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Opinion: School system should be spending money on safety, not signs
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Riverbend Elementary second grader Brinna Shirley, reads to teacher Erin Blair on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. - photo by Scott Rogers

I see in my copy of Tuesday’s Times an article by Kelsey Podo.

In the article, it is related that the Hall County Board of Education has graciously approved use of federal monies for 10 days of paid leave for employees stricken by COVID, but it is quickly noted that this will only be available for certain employees, if needed; it is not for everyone. 

I’ll leave it to those much brighter than I am to parse out the ambiguities of all that. 

However, the article then goes on to discuss, at just as much column space, the system’s plan to spend $85,000 at each of roughly 30 schools for an electronic road sign to broadcast instructions to the public. The system has already purchased half a dozen or so of these signs. 

By my math, which may not be rocket science level, at $40 each, that money would have bought/would yet buy over 2,100 COVID tests of teachers for 30 weeks, or it would buy two doses (at $19.50 per dose) of Pfizer COVID vaccine for 2,100 teachers in the system, and then 29 weeks of COVID testing (much more if the funds for the signs already purchased had been diverted). 

This school system, and neighboring Gainesville City Schools, claim not to even be able to help their teachers secure COVID vaccines, though both insist upon running in-person/face-to-face instruction in the middle of a wave of infections in a noted “hot spot” for infections in the state. The local hospital is reportedly full up and treating patients inside the ambulances that bring them to the ER bay. 

Hall County Schools loudly announces that it is “the most caring place in the galaxy,” or some such drivel. At the beginning of the school year, just before I early retired to avoid their COVID contagion box experiment, one of the Hall County high schools was touting that they would provide each teacher with a single surgical mask, as a contagion containment measure, and that every teacher would be required to be masked at all times. 

To their credit, the system has apparently required students to be masked in classrooms (in marked contrast to say Cherokee County), but obviously a lot of real money is going toward things unrelated to staff and student safety. 

Soundbites/headlines might be “sign, sign, everywhere a sign” or “a sign of priorities” or “signs of the times.” At least it seems so to me. 

Steve Wang

Gainesville

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