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Schools reopening or not

"Roger"

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There has been some discussion about this in another thread, but there is so much bickering on that thread, I wonder if the discussion is getting lost as some people avoid the thread. It is such an important topic, I think it deserves its own thread.

For openers, I am posting two pieces from The Washington Post below that discuss the matter. One is an anti opening piece, one is a fuller discussion of the pros and cons.

@Cornell, you will be happy to know that you convinced me that a full opening would be best. On the other hand, when I mention that to others, I get the negatives seen in the two articles thrown at me. To be honest, I don't think there is a good answer. No matter what, there will be big negatives.



I might mention one issue that has come up locally in my area. If some sort of hybred plan is adopted that allows for some social distancing, what to do about school busses. If they try to keep the number of kids on a bus down, there will not be enough busses available.
 

bbodb1

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@Luanne had posted a resource developed by the New Mexico Dept of Ed on how that state was addressing this question:

New Mexico Dept of Education produced a 25 page document on schools. It addresses a closed, hybrid and completely open scenarios. If anyone is interested, here is the link.

https://webnew.ped.state.nm.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/20NMPED_ReentryGuide_Hybrid.pdf
...and that set up seems to be gaining traction around the country.

Our district (at present) seems to be trying a similar approach. Parents can opt to have their students attend school in person or virtually. But one restriction that concerns me is our district is saying that once this choice is made, it can only be changed at semester break. I understand why the district does not want to allow a back and forth (between in person and remote learning) to occur on a frequent basis, but the limit of changes made only at the semester break seems to restrictive.

Among the aspects of reopening that concern me at present, how will the district respond to Roger's question:
...I might mention one issue that has come up locally in my area. If some sort of hybred plan is adopted that allows for some social distancing, what to do about school busses. If they try to keep the number of kids on a bus down, there will not be enough busses available...
Our district (at this time) wants to keep bus schedules as they were previously. Additionally, masks for students are recommended. This is going to be a problem area.
 
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missyrcrews

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And if the parents choose to keep the child home, then there has to be some sort of accountability. I agree that the semester is too far in for that. Kids fell off the academic radar once parents were responsible. Not good. In so many instances...IN MY SCHOOL DISTRICT (can't speak for others)….the child is better off at school. Emotionally, physically, mentally.
 

bbodb1

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Not meaning to simply state the obvious here, but I think it is fairly universal that everyone believes all kids should be physically back in school for many reasons. The issues on how to do this safely have become much more complex over the past 4 months. Some students may need to be educated from home (i.e. remote learning) due to health concerns and schools need to be prepared for this BUT the reality is remote learning is inferior to physically being in school.

Schools need to reconfigure many of their environments in order to increase the likelihood of providing safe (healthy) environments. My concern is many districts will not do this - in other words, students will still be crammed into the same classrooms they left last year, at the same numbers (meaning students per grade and students per classroom).
 

elaine

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At our (upper middle class) school in VA/DC suburbs, my friend who subbed there and has a HS freshman said she's "400% sure that at least 50% of kids did not log onto school website at all this spring" and her kid only did it because she made a schedule, was home all day to monitor, and checked his work. If that's the course for a school with few low income students, I can't imagine the stats for those with no parent home during the day, not able to monitor, help, etc.? I fear "lost kids, lost year."
Even with a parent checking, it's not the same. I had 2 kids in HS same time. 1 would have done bare minimum with me checking on him. The other would've been fine and done all work. I vote masks and school. American Academy of Pediatrics is advocating opening schools.
 

jackio

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My district has just opened special ed summer school. These are kids who are normally in 12:1:1 or 8:1:1 classes so they are able to socially distance. They swapped out the tables for individual desks. However they went with the buses as usual and encourage (not mandate) the wearing of masks. Temps are taken for all children before entering the building (I question the value of this since many children are asymptomatic but it eases the parents' minds). All staff are wearing masks, and some are wearing shields also. The staff members must answer the CDC survey when they arrive for work. A 4th question has been added to see if any of the staff members recently traveled to any of the states on NY's quarantine list. I believe that the district will use the outcome of this session to determine how we will open in September. We are still waiting for guidance from the governor, but I think we will be opening without too many modifications.
 

Cornell

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Thanks @"Roger" for starting this.

I have a lot of random / assorted thoughts on this....

IL is requiring masks of students at all levels, even at the preschool level. I know TUG is a very pro-mask group. Fine. But there are a lot of valid concerns about the role of masks in schools. Our phase 4 rules & regs here in IL will make "normal" high school impossible. So our teens will not be going back to school per usual. I am pretty upset about it. To the point where I have considered having my daughter live with one of her aunts in another state to finish high school in a normal environment. But increasingly, that is going to be hard to find no matter where you live. I have a sister in Des Moines. DM public schools released their plan this week - kids will be in school ONE day per week.

My daughter, who will be in 12th grade, has lots of peers scrambling to re-arrange their schedules so that they can graduate after Semester 1 this year b/c the whole school situation is so awful. I frankly don't blame these kids & if my daughter could pull it* off I'd encourage her to do the same.

We should find out our school district's plan this week. I really could give a *$% at this point b/c I know I won't like it.

There was an article in the WSJ earlier this week that showed teens are the most affected cohort emotionally / mentally by what has happened these past few months.

*One of the many sucker-punches that my daughter has gotten since March is that her local US high school is not giving her ANY credit for her Semester 2 course work this past year b/c she left her Swiss exchange high school mid-semester. So she is now behind on credits through no fault of her own. To make up for these credits she is taking two online classes (where you work at your own pace). She is learning nothing in these classes. They are merely to "check a box" with the registrar to indicate a certain number of credits. A complete waste of time for all involved.

We are just of the mindset that we need to gut through this year (which is a long time for a teen) and focus on getting done w/HS and moving on.

Thanks for reading my rant.

(Oh -- I cannot imagine how difficult it will be if you are a working parent of elementary aged kids the won't be in school 5x a week. A whole different set of challenges).
 

Cornell

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One last comment -- kids who are living in disadvantaged situations are going to be the MOST hurt by a lack of full reopening of schools. Given the state of society right now, I believe giving our young people a good education, meals at school if needed, structure, mentoring, guidance etc, is possibly one of the best things we can do as a society to try to make our world a better place.
 

Ken555

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One of my friends is a teacher at a well regarded public high school (he's one of those individuals who went to law school, didn't like practicing law, and loves teaching). He's on the committee for his school to determine how to reopen safely, and from what he's said it's extremely difficult to make any decisions. The news out of northern California about those 40 principals (https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/More-than-40-Bay-Area-school-principals-in-15381335.php) makes it worse.

I sympathize with every parent (and child) about this issue, as the impact of a poorer education will be lasting. Considering many who attend public school are already suffering with subpar education, this is a double whammy that should have everyone concerned. We need well educated citizens and residents for many reasons.
 

bbodb1

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One of my friends is a teacher at a well regarded public high school (he's one of those individuals who went to law school, didn't like practicing law, and loves teaching). He's on the committee for his school to determine how to reopen safely, and from what he's said it's extremely difficult to make any decisions. The news out of northern California about those 40 principals (https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/More-than-40-Bay-Area-school-principals-in-15381335.php) makes it worse.

I sympathize with every parent (and child) about this issue, as the impact of a poorer education will be lasting. Considering many who attend public school are already suffering with subpar education, this is a double whammy that should have everyone concerned. We need well educated citizens and residents for many reasons.
You and I see many things differently, @Ken555 but I absolutely agree with you on this.
 

Ken555

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You and I see many things differently, @Ken555 but I absolutely agree with you on this.
Common ground is always good to discover. I'm sure we agree on many issues. Contentious TUG posts are naturally isolated to extreme situations with strong opinions.
 

Cornell

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"...the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families."

 

isisdave

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What about teachers and other staff? In particular, those at risk, over 60 etc.? SIL retired at 65 four years ago and has been subbing at least one day a week since then. But not this year. And she says that quite a few other subs -- the ones who can actually teach -- are similarly retired teachers.

It's been a long time, but I seem to recall that a lot of bus drivers were 55+ retirees from the military or fire department or such.

If classes are half size, will twice as many teachers be needed?

Has anyone checked to see if there'll be enough staff?
 

Ken555

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What about teachers and other staff? In particular, those at risk, over 60 etc.? SIL retired at 65 four years ago and has been subbing at least one day a week since then. But not this year. And she says that quite a few other subs -- the ones who can actually teach -- are similarly retired teachers.

It's been a long time, but I seem to recall that a lot of bus drivers were 55+ retirees from the military or fire department or such.

If classes are half size, will twice as many teachers be needed?

Has anyone checked to see if there'll be enough staff?
The safety of teachers and staff is absolutely one of the issues those involved are considering.
 

DannyTS

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Who cannot work remotely, at least not all the time? Who has been going to work?

Doctors? check
Nurses? check
Delivery? check
Police? check
Walmart workers? check
Costco workers? check
Restaurant staff? check
Hair dressers? check
Construction workers? check
Many others? check

Teachers? NO, there is a safety issue, maybe in the fall, maybe in 2021 or 2022 if there is a vaccine.

Personal experience, I am a bit upset about this. Our gardener's daughter has been helping him since April with cutting grass, trimming etc. He told me the first day they came together: "she is a teacher" and his face expression meant: she has a lot of free time now so she can do this on the side. Or at least this is how I interpreted it.

Our part time help with the kids (in normal times) works in a school (administration). Her school is supposed to go back full time in the fall. The teachers were told to let the school know if there is a medical condition that would prevent them from returning to school. Do you know how many teachers claimed they had a medical condition? You guessed it right, 100%. Young and old, slim and not so slim, all of them. What are the odds?
 

bogey21

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My Daughter's 3 kids all attend a relatively small Christian School in a city of about 125,000. She tells me the school has made a lot of changes to make things safer but are contemplating all classes being taught on campus...

George
 

missyrcrews

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Who cannot work remotely, at least not all the time? Who has been going to work?

Doctors? check
Nurses? check
Delivery? check
Police? check
Walmart workers? check
Costco workers? check
Restaurant staff? check
Hair dressers? check
Construction workers? check
Many others? check

Teachers? NO, there is a safety issue, maybe in the fall, maybe in 2021 or 2022 if there is a vaccine.

Personal experience, I am a bit upset about this. Our gardener's daughter has been helping him since April with cutting grass, trimming etc. He told me the first day they came together: "she is a teacher" and his face expression meant: she has a lot of free time now so she can do this on the side. Or at least this is how I interpreted it.

Our part time help with the kids (in normal times) works in a school (administration). Her school is supposed to go back full time in the fall. The teachers were told to let the school know if there is a medical condition that would prevent them from returning to school. Do you know how many teachers claimed they had a medical condition? You guessed it right, 100%. Young and old, slim and not so slim, all of them. What are the odds?
I was expected to be available during normal school hours to my students. I was available far more than that...they'd often still be up when I got home from my Target job (which I work outside of school hours even during non-Covid times) and so we'd work together at 10:30pm. I'll teach whenever they will listen! I know that there are teachers who are anxious about going back. I've been out in it every day because of Target, so it's not a big deal for me, as long as common sense prevails. But to each his/her own.
 

Cornell

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Public school teachers have their interests well-represented by their powerful unions.

And.... workers in grocery stores and big box retailers were working through this whole pandemic (even before masks became a “thing”) and there weren’t mass outbreaks among them.
 

MabelP

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Missy Crew,
Thank you for all you do for students...you are one of the heroes.
I am the mother of a fifth grade teacher who works at a pub in the evenings. I personally taught for 37 years. We both feel that students need to be in school five days a week. We worry especially about the Special Ed kids and lower socioeconomic children. My son teaches in Silicon Valley where computers are readily available. The parents were very cooperative and proactive with distance learning. The majority of them were working from home, and could monitor and help them with their studies. BUT, when June rolled around, they were very tired of teaching their children. Most importantly, besides the academics, these kids were missing out on social emotional skills. Let the kids be kids and listen to the pediatricians.
 

Luanne

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Public school teachers have their interests well-represented by their powerful unions.
I guess that's why they get paid next to nothing for the job they do.
 

DannyTS

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I guess that's why they get paid next to nothing for the job they do.
Teachers are generally underpaid and this is very sad. Our society does not have the right priorities at all.

But teachers also have powerful unions. The two statements are not necessarily contradictory. Maybe they just don't use their strength to the best interest of their members.
 

Cornell

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I guess that's why they get paid next to nothing for the job they do.
I disagree. Starting salaries are low for public school teachers but those with experience make a very nice living especially when you factor in their compensation package.... benefits and pensions that are unheard of in the private sector.
 

Luanne

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I disagree. Starting salaries are low for public school teachers but those with experience make a very nice living especially when you factor in their compensation package.... benefits and pensions that are unheard of in the private sector.
Feel free to disagree but I feel all teachers are underpaid. I'm sure my sister who taught 4th grade would argue with you about the benefits and pension.
 

MabelP

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Unfortunately, long distance learning expectations were different from district to district and schools within districts. My son’s school had the teachers doing Zoom class meetings each morning, plus live lessons in Reader‘s Workshop, Writer‘s Workshop and Math. I watched my grandson five days a week as my son worked full days. As I stated previously, I worry about the socioeconomic disparities in distant learning.
 

Cornell

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@MabelP -- Big time. I agree. I think it will just create bigger disparities if we keep schools closed and that makes me sad. Plus schools are a place where there are mandated reporters, etc. Kids can easily be forgotten or overlooked if they are not at school and bad stuff is happening at home.
 
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