The Oxymoronics of “Smart Restarts”

The only plan governors, school administrators or boards in the United States should be developing right now are “Keep Kids Safe” plans.


Make that the absolute, irrevocable guiding priority, and all the questions being bandied about related to mask wearing, classroom distancing, quarantining in the event of a positive test, liabilities, teacher pay in the event of quarantine and on and on disappear.


Because the only responsible, logical, science-based response to “How do we keep kids safe?” when it comes to schools is to keep them out of schools. For now.

What states and school districts are developing now are actually “Limit Illness and Death” plans.

Not acceptable.

Graphic for coronavirus and keeping schools closed for now

Photo by Aline Ponce via Pixabay. Graphic by IV Words.

Need to Reopen Schools is a False Premise

First, disregard what the #OrangeMenace is saying about “reopening” schools next month. He’s worried about his re-election, not our kids and grandkids.

After skipping over his ineptitude, the first problem with school “reopening” plans currently under discussion and development is a false premise, that “reopening” should be the objective.

Remember back in March, when we were all told that schools were closing, and that it wouldn’t be safe to send the kids back into classrooms until coronavirus cases and deaths were declining for several consecutive weeks?

That reasonable, logical, science-based guidance should still be ruling decision-making. It’s not, even though the only thing that’s changed is the rate at which new cases and deaths are increasing across the country, even skyrocketing in many states.

Plague-Free School Planning

I live on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, so I’ll use those states for illustration.

KFYR-TV image of ND Gov Doug Burgum for school reopening story

KFYR-TV image of ND Gov Doug Burgum

Minn. Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, will be making school reopening decisions in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Health. That department issued a guidance document that starts with this:

“Reopening of school is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Again, that’s a false premise.

From the perspective of keeping kids safe, it IS NOT critical that schools reopen during the pandemic. Perhaps they can, at some point, but only when new coronavirus cases and deaths decline for several consecutive weeks.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch in North Dakota…

Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, punted responsibility for decision-making to local officials in a Tuesday press conference, saying school districts must develop plans and school boards must approve or decline to approve them. However, his emphasis was on reopening and urging school districts to find the best ways to do it.

The Fargo School District is calling its planning process “Smart Restart.” Talk about an oxymoron.

The “FPS Smart Restart Plan” webpage states:

“Guiding Principles for reopening FPS Schools: Ensure the safety and well-being of all students and employees.”

It’s the first damn bullet.

And it cannot be done through in-person instruction as long as coronavirus cases and deaths are escalating in the community. It simply is not possible.

Kids can pick it up from their parents or grandparents, not show any symptoms, go to school, give it to other students, teachers or staff members, who give it to a bunch more kids and colleagues and they ALL – kids and adults – go home and infect their entire families and anyone those people interact with.

It’s difficult to believe that, at this point, it’s necessary to reiterate the potential, and in my opinion likely, chain of infection yet again, but there it is.

The only way for FPS or any other school district to ensure the safety and well-being of all students and employees is to stick with 100 percent online instruction.

Keep Kids Safe

As of this writing, the exact opposite of what needs to happen for a responsible reopening of schools is happening. The number of new cases in North Dakota this week is already at 184 percent of last week’s total. It’s only Wednesday. Across the Red River, new cases in Minnesota are 143 percent of what they were last week.

So, yeah – Boom! Done.

FPS and every other school district in this misguided nation should stop their planning processes right there, hunker down and wait for federal and state officials to finally do what’s necessary to reverse the onslaught of the pandemic.

Other areas are much worse off. But then, some other areas have leaders with sense. Take California, for example.

“(California) Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said schools shouldn’t reopen if current COVID-19 conditions persist. ‘As we’ve always said, safety is paramount,’ said Thurmond. ‘If it’s not safe to do so, schools shouldn’t reopen in a way that would put students or staff in harm’s way.’”

Simple. Logical. Clear.

Thankfully, superintendents, teachers and teachers’ unions around the nation are starting to push back on this idea that reopening schools is a necessity under the current conditions. They’re concerned about the health and well-being of their students, colleagues and themselves, as they should be.

As we all should be.

Simple. Logical. Clear.

“Keep Kids Safe.”


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Martin C. Fredricks IV

Martin C. “Red” Fredricks IV here. I’m husband to an amazing woman who is also my best friend, dad to three outstanding kids, Fargoan (North Dakota, that is), proud introvert, veteran messaging strategist/copywriter, blogger ( nonprofit founder ( and big-time reader. As they say, if you're gonna write good stuff, you have to read good stuff. A ginger, too - ergo the "Red" - although some of it's going white. Cinnamon-Sugar, I call it. Tattooed to boot; seven so far. At age 54, I'm stilling crankin' AC/DC & Metallica, but now and again I spin some Eric Church and Black Uhuru, too. I love hanging out with my (much) better half, spending time with our kids, writing, hiking, riding my mountain bike and reading.


Larry Heilmann · July 17, 2020 at 1:02 pm

Two Comments-

1. They say that statistics show that kids get covid infection at a much reduced rate because of some bizarre property of the virus. I think it is at least as probable that there are less infected kids simply because they have been kept locked up and safe at home for the last four months. We will see eventually. Sending them all to school together should not be the way we find out.

2. The teachers are the ones who will take the brunt of any viral resurgence after a school re-opening. Most will have no choice about going back to the classroom whatever the conditions in their district or state. They need the health insurance that comes with the job. They must risk their own health and that of their families because sickness or an accident could be a financial disaster. Canadian teachers don’t face this terrible dilemma. How many of our so-called essential workers are working only because they need that health insurance?

    Martin C. Fredricks IV · July 17, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Totally agree with you, Larry. It’s also possible a lot more kids have been infected than we’ve known about because they haven’t shown symptoms.

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