How to handle a pandemic is a new territory for school officials and educators. Here are some observations of odd and downright scary practices surrounding the disease and school attendance.
- Adults online. Students are in-person. School board members meet online to discuss business. They’re worried about catching the virus, but they determine it’s best to send students and teachers back to in-person school. If board members are concerned about Covid-19, children and teachers are too.
- Watch those teachers. There’s no school attendance for students, but teachers must still report to school to provide online instruction. They’re not trusted to teach safely from home. Trust teachers and treat them like professionals.
- Covid-19 musical chairs. Children in school exposed to the coronavirus are moved around every 15 minutes called “musical chairs” to change the air. This keeps the school from having to quarantine students who are exposed or asymptomatic. It’s disruptive, dangerous, and a sign that students and teachers shouldn’t be in class.
- Standardized tests go on. In-person schooling is deemed unsafe, but administrators insist that students and teachers come together for standardized testing. Parents despised these tests before the pandemic. The disease hasn’t made them more endearing. Is a test worth catching Covid-19? Aren’t they collecting enough data about children online? Isn’t that scary enough?
- Calling teachers essential workers. Teachers are important, and it’s too bad it took a virus to have some politicians see how important they are. But they can teach from afar for now when it is too dangerous to return to school. No one likes this set-up, but it is safer. Calling them essential is bullying them to return to class.
- Students check in one day a week. Understandably, school officials want to keep tabs on students and lower class sizes for social distancing, but the virus isn’t going to take a day off. Students also get mixed up and show up at school on the wrong days. Maybe there are safer ways to check in with students, making sure they’re connected online, by phone, driveway visitations, or something no one has thought of yet.
- Mandating masks. It has been said repeatedly that masks are critical for protecting yourself from Covid-19, so it is hard to believe this is an issue in school districts.
- The virus is not religious. Betsy DeVos continues to push for public schools to open. She highlights religious schools that stay open. The Catholic school where Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s children attend just had two students and a teacher come down with Covid-19. The virus doesn’t care about religion.
- Private schools are often virtual. While DeVos pushes for public schools to open, many private schools are virtual. President Trump’s son is going to school virtually.
- No planning time. Teachers in some places aren’t getting planning time, but the work they do online is grueling. Some teach in-person, simultaneously online or hybrid. It’s like two jobs! It’s scary enough trying to accomplish everything online. Give teachers planning time!
- They’re pleased to stay open. In Ohio, statewide cases of coronavirus cases tied to schools increased again in the week of Sept. 28 to Oct. 4. The four weeks of the ODH dashboard have shown new case totals of 247, then 394, then 440, and then 530 in Thursday’s release. One school district hasn’t gotten hit hard with the virus. They’re happy to be still open. Maybe they should take a hint.
- Plexiglass. A professor expressed concern that the plexiglass lectern didn’t reach his face. A picture of children in a Texas school showed plexiglass squares that barely reached the top of the student’s head. How safe is all that plastic plexiglass? Research seems to be lacking. It might help, but it is no substitute for masks and social distancing.
- How’s the air in that classroom? Is there adequate ventilation? Is the air circulating? Teachers and parents around the world are still asking that question.
- It’s a virus. How many times are school officials and teachers blamed for schools not opening? They didn’t cause the coronavirus, and they shouldn’t be pressured to open schools before they’re safe. Teachers shouldn’t have to plead for patience and kindness. They’re trying to keep children, themselves, and their families safe.
- Richard Corcoran is not a teacher. Floridians know this. Florida’s education commissioner Richard Corcoran demands that teachers must return to the classroom. How many Corcoran’s are out there that don’t take the virus seriously? Corcoran, like DeVos, has never been a teacher and can sit in his office and stay safe while the pandemic flourishes. Both of these individuals are intentionally irresponsible and put the lives of teachers and students at risk.
Learning is essential, and no doubt students will need to catch up after Covid-19. But children can still learn, and school districts can still work to assist families. Teachers will continue to teach through remote learning. Stay safe. Be kind to one another. Use common sense. Continue to think up unique ways to reach out and help families and teachers during these trying times.