BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
Schools and teachers are faced with a no-win situation because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Read this, from someone who never attended a public school, never worked in a public school, and never sent her children to a public school, yet is tasked with running the nation’s public schools…
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made clear on Wednesday she is not impressed with hybrid models and wants students in school full time. “They must be open, and they must be fully operational,” she said Wednesday at the Education Department.
On Tuesday, she said at the White House: “It’s clear our nation’s schools must fully reopen and fully operate this school year. Anything short of that robs the students, not to mention taxpayers, of their futures.”
Secretary DeVos insists that all students attend school full time in the fall because the schools that she previously referred to as a “dead-end” are now so important that staying home to avoid an illness “robs the students…of their futures.”
She followed her remarks with a ten-page set of instructions on how to keep schools safely open during a pandemic which the US Education Department will provide to every teacher in America.
…Just kidding. She offered nothing…except the “musts.”
THERE’S ANGER IN THE LAND
No matter what schools do some people will be angry. If schools open, some parents will be angry. If schools stay closed and use distance learning some parents will be angry. If schools require masks and ppe some people will be angry. If schools don’t require masks and ppe some people will be angry.
We live in a country where one person’s “stupid superstitious uninformed opinion” is just as good as another’s expertise and experience. Schools and teachers, as usual, will take the blame no matter what happens.
WHAT TO DO?
Here are some thoughts about the challenges facing public schools as they figure out how they’re going to open during a pandemic. They include ideas and questions like…
- Where will schools get the money for ppe, cleaning supplies, extra staff, more buses, and the unexpected, yet guaranteed things that arise when going into a completely unknown situation?
- How will we keep masks on our smallest children? Speaking of smallest children, what happens when a kindergartner or first grader can’t tie his schools, skins her knee, loses or breaks his mask, or starts crying because she was afraid to ask to go to the bathroom? Is this the nurturing school experience you want for your child?
- What will happen when an asymptomatic COVID-19 positive child shows up in the class of an elderly teacher? or a teacher with an elderly parent at home?
- How can we reduce class size to allow for social distancing?
- If students stay home and do online learning, who will pay for the infrastructure needed for students who don’t have computers, other devices, or internet access?
- How will the lunch staff feed the kids who are in attendance as well as the ones who are at home?
There is still one question, however, that seems to have slipped from our consciousness…
- How will schools run school shooter drills when students are supposed to be masked and socially distant from each other. Yes. This is how we live now.
Announcing that schools need to start, yet ignoring the obvious questions about how to make sure that students and staff are safe and healthy, is irresponsible.
LISTEN TO THIS
Doesn’t it bother anyone that we have once again blamed K-12 schools as the national scapegoat for our enormous failings in health, housing, child care, and economic policy?
by Mitchell Robinson
If children are at more risk out of school than in school, then the problem isn’t school.
- If kids who aren’t in school are hungry, then increase funding to food pantries and community kitchens. (BTW–many public schools have been feeding kids all summer.)
- If kids who aren’t in school are in greater danger of abuse, then improve child protective services, counseling, and intervention services.
- If kids who aren’t in school don’t have a safe place to stay, then build more shelters for families in need.
- If kids who aren’t in school are more likely to suffer from mental health problems like anxiety and depression, then let’s spend more money on mental health care and increase access for young people to social workers, mental health counselors, and child psychologists.
Where will the money come from?
…let’s just start with teachers. To limit the number of students in classes requires probably doubling the number of teachers, when in many states there is already a shortage of qualified teachers (very true in AZ for example). Where to schools and school systems get them? Where could they get the funds to pay them and provide benefits? Remember that states and local governments are usually banned from running deficits, and those with rainy day funds are already draining them.
End the wasteful test-and-punish culture of American education. Save money. End testing.
by Nancy Bailey
10. Students need testing to find academic losses.
Students have only missed some school. Education reformers are already assuming they have fallen behind. More testing is a ridiculous reason for students to go back to school.
by Mike Klonsky
But the AAP guidance goes on to present an extensive list of key principles that should be considered in the course of any reopening. The list includes elements like physical distancing requirements, protective equipment, cohort crossovers, school visitors, common and outdoor space (playgrounds and hallways), on-site health and counseling, special education services, block scheduling in high schools, cleaning and disinfection, and virologic testing and screening and much more.
Why are these decisions always made by people who have no idea what it’s like to teach?
by Caffeinated Rage
…the people who are doing the funding and policy making are mostly people who have no idea about the day to day operations of a public school.
They think they know what it entails and how much it should cost. Now we are in unchartered territory.
Remember the protesters at the Michigan State House? Would you like them to visit your child’s school?
by Peter Greene
Family compliance with protocols. At this point we have all seen plenty of video footage of anti-maskers vocally and violently objecting to masking requirements in stores. Imagine that those folks, and others like them, have children to send to school. How do you think they’ll react to school demands that their students observe all safety protocols?
Betsy wants the schools open. Is she willing to fight for funding?
by Valerie Strauss
…the Association of School Business Officials International and AASA/School Superintendents Association did an analysis on costs for an average school district: 3,659 students, eight buildings, 183 classrooms, 329 staff members and 40 buses, transporting at 25 percent capacity.
It found the cost for opening up completely under new safety guidelines could amount to $1,778,139. For larger districts — New York City schools, for example, have more than 1 million students — the costs would be dramatically higher.
by Rose Levine
Sharing a classroom allows our elementary cohorts to become like family. We play games, exchange smiles, sit in circles on the rug and tell stories. We taste each other’s food and whisper in each other’s ears. We have casual exchanges during downtimes at recess or transitions between subjects. We share supplies, collaborate and take turns, and in so doing we build a model of accountability to one another and our community.
None of this is possible with six feet of social distancing. If we attempt to maintain this distance in the classroom — an impractical feat on its own — community building would be challenging.
by Mercedes Schneider
Can you imagine a first-grade class in which students must remain six feet apart all day? No free play? No hands-on, physically-close assistance or encouragement at all from the teacher?
Not possible, and not healthy.
In many schools, in-person teaching and learning will take a distant back seat to managing the COVID-19 school day.
Have we actually discovered that teachers and schools are “essential?”
by Jeff Bryant
What’s sadly ironic about all this sudden newfound appreciation for teachers as essential to the economy is that government leaders and policy makers, from both major political parties, have spent years attacking the economic well-being of public schools and teachers.
School districts have never recovered from budget cuts states imposed during the Great Recession that started at the end of 2007…”When COVID-19 hit, K-12 schools were employing 77,000 fewer teachers and other workers—even though they were teaching two million more children, and overall funding in many states was still below pre-2008 levels.”
Teachers now make 4.5 percent on average less than they did more than 10 years ago, according to the National Education Association, and public school teachers earn 17 percent less than what comparable workers earn, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools. Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics. We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.
quote from Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of NEA, in Time.
“There are 3 million teachers and support staff out there who desperately want to hug their kids,” says Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association teacher union. “But we will not be complicit in standing by and letting politicians cavalierly warehouse those kids without caring about their safety because, oh, we need their moms and dads to go back to work. We could do this in a safe, medically sane way, but it’s going to take money. Why was that not even a question when it was Shake Shack that might have to lay people off and go bankrupt?”