Opinion: Reluctant leaders push decisions on others to avoid responsibility for schools, COVID-19

Signs hang on the fence around the Taliaferro County school complex on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, in Crawfordville. Taliaferro County is the state’s smallest school district. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

It wasn’t a hard decision to open this month with virtual learning at Taliaferro County. People may say that our COVID-19 numbers have been low with no deaths so why are you not going back to school. Our answer is we want to keep it that way.

Our mission is to have school, the bigger mission is to ensure our children and teachers are safe and stay that way for as much as a school system can control it.

We have daily instruction via 1:1 computer accessibility or download the assignments into a jump drive and give them to the kids for them to do, including regular paperwork. Our teachers are on call at school and at home to assist students and parents in doing the assigned work. Our lunchroom staff and bus drivers deliver food and work to all our students, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We are going to do all we can do to properly educate our kids, safely.

While I hold firmly that a trained, educated person can always better teach a person in a face-to-face setting, we need to use thought, conversation and a clear head in how we transition into what will be a new normal in education, dictated by a deadly virus.

May 23, 2018 Crawfordville: School superintendent Allen Fort discusses how the state’s smallest school district handles safety issues at Taliaferro County School on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, in Crawfordville. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

I know parents want their kids in school; we do, too. But politicians have decided to make a health issue a political issue. This is the time and a place to use common sense and to do the right thing. Now is not the time to prove how “tough” you are or where your ideologies are placed or displaced, but to use good sound judgement. You are talking about the health and safety of decent, good, hardworking people and the future of our state.

We are using kids as virus bait, and that is heinous. We have reluctant leaders who want “others” to make these decisions, so they are not held responsible, especially since it concerns human life. They dance around the subject and hope it either goes away or at least they can say it was a “local” decision. I am assuming that if the decision we make, works, they can take some credit for it, and, if it fails, then the blame can be placed on those who made it. I am willing to take that responsibility. There are those who were elected to be the leaders in this state, so at some point they need to lead and take the responsibility of their decisions.

Don’t suddenly tell me, as educators, we have now become “essential workers” just to get us back to work. What were teachers before now, unessential? I can promise you that most every teacher in Georgia is working as hard if not harder right now to educate our kids than ever before. Educators realize this is the most critical time in education, ever. We can either flounder around about what we should have done, might can do, or, out of these trying times do something dynamic, innovative, and extraordinary that puts us squarely in focus for 2050 instead of going back to the way we were.

This virus and the events that have occurred have placed before us illness and death. Please, let us come out the other end of this pandemic event having done something great instead of not doing anything at all.

Allen Fort is Taliaferro County Schools superintendent and also the principal of the 170-student district in east central Georgia.