Not all kids can stay connected, retired primary principal Anita Rooney warns.
As we grapple with Covid-19, we face complex issues, not least of which school closures.
Public responses have been presented as dichotomies; the ravaging hordes stripping toilet paper shelves vs the ultra blasé, latte sipping "sensible" or, even worse, the night-clubbing denialists. The outrage at "selfish, un-Australian behaviour" on Bondi beach sits uncomfortably with the laughable vision of footballers touching elbows after a game, instead of shaking hands, after sweating, tackling and celebrating points scored by jumping all over each other. Messaging on school closures has revolved around clichés: the spectre of teenagers rampaging through shopping centres, young children being minded by kindly geriatric grandparents, and 30 per cent of our parents being employed in the health care sector.
Those grandparents could easily include those in their 50s and 60s, judging by the number I know currently juggling grandchild care with full-time or part-time work.
The question of schools staying open should be framed as part of a multi-layered, evidence-informed response to a continually changing crisis.
The evidence concerning young people being less likely to be affected by the virus is compelling, along with assertions about school hygiene. Teachers providing opportunities for students to wash their hands, while reassuring, should not be our focus.
The core business of schools is education. Associated benefits of stability, social cohesion and laying the foundations of civic responsibility and moral purpose are undoubted. Simplistic analogies of babysitting, crowd control and safety are unhelpful.
Many families are making their own decisions about attendance and the more dislocated the normal operation of schools becomes the less likely will be the provision of a robust education for all.
Equity of access to resources will become a blatant indicator of success. Schools smugly rolling out on-line lessons, linked to pristine home-office spaces with individual student laptops, will not be the norm.
Many simply do not have the technology, internet connections and ability to effectively support home schooling. Instead food, shelter and safety will become the priority. It is critical that governments ensure all students can access quality curriculum regardless of wealth.