On Tuesday, the Jefferson School Board voted 4-1 to return to full in-person learning when school resumes in January, even if the state classification of COVID case count and testing positivity rate remains at its second highest level.

This decision and arguments supporting it stunned me, as data clearly indicates that even the limited in-person learning occurring since the beginning of this school year has led to an increase in COVID-19 cases and exacerbation of community spread of the virus.

As a former high school teacher, I am intimately aware of the value of students being in the classroom with the instructor, as the interactions that can take place in person cannot be replicated completely via video conference. I also recognize the value of social interaction and growth that occurs between students that again, cannot be realized digitally to the same extent that being and learning together provides.

What stuns me is the weak arguments made in favor of full in-person learning when comparing shopping at Costco – which has three story ceilings, and adults that are continually in motion, whereas in-person education involves stationary students in a small classroom for hours, with less than ideal ventilation.

As adults elected to the board of education, we are wisest to consider and prioritize data and science over personal beliefs and pressure applied by an outspoken minority of our constituency.

This pandemic has required all of us to sacrifice, and while education IS essential, there are accommodations being made to continue that education while doing all we can to minimize the impact on student health and safety, as well as that of the entire community. We cannot expect to overcome this pandemic without collaboration, contribution and sacrifice by all – including students – and parents inconvenienced by the requirements of distance learning.

Daniel Wells, Tracy

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