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It’s interesting that those folks who are ordinarily so fond of preaching freedom from governmental overreach are suddenly chanting — in the case of our public schools — “big government’s way or the highway.”

Those true believers in allowing small, local governments to make decisions on their own — about masks, for example — are suddenly the experts when it comes to whether all children and all teachers should go back to all classrooms across Florida this fall, without regard to the particular circumstances — including COVID-19 spikes, testing availability and family needs — in any particular community.

And, go back, we might add, whether or not the state supplies the funds necessary to assure that school districts have enough teachers, enough space, enough janitors, enough supplies and enough protective equipment to keep everyone safe.

We’ve got to hand it to our Volusia County School Board, which is doing its level best to find a loophole in this mandate from on high. Keep it up!

If there ever were a time when one size will not fit all, this is it. Local school boards like Volusia County’s need the flexibility to meet the needs of Volusia’s students, faculty and parents — not to mention our own school district’s budget. 

County school boards and other local governmental bodies are closest to the people served by Florida’s education system. 

In a situation like the current one, with impacts from the coronavirus varying from county to county if not city to city, statewide mandates are the last thing we need. 

State leaders need to take a step back and listen to the increasingly [SPACE NOT HYPHEN] desperate pleadings of mayors, city officials, school board members and others, and realize that flexibility and collaboration mark the only way forward, not edicts from on high.

We remain hopeful that, at the very least, state officials approve Volusia Live, a program that would enable children to attend school from home at exactly the same pace as their peers.

However, unless coronavirus case trends change dramatically and quickly for the better, insisting on an August reopening for schools is based more on politics than science — or on the desire to put a veneer of normalcy on a chaotic situation.

There’s a reason Florida’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, has asked a judge to stop Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran from requiring in-person school without significant changes and protections. 

We cannot put our children at risk simply because it’s convenient. We cannot operate on the hope that, as young people, our children won’t be affected by COVID-19, or that they won’t carry and transmit the disease to teachers, school officials and others.

The numbers — showing 8 percent of all cases in Volusia County as of July 14 are school-age children — clearly show that hope is not science-based.

Now is the time for leaders from the different levels of government — state and local — to get together and craft a school-reopening plan that has protection for Florida’s children, [families] and teachers, not politics, as its chief objective.

You go, Volusia County School Board. Put up a fight. We’ve got your back, because our children, [families] and teachers are worth it.

Even if politicians in Tallahassee don’t think so.

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