Sunday Commentary: A Cautious Approach to Re-Opening Makes Most Sense


By David M. Greenwald

It is one of the most contentious issues, not only in our community but across the country—when and under what circumstances to allow children to attend school in person.  There is a group pushing hard to re-open schools now.  They took to the streets to protest and push for re-opening, and they called in to two meetings this week to push for it—at the school board meetings as well.

Hey, I sympathize.  After all, it has been, as a parent during this pandemic, a real struggle to get my kids to engage, to go to class, to do their work.  More importantly, they miss their friends, their sports, their activities.  The everyday engagement.  Getting out of the house.

We live in a community that highly values education and pushes their kids and schools extraordinarily hard to achieve high levels of accomplishment.

But there is another side to this—a deadly pandemic.  A pandemic that we have not taken as a whole country as seriously as we should have.  And some of that does not apply to this community, which seems to have done better than most in terms of numbers and compliance.

And yet, the county continues to surge.  There were 1082 new cases in the last week—a new record, with 47 residents hospitalized.  An average of 155 new cases a day.  We remain in the purple zone.

As noted in yesterday’s column, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it appears distant—we may be talking about September by the time huge portions of the general public are vaccinated.

Parents pushing for opening the schools are arguing there is research that children are less susceptible and less likely to spread COVID.  Personally, I don’t think we know enough to make definitive determinations.  Moreover, with a new more easily spreadable strain—and potentially more deadly—it seems now is not the best time to take risks.

While I am critical of a number of things involving DJUSD these days, I think their risk-averse approach is the appropriate one.

Superintendent John Bowes sent out an email on Friday that lays out the conditions that must be in place to move forward with a hybrid return, as passed in a motion this past week.

There are conditions within the control of the district.

The district must have four criteria in place:

  • Establish asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for students and staff on or near each campus;
  • Set up classrooms for 6-foot or greater distancing, and install MERV-13 filters and air purifiers;
  • Ensure safety protocols are in place per Cal/OSHA COVID-19 requirements; and
  • Define processes for notification, quarantine, and contact tracing.

As Superintendent Bowes points out: “Much of the work that needs to take place to be ready for a return to campus is already underway.”

He explained: “DJUSD has successfully worked with Healthy Davis Together to roll out free saliva-based COVID-19 testing for each of our campuses.

“We currently have four campus testing sites operational and are working on hiring and training staff to meet the full demand for when students and staff return,” Bowes continued.  “DJUSD has provisioned all HVAC units with MERV-13 filters and, with the assistance of Healthy Davis Together, we are deploying air purifiers to each classroom and office.”

Outside of their control, however, is that Yolo County must be in the Red Tier for at least two weeks and, “Teachers and staff who are being asked to return have had access to both doses of an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and are provided with up to two weeks for recovery following the second vaccine.”

The last two are vitally important.  The first requires that the community have COVID under control—it just doesn’t make sense to open things back up when COVID is running out of control in our community.

People can argue that children do not spread COVID as easily, and that may or may not be true.  Again, I don’t think we have data as good as we need here, but, more importantly, think about all of the community mixing that would take place with parents dropping off students every day, district personnel being on campus—even with other precautions in place, if we are still getting 155 new cases a day, it’s hard to argue that’s a safe arrangement.

The second part protects the teachers—they will have received their vaccines and thus will neither get sick nor are they likely to spread it to the rest of the community.

Waiting until the transmission starts to push back into red makes a ton of sense.

The hybrid model makes sense.  It is largely triggered by the need for 6-foot distancing and therefore the need to reduce seating capacity in classrooms.  This allows classes to break into smaller cohorts of students and for periods of time that are reduced.

One thing I worry about is that, even with distancing and better ventilation, the sheer length of potential exposure to a sick person is likely to pose a risk—a hybrid model would reduce that risk, but not necessarily eliminate it.

One of my suggestions continues to be to run the clock here.  Delay things until later in the spring and consider extending education into the summer in order to allow for a reduction of infection and more vaccine to get out to the community.

So far we have not taken that particular approach.  I am concerned about at-risk and disadvantaged children falling further behind and would like to see the district also come up with a plan—once COVID ends, if it ever does—to catch those kids up.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link:


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

35 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: A Cautious Approach to Re-Opening Makes Most Sense”

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Said like a person who neither has kids nor is an educator. If we did that, it would probably cost them at least two years and some would be set back irrevocably.

        1. David Greenwald Post author


          Talk to an elementary teacher and they will tell you it takes them a few months to get the students back in gear every year after summer break, now imagine a full year? We would have to put our kids in private schools. And that would leave open the question of what would happen to the students who parents can’t afford to do that or hire tutors or others.

    2. Blair Howard

      I don’t think we should shut down schools, but I believe that the school system should adjust to a global pandemic we would be lucky to experience only once every hundred years.

      The whole “falling behind” worry is completely arbitrary. Have students lost out on learning opportunities and progress? Of course. Can they catch up? Like always it depends on so many things. Why are we so focused on everyone in a school system born between arbitrary dates being at almost exactly the same place in their learning? We know children do not learn the same things at the same time but our educational system that was designed around the factory model of production expects them to. The district keeps on talking about 21st century learning and other buzz words but is still using a production model from a hundred years ago.

      Standards are useful for measuring student progress towards the ultimate goals that we have for them when they leave our classrooms and schools, but to tell a student and/or a parent they are “behind” in order to frighten them into getting at grade level is damaging and not backed up by educational theory and/or research.

      Perhaps instead of working to figure out how to do more of the current school system that is harmful to some, doesn’t work for many and really only benefits a few, we should be looking to restructure the expectations and implementation of school entirely.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Blair… you’ve touched upon ‘something that will not be discussed’ …

        Some folk want their kids in school… so far, that seems to be a better learning model than ‘remote learning’ where distractions like TV/video games will nearly negate any benefit… some educators, parents and kids know this and are willing, with protocols in place, to resume…

        Some parents/educators want zero risk [yeah, like there was zero risk to getting to, from, or in schools (think Sandy Hook, Columbine, not to mention teacher ‘pervs’ that are not unknown in schools, including Davis schools), pre-covid], and go one step farther… wanting to continue banning in-class instruction not just for them and the children (they would not attend anyhow), but to ensure someone willing to take the low risk, cannot… and perhaps get ‘a leg up’ over ‘their kids’… whatever…

    3. Richard_McCann

      If it was just so easy. What about the cohort of children coming in next year? Are you suggesting that we would permanently have a one year delay in the schooling system? Not so clean and not so simple.

      That said, at the beginning last spring if we had real national leadership instead of a circus, we could have discussed at least having high school and college students taking a gap year and reassigning them to a set of physical tasks around the country, meanwhile getting to know others outside of their community–the precursor to a much needed national service requirement. But that opportunity has passed and we’ll just have to brute force ourselves through this.

      We can go toward catching up by going to year round schools so we don’t have the 6 week catch up after 10+weeks of summer break.

      Said like a person who has mostly grown children (one in college) and volunteering in a supplemental education program….

  1. Tia Will

    I wish I had spoken out more clearly, more forcefully in April when we had beaten back our first wave and allowed the business, education, and religious groups to convince the majority we could “open up” safely.

    We could not then as the number of cases and deaths attests. We made the same mistake two more times. So I am going to be crystal clear now.

    This is not the time to open schools. As David noted, we are now dealing with the threat of the new viral mutation with its rapid spread. There is no strong evidence that children cannot spread the virus, and even if there were, adults have to be present in those schools as well. As I write, Yolo County has gone from 22 deaths after the first wave to 138 deaths now. There have been multiple days when there has been essentially no available ICU beds in Yolo County. So the question I would pose to anyone who is pushing to open now is this:

    How many additional deaths are you willing to accept in order to open schools now? Because if we do this, I guarantee there will be more deaths than if we do not. So how many is ok with you? Now, would that number still be ok if you knew they would be your family members?

    1. Alan Miller

      I wish I had spoken out more clearly,

      No need to regret.  The drumbeat was stronger than you could have beaten back, and the breadth far wider than our county.

  2. John Hobbs

    “How many additional deaths are you willing to accept in order to open schools now? Because if we do this, I guarantee there will be more deaths than if we do not. So how many is ok with you? Now, would that number still be ok if you knew they would be your family members?”

    I posed this exact question on a guitar forum a few months ago, all respondents dutifully claiming that they found any deaths unacceptable but none seemed ready to change their own behavior. Sammy Hagar wanted to mount a concert tour and was only dissuaded when most of his usual band members declined.

    No one has been more impacted than performers and service industry workers by this pandemic. Most of us would like to be alive when it is safe to serve our patrons again. Keep schools and businesses remote or closed down until we can open up safely.

  3. Ron Oertel

    Some folks want their kids in school.

    Some parents never send their kids to school.

    Some parents want/need babysitters/educators (so that they can work), and were counting on others to fund that choice.

    Some may believe that the latter assumption shouldn’t even be questioned, to the point that city planning revolves around it, and to the exclusion of all other concerns.

    1. Ron Oertel

      But, I will say that I admire more about Davis.  It’s a terrific town, for the valley – at least.

      And part of that is due to the school system, even if it’s not “right-sized”.

      But I think parents should contribute more toward school systems, than others do. Instead, the opposite is true (e.g., when considering tax breaks).

      I do know someone who successfully “home-schooled” their kids, and the result probably turned out better than even what DJUSD can provide.

    2. Richard_McCann

      – A tiny percentage never send their kids to school.

      – Our economy has now become built around schools caring for our children for a period of time. We’ve decided the increased productivity from more workers more than covers the economies of scale of education + childcare. a straightforward benefit-cost choice.

      You’re more than welcome to make your case that this is not an economically beneficial choice. Put forward your quantitative analysis, be sure to include the benefits of a common public education for increased productivity and income that pays for your Social Security.

      1. Ron Oertel

        I don’t think that a formal decision (or analysis) has been made in the first place. As seen in the declining value of (even) college education, unless it’s in the right field.

        There was a time (not so long ago) when two-parent workers were not needed to get by. If this was still the case, I suspect that the pandemic would cause a lot less concern for some parents. Hell, they might even (otherwise) be able to “brush-up” on their own skills, by teaching their own kids.

        Social security is something that workers themselves pay into.  Taken right from their paychecks.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          I don’t understand your declining value of a college education argument. According to this from 2019, “The average college graduate earns $78,000 a year compared to the $45,000 earned by someone with only a high school education, according to the analysis. That’s a 75% premium, or more than $30,000 a year. The wage premium for a college education rose from less than $20,000 in the 1980’s to $35,000 in the 2000’s.” That suggests the opposite.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I guess we’d have to look at that in terms of lost wages (while attending college), deducting the cost of college itself, etc.  In other words, the net benefit.

          And of course, college itself is generally publicly subsidized.

          Also factor in the differences between “type” of degree, etc.  Some degrees are likely “pulling up” others. (And, vice-versa.)

          Perhaps even locale is a factor (e.g., the outcome from pursuing a degree if you live in Ohio, vs. California).

          Regardless, those at the very top (e.g., the tech giants, etc.) are not dependent upon college degrees.  Those folks somehow have the talent without it.

          Then, there’s the blue-collar business owners who can do pretty well (housing developers, contractors, HVAC installers/repair, auto shops, etc.).

          From what I’ve seen, college used to mean something in-an-of-itself.  Not so much, anymore.  (For the most part, it appears that college students are straddled with debt related to the pursuit of their degrees.  That’s what’s been making news.  Maybe Biden will save them.

        3. Ron Oertel


          If one wants to be a worker in a white-collar field (and doesn’t have the skill to start their own business in that), college is essentially required to even be considered.

          But of course, you’re not going to be an accountant, engineer, or computer programmer (for example), by pursuing a liberal arts degree. The only thing those folks can do is pursue something beyond that (e.g., attorney, psychologist, etc.). (Or, learn computer programming on your own, perhaps.)

          Regardless, the big story seems to be debt related to pursuit of degrees, dragging oneself down for years afterward. And with unemployment what it is, now . . .

          Wait until all of the stimulus ends, as well. Yikes. I’m still wondering how many might be evicted, from not paying rent or mortgages. And the broader impact of that.

          Let’s just say that you might have a lot more commenters with free time, on here. (But at least it might skew toward a younger crowd, at that point.)

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I’m a believer that education itself is important for success regardless of the field. Just finished reading a book a few weeks ago that makes a strong case that generalists have a big advantage and that we have over specialized in many segments of education.

        4. Ron Oertel

          I am not so much a believer in that.

          I believe that education comes in many forms, and from many sources.

          I also believe that colleges wouldn’t even exist, if students stopped believing that it would further their careers. (And apparently, college enrollment has been significantly dropping across the country – for about a decade, now.)

          I am not the first one to (increasingly) question the value of a college degree.

          I suspect that to some degree, that question might also be asked of the formal education system which precedes it.

          If I had to estimate the amount of pure waste of time (or worse) in public schools, it wouldn’t even come close to comparing to my apparent addiction to commenting on here. 😉

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            If you are interested, it’s a quick read. The income data shows clearly that education furthers people’s income potential. That’s beyond any doubt. This idea that somehow people don’t need college is false. The question is what type of education is best, and the trend has been super specialized. I remember in grad school, people would get their doctorates studying micro-subfields of subfields. And that’s all they did. The problem is that you get siloed. Epstein makes a strong case for outside innovation – which is basically what the Vanguard has done over the last 10 to 15 years.

        5. Ron Oertel

          This idea that somehow people don’t need college is false. 

          This is completely inaccurate, and is a lie that our society now tells everyone.

          Tell that to the guy who builds your house, installs HVACs, plumbing, electrical, fixes your car, etc. (And more importantly, the people who “own” the companies that do this.)

          Though they do need basic math and reading skills, as well as other skills implied.

          Or, to any business owner, really.  Including (and especially) those at the top.

          I knew a master carpenter who could barely read/write at a proficient level (despite being from the U.S.).  Not to mention all those who can’t speak English.


          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “This is completely inaccurate”

            No. The data here is overwhelming. Are there some exceptions? Sure. There is variation in the data. But overall, you have much higher potential earing with a college degree than without. You’re attempting to argue exceptions rather than the rule.

        6. Ron Oertel

          I’m not talking about “exceptions”.  I think we’d really have to examine that data in-depth, and include the lost income (and expense) from pursuing college. That would include paying off debt, for years afterward.

          And just as important – break it down by type of degree, geographic area, etc.

          And determine whether or not it includes business income, vs. only salary.

          It may still be true, overall (on average).

          Maybe save a more complete analysis for another article.

      2. Ron Oertel

        Something else I’ve “pondered”:

        What if only those parents wealthy enough to fund their own kids’ education were (primarily) the only ones who had kids?

        Would this lead to an ever-increasing wealthy population (overall), for subsequent generations? 

        I’ll leave out any “genetic engineering” implications. Regardless, I’m confident that “Kirk” (being the good guy that he is) would still defeat “Khan”. And besides, he would still have Spock on his side. (Though sometimes one wonders why.) 🙂

      3. Ron Oertel

        Considering all of the regulations that exist (to drive, have a dog, whatever) you’d think that the decision to have a kid (a FAR more impactful/important decision) would at least require some level of “approval”.

        Just kidding, sort of.

        Yeah, yeah, I know – China comes to mind.

        “Bad China” – there, I said it, to make you all happy. 😉

        Though I believe they’ve abandoned that approach. Maybe around the same time they embraced capitalism, or a form thereof?


        1. Bill Marshall

          Just kidding, sort of.

          Then, we have to assume you are serious…

          Considering all of the regulations that exist (to drive, have a dog, whatever) you’d think that the decision to have a kid (a FAR more impactful/important decision) would at least require some level of “approval”.

          Approval from who?  The “State”?  You?

          If someone does not get the “approval” (authority not cited) you suggest, should there be mandatory abortion, forced ‘sterilizations’?  You don’t have to look to China for that… existed in Nazi Germany, and in the United States, in the past, particularly in the South [particularly for those with MH issues, or POC’s]… pretty sure how I’d ‘vote’ for approval as to your parents’ choice to have a child, or if you decided to procreate…

          At least you have gained some ‘creds’ with some folks, by clearly not being “pro-life”… can only guess at your motivations for posting that… I suspect that they are narcisstic… your parents did not have to have approval/license for you coming into the world (by your comment, too bad that they didn’t!), but sure looks you’re really OK with the concept of denying that to others…

          Have a great week, and stay healthy, at least physically…

  4. William Vernetti

    Distance learning is a complete waste of time. It’s chaotic, inadequate, and our kids aren’t learning a thing. In most cases the kids are finished by noon.

    My family found the perfect solution: we pulled our son out of the Davis school district and are now home schooling with This company has been designing home schooling curriculum for over ten years. My fifth grade son is now reading at almost 11th grade level and his math is 6th grade level. I seriously doubt we’ll ever enter a UDJSD property ever again. Makes distance learning look like the bad joke it is. You can let untrained teachers try to clumsily and half-heartedly cobble together some sort of education for your children out of some idiotic sense of loyalty, or you can let trained educators use proven curriculum to properly apply learning and actually advance your children.

    Schools don’t open? GREAT! You’re doing us all a big favor. Parents take responsibility for your children’s education or they will permanently suffer!

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for