Lots of Arkansas teachers are adding a new item to their back-to-school lists this year: wills.

With schools slated to open despite Arkansas’s undisputed status as a COVID-19 hot spot, it makes sense for teachers to prepare for the worst. What choice do they have? There’s no question some teachers will get sick with the virus that has already killed 515 Arkansans.

In light of this bleak reality, some providers are offering wills and power of attorney services to teachers free of charge. And that’s … nice? But it’s also absolutely bonkers.

Experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that fully reopening K-12 schools and universities creates the “highest risk” for the spread of coronavirus.

To be fair, Arkansas schools are offering virtual options for students whose families can swing it. Teachers, however, won’t have that option.

A company called Under the Weather is marketing these Shield Pods to teachers at $80 each, and it’s not the craziest idea out there.

And the plans in place to open our schools aren’t nearly safe enough, Arkansas’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics says. Their recommendations to the governor continue to go unmet. Teachers’ advocates agree that we’re not ready for in-person learning, noting that we still lack clear and proven guidelines for keeping students and staff safe.

At the local level, teachers and administrators are scrambling to make school environments as healthy as possible in time for the statewide mandatory Aug. 24 start date. Too bad their efforts at creative scheduling to limit COVID exposure went into the trash this week. Those plans got nixed when Gov. Asa Hutchinson said schools have to be open five days a week.

When Arkansas shut schools in April, our state had fewer than 1,000 reported cases of COVID.  Today, we tally more than 47,000 cases, and we’re adding hundreds a day. The potential for spread is exponentially greater, and we still have no cure.

An ad offering free wills for teachers during the COVID pandemic

If we listen to the experts, we will protect the health of students and staff by starting school virtually this month. It will be hard work. We will need creative solutions for getting food, speech therapy, chrome books and other must-haves to all kids. This messy, mistake-riddled, learn-as-we-go adventure would almost certainly save lives.

Ideology routinely beats out expertise around here, so Arkansas’s full-steam-ahead plan to throw teachers and school staff directly into harm’s way is not a huge surprise. But knowingly offering our teachers as actual human sacrifices to keep the economy humming seems extreme, even for us.

When Arkansas teachers spend the final days of summer break crafting wills, we know we’re heading in the wrong direction. It’s not too late to change course.