In his usual infinite wisdom, our president says that all children should go back to school in August, which is when most schools open now rather than in the “fall”. Adamant that this happen, he threatens to withhold educational money if schools do not comply. (Nothing like threatening to do something he is not allowed to do under the Constitution. But that has never stopped him before.) I don’t expect the president to understand school structure, mission or practices (or anything else, for that matter). He is not capable of understanding the complexities of education at this time. Professional educators are having a hard time doing so.
Frequently we hear that our students are our most important consideration from people who really are more interested in saving money or in political agendas. However, we now face a world where there are hard facts to face. Some parents can’t provide day care because they work or can’t afford it or it is no longer available. With the Corona Virus the fallback to having grandparents and extended family provide a haven for children is not possible. Many stay-at-home parents have been facing the daunting task of home schooling. Home schooling can be brutal if you aren’t trained for it as most aren’t.
If schools are to open, teachers need to prepare. If schools are going digital, teachers need to prepare. Even digitally savvy teachers find providing all their lessons online a stretch. People complain that lectures are boring. Well, sitting in front of a computer can be as well if the teacher preparing the lessons doesn’t know what s/he is doing. There has to be provision for students to experience group work, present information to the class, conduct research and the entire range of activities in school education provides.
And, those are the easy questions to answer. Here are harder questions that a school district administration should be able to answer before sending our most precious children back to school.
Here are posed by a retired administrator (which I have stolen from someone who was given permission to post them.) I am shameless. Going back to school seems so simple, but I don’t believe the school district near me has considered them. That board is on vacation until the 29th of this month – a week before school starts. How can teachers plan ahead if they don’t know if they will be teaching online or in person? How can parents plan for child care or back to school clothes if they don’t know where or if the kids are going back to school? Planning ahead doesn’t seem to be the current national modus operandi. But that is another issue. Here are the questions:
- If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine for two to three weeks? Is their sick leave covered, paid?
- If that teacher has five classes a day with 30 students each, do all 150 of those students need to then stay home and quarantine for 14 days?
- Do all 150 of those students now have to get tested? Who pays for those tests? Are they happening at school? How are the parents being notified? Does everyone in each of those kids’ families need to get tested? Who pays for that?
- What if someone who lives in the same house as a teacher tests positive? Does that teacher now need to take 14 days off of work to quarantine? Is that time off covered, paid?
- Where is the district going to find a substitute teacher who will work in a classroom full of exposed, possibly infected students for substitute pay?
- Substitutes teach in multiple schools. What if they are diagnosed with COVID-19? Do all the kids in each school now have to quarantine and get tested? Who is going to pay for that?
- What if a student in your child’s class tests positive? What if your child tests positive? Does every other student and teacher they have been around quarantine? Do we all get notified who is infected and when? Or because of HIPAA regulations (a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge) are parents and teachers just going to get mysterious “may have been in contact” emails all year long?
These questions are from frontlineeducation.com:
- How can you effectively mitigate risk for staff and students with underlying health conditions such as immunocompromised, lung or heart conditions, diabetes, mild or severe asthma, and/or obesity?
- Which data or metrics are you using to inform decision-making for next year?
- Have you established a relationship with your local health department or official?
- What is the most effective symptom screening process?
- Should symptom screening be done at school or at home?
- If you are symptom screening at a school site, what equipment needs are you considering and how are you funding them?
- What mechanical ventilation system modifications need consideration?
- How are you modifying student/staff mobility during the school day?
- What personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and recommendations are you considering?
- How can you deliver on effective hand washing and sanitizing needs?
- In the event of a confirmed case involving someone at the school, have you considered two-way mandatory reporting with your local health officer or department?
- In the event of a confirmed case at school:
- What isolation protocols are in place?
- What cleaning protocols do you need to have ready?
- Do you have a trained strike team for execution of contact tracing, cleaning, closing/reopening, and continued learning?
- How are you leaning into your key partners and vendors like transportation, food service, day care, and others?
- Virtual conferencing remains a critical component of distance or remote learning. Should you declare a preferred platform? What will happen when some platforms return to regular fee schedules?
- How will you help students, staff, and families access broadband internet?
- What device break/fix protocols will you need to beef up in the event that you have to move in and out of emergency remote learning?
- Professional development will remain a high priority this summer. We have to get better at delivering synchronous and asynchronous learning. What is your professional development dashboard for the summer? Does it include assessing student achievement in a virtual world? Should you modify the calendar to increase teacher professional development this summer? (Was personal development a high priority during the summer? School begins in August in many states. We are only a third of a way through the summer.)
- What school schedules may need to be modified to reduce student mobility during the day and mitigate risk? For instance, should you have teachers travel to classrooms for specials or electives at the elementary level?
- What supply chain challenges exist for devices? Will you need to expedite ordering today to have your inventory in place for the start of the 2020-2021 school year?
What modifications need to be made to our visitor and volunteer management system?
What office design modifications need to be made for your staff to return to work?
What do we do about internships, cooperative programming, and other work-based learning we place students in as part of our school-to-work efforts?
- What decisions about co- and extra-curricular offerings need to be made?
- How will you mitigate risk during new staff orientation and back-to-school events?
- How will you deliver music ensembles?
- What tools and supplies will teachers and other staff need in each scenario, including virtual scenarios?
- What busing and transportation scenarios will unfold, and how will we modify parent drop-off and pick-up if there is a dramatic surge in this method of transportation?
- How will you beef up your virtual library so students can access literature?
- Staffing/hiring ― will teachers be reluctant to return to school? Will they refuse to return to school (and will that mean schools will need to aggressively recruit)?
- “How can teachers provide non-verbal cues like a desk tap if maintaining social distance?
- “Will students/families have to tell school personnel if they/members of their household have traveled to COVID hotspots?”
- “How will staff be evaluated on the many standards that require collaboration (professionally and in the classroom)?”
- “If a teacher dies from COVID contracted while at school, does the state still pay their surviving spouse the [state-funded] life insurance payout?”
Check out https://www.fcps.edu/returntoschool/return-school-questions-and-answers and Rachel saved program.
Special education kids need contact – physical contact with teachers. How will this be provided in online learning? (my question)
No district will answer all these questions ahead of time and new questions will arise as the system tries to fight this new war. This is not a good time for a school board to take a vacation. And, this is not a good time for a willingly ignorant president to demand that all students go back to school this fall – which is this month – about ten days from now. This IS rocket science and the education of this generation depends on diligent consideration.
(Please forgive the formatting errors. My computer didn’t always do what I want it to do, but you can get the idea.)