Imagine if our teachers had reported back to work in July.
That they’d been summoned in early for quarantine, not to their rectangular, utilitarian brick buildings, but to the finest resorts.
There’d be medical tests right away, of course, administered upon arrival, swabs up their sinuses, invasive but quick, and then bellhops and concierges too. Air-conditioning. Movies pre-rented, mini-fridges stocked. And every bit paid in full, thanks to the generous purse of the Department of Education.
Forty-eight hours alone in their rooms to start, until a second round of tests had been returned. They’re our teachers, after all. Too vital a workforce to gamble away.
And in the weeks since those first two days? Every human need met by fleets of enthusiastic staffers (each of them tested in turn): men and women catapulted in, patriots all, hoisting up this trial balloon and watching it soar. A model for the world — the latest in American ingenuity — and won’t we all be proud?
But what if some of these teachers are reluctant? Maybe they’ve got a brand new baby at home, a long-term diagnosis they’d never shared, an aging parent to care for? Would that have scuttled plans? Here? In this makeshift bubble upon a hill?
For God’s sake, of course not. We aren’t monsters. We won’t extort, or exploit, or endanger a single one. For the frightened: full pay, no questions asked. Making good on a tab they’ve never once called in. We send some on sabbatical; pair others online; hire new college graduates as classroom aides; erect makeshift tents for outdoor classrooms, complete with heating lamps like the ones après-ski at Aspen or Beaver Creek.
Remember: this only works if our shooting percentage is perfect. If we lose a single human soul, we’ve failed.
Someone will have to break the seal, you rightfully protest! An achy tooth, a sister’s wedding, a visit with Grandma on her 100th birthday. Not to fret; upon their return, it won’t just be classroom tests that await, but new COVID ones as well — checks for antibodies to boot, and every day from there: swabs submitted after supper, results texted before breakfast — until there’s a positive, and we’ll cordon off separate hotels for that too, offer up videos for tracing, get all their contacts tested lickety-split.
Not that tests are enough. No, nor masks neither. For how very 20th-century that would be! Here in our schoolhouse bubble, we’ve got proximity alarms for every wrist — on the students too — beeping when someone gets within six feet of a friend, triggered inside six seconds; smart rings on our fingers too: tracking temperature, heart rate, breathing. Phones set up as hotlines — instant, anonymous reports in case of violations — and a slew of X-ray and MRI machines, just in case.
It’s a lot to ask, yes, but then, they’re our teachers! And we’ll certainly treat them well in return. Hotel lobbies transformed into resorts: hair salons, arcades, movie screenings, room service, laundry — whatever they need
Does it all sound a bit much? A little nuts, even? Well, then heed the words of Dr. Fauci himself: it’s worth it, he tells us, for all those “thirsting for books” (well, he might have said “basketball”); for kids “who love school the way I do” (okay, alright, it was “basketball” again).
It can’t go on forever, we know. But until a vaccine, why not? Then back to school it’ll be, with learning on our minds and gratitude in our hearts.
Gratitude to our governors, and our mayors, and President Trump too, for their meticulous planning. For their leadership in showing us how much they care: not with puffed-up pronouncements, or pompous press conferences bragging of their power, but with blueprints and renderings, and honest-to-God courage. Every detail accounted for, every contingency considered, every cent covered. Every stated priority made real.
It’s been a challenge, sure. And awful expensive, absolutely — ten times the Department of Education’s budget, if you must know — millions of dollars, and millions of hours spent: communication and tracking, hotel rentals and meal services, not to mention the laptops, Clorox wipes and thermometers.
But really, if not now, when? If not for our children’s education, then what? Where possibly would we spend it, instead?
You can’t be serious. It’s all been done?
Ah. Well then.