A friend asked me what local schools in my area are doing this fall. So this will be a rant. Don’t read more if you don’t care to know what I think.
I do not know what is happening with our grandchildren’s Montessori school. I do not see how their parents can afford the tuition even if the school is available. They are both out of work. The children have not been active in online schooling offered this summer because they are “strong-willed” children. I worry, but my opinions are not welcome about that so I’ve kept my opinions mostly to myself. Our sons are old enough to make their own decisions and I should stay out of it. It’s hard, though. I suggested testing a while back and that did not go over well.
Local schools are still dithering about how/if to open to students. They scheduled opening the school year in mid-September with part-time F2F, but recently announced a parent survey. I think they will do whatever the bigger districts do. They are afraid of offending local political powers more than death.
Sadly that might be literally true.
In the end, many schools will try a part-time structure until too many students and faculty get sick and they pull back. There was that summer camp with more than two hundred sick after less than a week, even though everyone had been tested before attending. [This story has been covered by most every new agency from left to right.]
Consider the outbreak at a Georgia overnight summer camp in June. Some 260 campers and staff tested positive out of 344 test results available. Among those ages 6-10, 51 percent got the virus; from 11-17 years old, 44 percent, and 18-21 years old, 33 percent.
This is all about public relations. There is a brand new school campus locally that none of the teachers have even seen in person. Administrators and the Board desperately want to open it up and use it, but based on what I have seen of recent public school builds, it will have small classrooms, not enough ventilation, and no easy way to socially distance students. I imagine the district is spending money on new furniture when they ought to be purchasing laptops and setting up tiny groups outdoors this summer to introduce kids on how to proceed so that distance learning can be productive . . . but no one is asking me. 😉
One teacher did ask for help about adjusting my old term project to a world where so much must be done at a distance. That old project is a bear—I did it myself several times, so I would know what I was asking. It was also the single assignment students were likely to come back and thank me for assigning. I offered a completely re-structured, reimagined project that preserves all but one of the key aspects of the old paper-and-page assignment while taking advantage of the current situation. I suggested viewing this as an opportunity to retool and prepare students for the real way research and reporting is being done today.
When I was teaching (including yearbook) I used to say that if you had a computer problem, find a fifteen year old to solve it for you. (Watch the three year old given access to a computer and how quickly they adjust.) The truth was I was good at solving computer glitches, but I am behind now, and I was rarely as adept as my students. All my best tricks came from the teenagers I was teaching.
This pandemic has created another, entirely strange difficulty for children. Learning via screen? We are not wired to communicate via machinery. Will these new systems benefit a different group of students who were disadvantaged by in-person group instruction? Can we learn to do it well enough? Can children learn it quicker? Maybe.
Maybe we should try.
I predicted to myself in March that we would be a year or more out of circulation. With strong national leadership I might have been right, but we don’t have strong national leadership. Case rates and death rates are both rising and I do not think we will see much improvement even with a vaccine before late next year, none at all if Trump is re-elected.
People, this is the new normal. It would be vastly improved if absolutely everyone masked, distanced, and stayed out of one another’s spaces. Rigorous isolation would prevent deaths.
But that is not going to happen. Even smart people who do not support Trump and who do believe Fauci and trust science take unnecessary chances.
We see a little improvement, let down our guard (such as it is) and cases balloon, we become more cautious until we see a little improvement and let down our guard again. Rinse. Repeat.
I fear it is entirely possible that even with a vaccine, “underlying conditions” will become a death sentence for most people in the world. Of course, some have the best care and rigorous sheltering and can go golfing.
I will go for a predawn walk.