- Fred Spriggs

I was in line at the grocery store the other day. There was this fellow in front of me in line who was pontificating on the COVID-19 pandemic and how irresponsible it was for schools to be opening this week across the state.

“I’ll give it two weeks, and the schools will be closed down again,” he declared.

I’d just about heard enough and had to say, “I can’t predict the future, but schools have been open across the state for summer school, and we haven’t all been killed by the virus.”

Wife Julie and I moved to Crane a few years ago to be closer to our grandsons.

We have one grandson going into kindergarten this year, another entering the seventh grade and the third, unbelievably, starting his first year of high school. To top it off, their mom is the secretary to the elementary-school principal.

To say Julie and I have a close association with the school system would be an understatement.

We’re just like many other grandparents and parents across the state affected by the decision to resume school this fall who are facing uncertainties about the virus.

Let’s not forget Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra’s famous quote on the future: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

However, I’ve researched the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education’s current guidance on schools reopening, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for a safe return to school.

This guidance for K-12 school reopening was developed by the top health and education offi cials in our state and nation. It covers everything from screening arrivals at school to physical distancing, implementing face-covering protocols, extra cleaning procedures, restrictions on visiting schools and especially what to do if someone becomes COVID-19 symptomatic at school.

The aforementioned experts aren’t perfect and some mistakes will probably occur. However, one thing I’ve learned during this pandemic is as health experts learn more about COVID-19, guidance on keeping kids at school healthy and well educated will continue to evolve.

Let me go back to the future for a few moments.

Last Friday night, I was at my youngest grandson’s sixth birthday at one of those climbing and jumping places in Branson.

I started chatting with an elementary-school principal and told her, “I stood up for you guys today.”

She said, “Thanks, somebody needs to do that.”

I told her the story about the guy in line at the grocery store predicting schools will close in less than two weeks.

“We had a record number of kids in summer school this year, and there weren’t any problems with the virus,” she noted.

I brought up the subject of virtual learning and said that personally I felt that a lot of kids might be “skating by” and are not getting the same quality of education they would receive in the classroom.

“Fred, unfortunately, too many of the people signing up for virtual schooling for their children are the parents of the ones who need to be in the classroom the most,” she explained.

Seymour was one of many schools in the state who wisely decided to offer summer school.

In my opinion, this was a difficult but wise decision made by the Seymour R-II Board of Education and Superintendent Steve Richards.

Our kids need to be back in school.

The last time I drove through Seymour, I didn’t see anyone falling over dead in the street like Americans saw happening in videos coming from Wuhan, China, during the early stages of the scare campaign that’s accompanied so many facts about the dangers of this virus.

We can’t live our lives if we keep our country shut down.

We can’t keep being the ostrich who keeps our heads stuck in the sand.

Right now, we just have to roll the dice and see what happens.

We may roll “snake eyes,” and schools shut down. I hope and pray that doesn’t occur.

However, maybe it’s time to recall the words of my favorite Beatle, John Lennon, who said, “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.”

For me, I’ve decided to keep on living the years I have left on this earth the way I always have. I rode a Harley-Davidson for 30 years until my back gave out. I’ll keep going with the throttle pulled all the way back humming “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger.

Fred Spriggs is the former news editor of the Webster County Citizen, a position he held for nearly 15 years and where he won dozens of national and state awards for journalism excellence. He now lives in rural Stone County in retirement with his wife, Julie, who also is a Seymour native.

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