Opinion | Bruce Butler: To Zoom or not to Zoom? | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Bruce Butler: To Zoom or not to Zoom?

This past week, the Summit Daily article entitled, “Summit School Board Rejects Remote Learning Option for 2022-23 School Year,” caught my eye. I did not attend the school board meeting, and I am sure there was more to the debate and the vote than was quoted in the article. However, at least superficially, I found myself thinking: “Great, let’s get the kids back in the classroom,” and “Wow, that seems like an uncharacteristically fiscally prudent decision by the school board.” If I correctly interpreted the math contained in the article, Summit High School and Summit Middle School Edgenuity classes cost approximately $7,500 per student based upon enrollment in the current academic year.

I think masking children and remote education, in general, have created a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety for many kids while offering little, if any, health benefit locally or nationally. While I do not want to diminish the concerns about anxiety or bullying expressed by some parents and school board members, the stated argument in favor of continued online classes made me think of the scene in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when Rudolph, Hermey the elf, and Yukon Cornelius arrive on the Island of Misfit Toys and ask King Moonracer if they can live on the island because they are misfits too. The king wisely tells them that is not possible because “ … A living creature cannot hide himself on an island.”

I remember being assigned a locker next to the largest kid in the class my first year in middle school. He took great delight in slamming locker doors on unsuspecting victims and having the immediately adjacent locker to his made me a prime target. While I am not advocating violence to solve problems, reasoning with this individual was futile. One day, after he slammed my locker door on my hand, I slammed his locker door on him in a fit of rage. This naturally resulted in a brief hallway melee in which I got my butt kicked. I lost the fight, but he did not slam my locker door again.

The purpose of this column is not to sidetrack on bullying, its causes, consequences or possible remedies. If there are bullying problems in the Summit County schools, there needs to be a serious discussion with the students involved, parents and teachers to address the problems. Whatever, there will always be bullies, and sometimes the only way to resolve the problem is to defend yourself, not to stay at home.

Upon further reflection, my reaction to the article has evolved slightly. My first loyalty lies with parents. Parents know their children the best, and 99.9 percent of parents act in the best interest of their children. My next loyalty lies with the teachers. Back in yesteryear, teachers could count on support from parents and administrators. A call home was the ultimate hammer. I do not think this is necessarily the case today. I count on elected officials to be good stewards of public funds, and that sometimes necessitates hard decisions. I think that was likely done in this case. Remote learning is a large cost for minimal participation.

So where are we? The Summit schools are short-staffed like everybody else. The funding that was underwriting remote teaching is ending, at least for now. Some parents believe that home schooling or other alternatives are better options for their children. What is the best outcome for all stakeholders?

Let’s offer parents who believe that homeschooling or an alternative school setting is the best learning environment for their children the opportunity to receive a voucher equal to the Summit County school’s per capita cost of teaching their child. It is a viable alternative to Edgenuity that would lessen the need for additional staffing that is the school system’s highest operational cost.

What if the school board worked with the Town of Silverthorne to develop employee housing for teachers on the old Silverthorne elementary site, and worked with the Town of Frisco and the Summit County Commissioners to develop housing options for teachers on the Summit Middle School and Summit High School properties? This would help recruit and retain teachers. I could be misguided, but it seems there are potentially beneficial options available for all sides of this issue.

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