For all the criticism about school opening or closing decisions, my impression is largely that districts were responsive to their parents. The thing is, not every district serves the same parents, and with big race, income, an education differences in preferences a lot of folks got really confused reporting on these stories.
Most of the tensions about school opening and closures came from one set of parents arguing what should be done for an entirely different set of parents.
A strong public health response, both in terms of what we did to help people not get sick or die from COVID and educating the public, would, hopefully, have smaller gaps between parent groups and their preferences for reopening. At the same time, in a country as large as the US, there were very few moments where a single response or narrative made sense in all places at all times.
I’m left thinking about the classic conundrum taught in every single education survey research course. Ask someone about how public schools are doing, and they’ll tell you they’re terrible. But ask someone about their neighborhood school, and satisfaction always seems quite high.
I bet the COVID response largely functions the same way.