MINOT, N.D. — My daughters will go back to school very soon — one to middle school, the other to her second year at Bismarck State — and I'll admit to no small amount of trepidation.
For my middle-schooler, in particular.
We've opted to send her to in-person classes for as long as they're available. Distance learning did not work well for us last year. The instruction time was minimal; the teachers almost unreachable for communication.
We want an experience that is about as close to normal as we can get.
We're hoping we can see the schools re-open without a spike in infections, something that would prompt a mandatory return to distance learning for all students in our district.
Which is why I was angry when my school's athletics department sent out a text about fees and practice schedules for fall sports.
I was dimly aware, in this busy time, that high school sports were going to be happening despite the pandemic. Somehow this news, coming from the school my child attends, hit home.
Why are we doing scholastic sports this fall?
Our primary concern for our children should be academics. They need to be in the classroom learning.
All the more so because, let's face it, for many kids, there wasn't a whole lot of learning going on last spring when they were all stuck at home.
We have ground to make up.
That's no easy task during an ongoing pandemic. There is already a lot of anxiety about re-opening schools. It's already a risk, albeit a calculated one balancing the realities of the COVID-19 outbreak with the need for classroom instruction.
Why are we adding another degree of difficulty to that situation by commencing high school sports?
At this point, some of you probably want to argue to me that the pandemic is overblown or some hoax, so why not do sports as usual? I don't see it this way, but that debate is irrelevant.
Believe in the seriousness of the pandemic or not, the opening of our schools hinges on specific outbreak metrics.
Volleyball practices and football games create more opportunities for outbreaks. They make it more likely that our schools will close, and students will suffer again.
This is probably going to be an unpopular point of view, given how sports-crazed most Americans are. Plus, scholastic sports have become quite the industry (that unseemly development is a topic for a different sort of column), and those who profit from them aren't going to want a shutdown whatever pushing ahead means for the health and education of the kids.
So let me end with this question: What is the top priority for our K-12 schools?
The reason why our state spends billions on schools every budget cycle?
It isn't football.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.