Perhaps the most charitable explanation for the decision by Arlington school leaders to put on hold athletics and other extracurriculars at the start of 2022 is it was a well-meaning effort at slowing the spread of the COVID omicron variant.
Others, however, were less charitable: The decision, announced over a winter break that stretched on and on due to last week’s inclement weather, drew rolled eyes from those in other jurisdictions, who have been down this road with Arlington before, and garnered brickbats from local students and parents, who seem to better understand the importance of extracurriculars than do school leaders.
Yes, things should be done to ensure that in-person instruction can continue. Arlington school leaders believed cutting out extracurriculars would help.
Maybe it will. But as has been the case so often during the pandemic, the opportunity costs of decision-making are seldom taken into account.
In this case, the cost is that of taking students – be they basketball players, debate-squad members, thespians, science-club participants or the like – out of their routine once again, while throwing a further scare into them.
The emotional toll this pandemic has taken on students is becoming apparent with each passing day. Why Arlington felt the need to be a leader in the skittishness department is a question we can’t answer. At this point, we can’t even answer who’s actually calling the shots on these decisions. The superintendent appears to have been hired last year to be a figurehead and comes across too frequently as disengaged; School Board members lack collective focus and would prefer to keep their heads in the weeds than exercise any big-picture oversight.
But apparently, even long before COVID or the current superintendent and School Board, such a lack of commitment always has been true here in A-town.
In October 1978, a Northern Virginia Sun sports columnist (Lois Thomas) opined on the pages of the paper that any parent who wants his or her child to succeed in high-school extracurriculars “would be a fool” to move to Arlington, because the school-system leadership did not see its importance in the broader educational setting.
In the immortal words of 1970s chanteuse Maxine Nightengale, we are “Right Back Where We Started From.”