Columns

School's Out: Portland's Quiet Crisis

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

We’ve got good news and bad news out of Portland, Oregon.

The bad news? Portland Public Schools announced that public schools will not be reopening in September.

The good news? Portland Public Schools announced that public schools will not be reopening in September.

No, but seriously.

It’s the conservative conundrum, created by the coronavirus pandemic: how to balance criticizing the Democrat-driven, pandemic-blamed, unscientific school shut-downs while at the same time acknowledging that these same institutions of learning have played a detrimental and corrosive role in terms of eroding patriotic American values among many in the younger generations.

As Rush Limbaugh writes in his August Limbaugh Letter:

I believe the fundamental problem we face in America can be boiled down to the one thing we lost, which has given birth to all of this left-wing insanity: our education system. We’ve lost the teachers. Which is why American schools are the petri dishes of leftism.

Question: As we assail the fact that millions of children are forced to languish at home under orders from Dicto-Crats like Michigan Governor Gretchen “Shut-Down Artist” Whitmer, parked in front of computers, with no shared learning, no peer group companionship, and no extracurricular activities including sports, is it possible to take solace in the fact that at least the kids are getting a break from face-to-face exposure to the twisted purveyors of anti-American self-loathing and Marxist propaganda?

Homeschoolers would answer in the affirmative, but their numbers simply don’t cover the breadth of the problem: millions upon millions of kids that need to be educated while the greatest economy on earth is sustained.  

It was announced in late July, as reported by NBC Portland affiliate KGW, that due to the COVID pandemic, Portland Public Schools (PPS) will offer only distance learning for the first quarter of the upcoming school year. Incidentally, that quarter ends on November 5, two days after Election Day. A scroll-down reveals that officials will inform parents by October 10 as to if/when schools will reopen.

From the KGW report:

According to Gov. [Kate] Brown’s new set of COVID-19 metrics, in order to resume any in-person learning, even part-time, a county needs to have less than 10 cases per 100,000 people for three weeks straight, with some exceptions for certain very small rural school districts

Where are we going with this? For the schoolchildren of Portland, nowhere. Even if these metrics are met, it is unlikely that PPS is going to send the kids back in November, going into full winter, the region’s coldest, wettest, season, when windows are tightly closed, recesses are often held indoors, and sicknesses other than COVID peak. Distance learning is the new normal in many Democrat-run school districts–film at eleven. The next reassessment: anybody’s guess. What we have here, to paraphrase Alice Cooper, is school’s out, for the unforeseeable future. By the way: the lock-down applies to K-12 in both private and public schools.

Unless—and this is where we enter the realm of pure conjecture—Joe Biden miraculously or underhandedly pulls off a victory on November 3. Then, might PPS precipitously green-light the resumption of live learning? We just don’t know, but conservatives can be forgiven for thinking that if Biden wins, Democrat pandemic policy across the board will suddenly change.

The reality is that we can’t nail down any indication of a scientific method informing the Democrat calculations. There’s no question that the powerful education lobbies and teachers’ unions are part of the Democrat machine, and desperately want President Trump dispatched and a Joe Biden Trojan Horse presidency. The question is: how far will they go?

While perpetual civil unrest and rioting have drawn national attention to Portland, the less dramatic but equally fraught subject of the public-school lockdown is quietly roiling the neighborhoods. Parents across the city, population 654,741 (2019 estimate,) are scrambling to arrange for whatever it is they’re going to do when in-person school doesn’t start.

Options and analysis: for young children (kindergarten through sixth grade) for whom parental homeschooling is not a viable or desired long-term solution, the choices are private daycare, shared childcare among parental groups, grandparents and/or other family, or mothers and fathers working from home when possible, taking leaves of absence when necessary. Whatever it takes to provide the constant supervision elementary-level children need. In the time and places of the COVID lockdowns, the best-case scenario may be having a stay-at-home mom or dad whose only job is to care for and educate young children.

Teenage minors (middle and high school) are better able to fend for themselves, but that age group is another column. Re: Single parents without financial or familial resources; we’re looking at people who have to quit jobs if they’re not already unemployed and go on the dole to survive.

What about those private childcare businesses, as differentiated from the shut down K-12 schools? In addition to the closures of public and private schools till fall, the state issued guidelines for such businesses, 29 pages worth, in 14 sections.

Here’s a taste, from an Oregon Public Broadcasting report on the guidelines:

The requirements are complex and detailed. For instance, the rules for facial coverings are different, depending on the ages of the people involved. All staff must wear face coverings at all times — that’s a tighter rule than in previous guidance, which only required masks for staff who interacted with multiple groups of children.

Children who are at least five are also required to wear face coverings, consistent with a mandate Brown issued earlier this week. For children between two and five, wearing a mask is up to the parent or guardian; and toddlers and infants under two in daycare settings should not wear masks “because safety considerations outweigh the benefit of reducing transmission,” according to stakeholder input.

Complex and detailed, yes, but do they pass scientific muster? Wouldn’t those toddlers and infants without masks theoretically be the weak link in the anti-viral protocols? Conversely, if statistics show that young children are not generally susceptible to the worst ravages of coronavirus, and don’t easily transmit it, who are we protecting here?

What is the American left doing here?

As insane, destructive, and unprecedentedly naked this partisan power gambit seems to be, it can only be understood as the promulgation of chaos. The calculated stoking of the abiding flame of upheaval. Chaos of a different kind than is roiling the streets of Portland and other blue-state cities.

Chaos that is seen as an expedient strategy in the minds and nefarious designs of a desperate, extreme-left Democratic Party willing to stop at nothing to achieve power.