’ve described. Conversely, the current data shows very low risk of infection to children and teachers unless, of course, the latter have at-risk health issues. A rational and truly caring decision will allow opening schools using mostly a pre-COVID-19 format (e.g., masks and/or social distancing if pragmatic). Data-driven guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics serve as a very helpful tool to accomplish this critical learning mission for our children. 

The AAC model (available online) follows accepted safety guidelines. As with military education programs, mission safety may dictate multiple delivery shifts daily with fewer students per shift and total number of students being equal each day. Creativity is indeed essential in meeting a mission and data-driven learning experience for children in the 25th Congressional District.

Larry Bustetter, a Santa Clarita Valley resident, is a retired chief learning officer in one of America’s largest health care organizations, a former clinical microbiologist and researcher in infectious diseases. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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