Schools & the Pandemic

As a former teacher, school board member, and retired elementary principal, I have a bit of experience to allow me to talk about this subject.

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First let me say, kudos to districts who in the spring jumped into providing some level of on-line learning for kids with little to no preparation time. Was it perfect? Of course not, but given the circumstances, that’s not surprising. Did trying to work from home and teach their kids make parents more appreciative of what teachers do every day? You betcha. Teaching is hard work. Parents were just dealing with their one to four or five kids. Teachers in elementary school face 22 or more smiling faces at all levels of abilities and dispositions.

Weather wise this is a long time off.

Fall is approaching and everyone is scrambling to figure out what to do. I saw a report showing that NYC is looking at having kids in class 2-3 days and the rest of the time on-line. Now, this is a GREEN state, meaning their numbers of cases are decreasing. Even there, kids won’t be in school every single day of the week the way the Federal Government is encouraging.

To suggest that in states that are RED, meaning the cases are increasing, that kids in those states should be in class every single day seems wrong headed to me.

I realize that we can’t get our economy up and going until schools are functioning, but you can’t get the cart before the horse to use an old cliché.

The original guidelines said a state could begin to open when they had 14 days of decreasing case numbers. But reopening began way before reaching that mark. Besides that, people seemed to miss the part of how that opening was supposed to look with mask wearing and social distancing.

As of July 8

People, young and old just flocked to restaurants, bars, and beaches as if the pandemic didn’t exist. As a result, states that opened that way, Texas is one of those, have seen skyrocketing case numbers and in some places have scary situations in their hospitals. This was an example of poor decision making on the part of many folks—government and individuals. (Gov. Abbott finally mandated mask wearing. Thank goodness, but wish he’d done it sooner.)

So now, we have fall approaching and the Federal Government is insisting that we open schools. Just get those schools open so we can get our economy back on track. Of course, kids are struggling at home, both educationally and emotionally. I get that. And my heart aches for parents of kids with disabilities who haven’t had the support that they and their kids deserve. So I understand the desire to get back to school.

Here are some things that we need to open schools safely.

  1. Masks on everyone-kids and staff
  2. Space to spread out
  3. Testing with rapid results.
  4. Contact Tracing (literally non-existant in Texas. This only works if you get test results quickly—not 8 to 10 days as it is in Dallas County right now.)

To get space, we’d need fewer kids there. So, some districts are letting parents choose whether to send their kids or to keep them home for on-line learning. Learning would be all day, rather than an hour or so as it was during the spring. If say 50 % of your students stayed home, you could spread out the remaining pretty well.

Another possibility is you stagger the times kids are in schools like a 2-3 days as NYC is doing, which I mentioned above. Even so, if I were a working mom, I wouldn’t find that helpful. As a teacher what would I do with my kids on the days, the kids were not in class, but I had to teach? For the same reason the half day option is problematical.

Business and schools can only get back on track when we have a handle on the pandemic. That means, everyone must wear masks, we must socially distance. Don’t eat inside a restaurant or drink inside a bar. Keep gatherings small and preferably with only your immediate family. When we get a handle on the virus, then we can move forward to open schools. Look for that 14 day drop in cases before acting. If we had just followed those guidelines to begin with, we’d be in a better situation. I don’t envy local school administrations, teachers/staff, and parents with what they are facing in the fall.

And colleges have another whole set of problems.

At this point in Texas, I wouldn’t vote to open schools. Maybe by October or whenever we hit the 14 days of case numbers dropping. If everyone could be more patient, and if everyone would buckle down and follow the guidelines, then we can open schools safely with everyone there and wearing masks.

So, what’s going on in your school district? How do you feel about your kids returning to school? Should we just not worry about the impact on teachers, many of whom are over 50 with underlying medical conditions? What do we do if we have an outbreak in a school? Lots of questions. Not many answers. At least not many good answers.

I hope you had a great, safe July 4th and got to enter the Canada/America Book Event to win more than 20 e-books. Winner announced on July 11. You still have time. https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/post/the-theatre-canam   Love to hear from you.

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6 responses to “Schools & the Pandemic

  1. Trump is a complete fool and has no say on whether schools should open or remain closed. Profit before people is his only mantra. He could care less about the children. He wants to resume normal economic functions for his presidential bid. I’m sure he will be tough on the governors of each state who decide to wait to send children to schools. He’ll hold back funds and do the other childish things he does. I will be happy to see the last of him in January. But I digress.

    It has to be safe to send children back to school. School is important for kids. It will be good for their emotional and mental health to be back in school. So many have been isolated from friends/other kids since the spring. Also teachers can hopefully detect if a child is being abused at home and listen to the child’s story of what is going on. This doesn’t happen when they are at home.

    But you want the child to be safe and not contract the coronavirus, or have the teachers get it from the kids or parents, or have any of them bring it home to parents, grandparents, etc. It’s going to be a tough call. Even if kids go to school half time, they could still get the virus. If they stay home, I think a lot of kids will “go nuts” without the social contact of other kids, plus then there is the learning that they are missing out on.

    But no one should listen to the idiot in the White House.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, Susan. There’s no good answer to this one because we’ve made bad decisions previously. I still say wait to send kids until the number of cases has dropped for 14 days. Then you can send kids & staff with masks and maybe have regular times. And yes, it’s totally a local decision, and should be. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Vicki, I think the kids will probably adjust to wearing the masks and the social distancing. I really worry about the impact on our teachers and staff. And every day we learn something we didn’t know. I just heard they now don’t think the immunity someone has last for more than a couple of weeks. People who’ve had the virus and recovered have gotten it a second time. Gosh that’s scary. Be safe, my friend. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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  3. I’m a retired teacher of thirty-one years who lives in northern California with my wife. She also was a career educator, first as a preschool teacher and then director. Your piece is right on point. Many schools in California are opting to start the year in distance-learning, but schools in our area seem to be opening while also offering distance learning. If managing both forms of education falls on one person, I don’t envy any teacher in that situation.

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  4. I like your 14 days idea. I’m not sure how our local school system is going to handle opening school here, let alone figure out a date to open. They did the distance learning (I think that’s an old term for online), so they can start with that. Our health department district reports 0 cases today and 0 probables and 0 deaths. I’m sure individual areas will depend heavily on those reports to decide how they will proceed with schooling. Now if people would cooperate and take precautions we’d all be safer.

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