It was mid-August. The playgrounds of Brookline, Massachusetts, had finally reopened, and so the news spread fast. Sharon Abramowitz had resigned from the school committee. If a lab wanted to manufacture a school committee member to help the 7,800-student Brookline School District through the COVID crisis, it probably would’ve ended up with Abramowitz. The sociologist-anthropologist-epidemiologist had studied Ebola, written interagency guidelines about what community engagement should look like during a crisis, and, after the district shut down in March, spent 40 hours a week in volunteer meetings on Zoom trying to make a safe reopening feasible. But now she was moving full time to her second home in Vermont.
As summer turned into fall, the school district was melting down. Parents largely wanted their kids learning in person, but it looked like Brookline wasn’t going to pull it off, even though the wealthy town just outside of Boston probably has the highest infectious-disease-expert-per-capita rate in the country. Abramowitz was fed up. “Sorry to be all UNICEF about it,” Abramowitz, who does work for UNICEF, said when we spoke in September, “but education is a fundamental human right for all children.”