Schools across the nation are struggling and looking for direction. Looking to understand the “how?”
How do we open?
How will we do social distancing with young children?
How will Kindergarten students wear masks all day?
How do we enforce these rules?
How do we keep everyone safe?
How do we afford this (in every sense of that word, time, resources and money)?
And it’s especially troubling as there is just not enough information to make even an EDUCATED guess what best practices should be in a pandemic. We, schools leaders, are not experts on this by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, we will do our best, we care about children, but we know as much as you do.
We also have no leadership from our government and now a lack of trust in it. Schools are rightfully concerned that the President is using their faculty and students as a pawn in politics. The visa threats Trump is giving us in higher education gives us good reason to question. So that leaves K-12 schools in each district independently “planning.”
And I listen to these school plans. I truly am trying to be on their side, but for any school’s Education leadership to claim they have this covered, is dangerous and laughable. Not that they are claiming they have all the answers, but they do give parents their “plans.” All of these plans seem so arbitrary to this educator. Yesterday on a call with a school, they were explaining their de-densifying plan and the role of “pods” of 12 children. When I ask why 12? Why not 13? Or 5? They can’t answer. There is no science here. There is no reason. It is just a number they feel will make people feel more safe. No science, just a number out of a hat. And how will they socially distance these 12? And their faculty? Silence. Or sometimes I hear about dividing the school into zones, all costly, all hard to enforce and the clock is ticking!
The President did get one thing right, it’s expensive. The costs?! Unfathomable. There is no way low-income schools that are zoned in geographical areas with lower taxes, can pull this off. Again, putting the most vulnerable populations at the greatest risk. The cost of pods requires adding staff, making physical changes to the building, changing air flow, PPE, etc. And all teachers are needed. Your PE teacher may be teaching math next year. Not many are realizing that opening schools may not be the best educational choice either. We aren’t ready.
And let’s be clear, even the richest of schools don’t have these funds. Schools don’t have extra funds sitting by the wayside! I’ve seen school budgets. Every cent is used. Education is expensive. And while the government is fine bailing out companies, schools will also need billions of dollars to meet guidelines, but as Trump said “unacceptable. Too expensive.” So that is definitely not happening and even if it did, those funds would not be usable until November.
The logistics in de-densifying schools will require most schools moving into hybrid models where students are not on campus every day of the week. So the very issue we are trying to solve, which let’s be honest, is the economy and child care, is still an issue! We still will have parents (and don’t forget single parents!) that can’t work because of childcare issues. Count me as one. I’m a mom who also works. This has been impossible. Truly impossible.
So what to do?
Let’s start with the number one priority, SAFETY and getting this virus under control. And let’s use, of course, science. We have zero idea what the possibile long term issues can be with a child who contracts COVID. We are just beginning to learn about the adult long term issues. We know that the virus grows in environments like schools (seen by the case jumps in the few schools that are open). And we know that cases are going UP in this country and opening schools while cases are going up will have life and DEATH consequences. So to pretend that we can responsibility open schools this fall is ridiculous.
Let’s call it now.
The fall will be distant.
Let schools use their time and resources towards one plan to execute. Listening to the various plans and teams schools have had to put in place to be ready for 6 different scenarios is a waste of money and is honestly hurting educators who are exhausted and just getting more scared/angry. If schools were committed to distant learning this fall they could spend this time focusing on delivering a quality online education rather than crossing every toe and finger this all will go away and they can go back to business as usual.
Next priority: Childcare. This is real. We need childcare for these at home studying children. One way is to create micro communities where families share the burden and host “school.” But I also know of a whole lot of people looking for work and a whole lot of young adults learning distantly at home as well.
What an opportunity to create jobs and give our youth an opportunity to give back. One dear friend also recently wrote about this idea and called this childcare force, America Cares. A program like the peace corps, but for childcare.
Personally I think this is a WIN WIN WIN deal. You know I only like those.
#1 WIN: Safety. No experimenting with children and our teachers. And really the nation!
#2 WIN: Schools will have a direction. Maybe not the one they envisioned or wanted, but one they can now spend time and resources working towards something they can execute.
#3 WIN: Society. Putting people to work and letting America come together to rally for our children.
And for those who are worried that this plan will put children behind. That children are not going to be ready for the next academic year. Now THAT is a problem us educators can solve. That is something we can do. That we have research on. So let us solve that one, not how to keep children safe in a pandemic with zero funds!