22 votes

What are your thoughts on the possibility of public schools re-opening?

My feelings are a bit mixed as there are painful consequences on both sides of the equation. However, I ultimately feel that schools in their current set up cannot work in the current environment and shouldn't be re-opened. The likelihood of the virus spreading and killing grandparents, parents, and teachers is guaranteed. But I feel like the US has to address the negative consequences of kids staying at home. What that would look like, I'm not 100% sure. I don't even think you can apply a set of guidelines that would fit every situation out there.

Some things that I think would work in some areas:

  • Open air schools
  • Cafeteria food delivery to students on free, or reduced lunch.
  • School-provided internet hot spots (I think this is being provided for already in some places)
  • Traveling teachers- teachers providing some sort of in-person check ups on students, especially those that are at-risk.
  • Schools move towards being open in the Spring, Summer, and partial Fall, with Winter break replacing Summer break.
  • Schools partially re-open, with 1/5th the students coming in on one day a week.

Would really be interested in hearing the thoughts and ideas of others on this topic. Especially the people who work in the education field.

16 comments

  1. [4]
    RyJones
    Link
    I've tried to type this up a couple of times, but I'll keep it short and sweet. If we, as a species, could control ourselves for a few weeks, this would be over. We can't, and we won't. There is...

    I've tried to type this up a couple of times, but I'll keep it short and sweet.

    If we, as a species, could control ourselves for a few weeks, this would be over.

    We can't, and we won't.

    There is no good answer to your question.

    How much education and socialization does a kid need to miss to be at permanent disadvantage to older and younger near-peers?

    If schools open up in the fall of 2021, we're going to have a massive social a/b experiment on the kids that started school in 2019, 2020, and 2021. We probably won't like the results.

    29 votes
    1. [2]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      This is what is so fucking goddamn fucking infuriating about living in the fucking United Fucking States right now. If we had competent leadership, we would not be in the situation we're in right...

      If we, as a species, could control ourselves for a few weeks, this would be over.

      We can't, and we won't.

      There is no good answer to your question.

      This is what is so fucking goddamn fucking infuriating about living in the fucking United Fucking States right now. If we had competent leadership, we would not be in the situation we're in right now. If there was, perhaps, a detailed plan that was researched and developed long before the pandemic actually happened that we could have followed, we wouldn't be in this situation. We would be able to do comprehensive contact tracing and containment, and be able to provide people with a clear set of guidelines, and enforce them.

      Instead of facing 4-6 weeks of hard lockdown, were everyone toughs it out and then cautiously returns to normal, we're in this fucked up place where every state (and sometimes city) has a different plan and different opinions. So instead of actually controlling the pandemic, we're just surviving it (and only sort of). And I'm so fucking angry. Because I'm doing what I think I is necessary to minimize the spread by staying home (because I'm fortunate enough to be able to), not going out, not meeting up with friends, and wearing a mask. And meanwhile all it takes to fuck this up is a small percentage of the population dismissing the pandemic as "not that bad" or "fake news" or deciding that your personal needs are more important than protecting others that you will never see or meet.

      And now instead of having a conversation about how some students will be mildly impacted by losing a few weeks of school, we're having discussions about the severe developmental impact it will have on kids to potentially have miss months or a year of in-person schooling.

      And I have two things to say about this. First to the parents that are following quarantine procedures, I'm sorry. This is shitty, and your kids are being unfairly impacted. To all the rest, fuck you. Yes, your kids are going to be impacted by this insanity. Except there is a non-zero amount of blame that falls on you. So now you can either accept that your kids will be negatively impacted by a world-altering events that cause fear and anxiety, and accept that the only way to minimize this is to do your part to control the pandemic. OR, you can continue to stick your head in the sand and ignore the advice of experts, and let this fucking shitty situation last as long as possible until we either let enough people die to achieve herd immunity, or we get vaccine. But either way, it's not going to be over in time for school.

      I'm also slightly drunk. But mostly angry

      26 votes
      1. kfwyre
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I'm angry too. I tend not to express it here on Tildes since I can't really articulate it in a productive way, but deep down inside I'm livid at where we are. I'm angry at leadership for their...

        I'm angry too. I tend not to express it here on Tildes since I can't really articulate it in a productive way, but deep down inside I'm livid at where we are. I'm angry at leadership for their transparent carelessness and outright malice. I'm mad at our country for letting ourselves turn an indiscriminate serial killer of a virus into an asinine culture war and team sporting match. I'm pissed off at the people who see widespread suffering as a chance to spread irreverence, hate, and, worst of all, flat out misinformation. I'm disgusted by the immaturity and destructive selfishness I see from so many adults and leaders on a near constant basis.

        There is no excuse for where we are. None. Even if we can make the argument that we didn't know how bad it was going to be back when it started (which is tenuous at best), we've had four full months to process this and see how it is playing out across the entire world the entire time. We should know better, and the most damning indictment I can think of for our country and its failures are that nobody seems to care about how much suffering and loss has been caused by this. 135,000 dead in our country alone, and that's not counting the many who "recovered" but will likely have chronic health issues the rest of their lifetimes on account of this. It doesn't account for the anxiety and stress created by this, multiplied across many more millions who have never had the virus but are nonetheless still suffering under its oppressive secondary effects.

        We're numb to the numbers. They mean nothing. Nobody gives a shit. I don't know why. Let's try to break that: if we wrote the names of every person in the US who has died from this -- just those who died -- and we limited each name to the width of an inch, the line of names would stretch for two full miles. If you decided to have a moment of silence for all of the dead, and you let each death only last a single second in your memorial, you would be silent for a full day and a half for America alone.

        For any readers out there, grab a copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. In fact, no need: here's a digital version. Sit down and read it or, at the very least, just start scrolling down. Meanwhile, reflect on how each individual word in the book -- right down to every the and a and of -- represents a person who has died in our country. Its famous opening line, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" represents ten separate Americans, each with formerly full lives and families and people who cared about them and people who are heartbroken -- devastated that they are no longer here.

        If we want instead to talk about number of infected, well, then read through the whole A Song of Fire and Ice series -- all five of George R. R. Martin's doorstop novels -- back to back. Each and every single word on every single page across all of those books represents someone who's been infected. Here they are on a bookshelf, for scale.

        Except, I'm lying. I wish I weren't, but that's not actually true because the series is only 1.7 million words long. Each word in the books actually, in truth, represents two infected people. That's where we're at right now, and it makes my fucking blood boil and my heart hurt. Deeply. Underneath the roiling surface of my anger is profound sorrow.

        So many have died. Many more are continuing to die. And their deaths seem to carry no cultural weight at all. Nobody seems to care. It's infuriating. We need to get our heads out of our individualist asses and start doing something for the common good before we flat out fall apart.

        The people I'm angriest on behalf of are the healthcare workers. I know people who have been doggedly working since this started, putting up with constant difficulty and fear. They're sweating every single day under layers of oppressive PPE (to say nothing of the times before they even had that) and have to deal with a constant cycle of suffering and loss. We've not honored their efforts but spit in their faces. Because of our carelessness they have so much more hard work ahead of them.

        There's something rotten in us -- in our country -- that we are where we are right now. We should never have been here, and I have no faith that we've learned our lessons.

        18 votes
    2. teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      If millennials have it rough, I feel even worse for the covid generation.

      If millennials have it rough, I feel even worse for the covid generation.

      11 votes
  2. kfwyre
    Link
    Teacher in the US here. I talked a bit about this in another thread recently. It's really hard to call the shot right now because we're looking at something a month or more out, which in COVID...

    Teacher in the US here. I talked a bit about this in another thread recently.

    It's really hard to call the shot right now because we're looking at something a month or more out, which in COVID time, is an eternity. Furthermore, things are looking worse for us now than they've ever been, and even if we were to somehow all completely agree to stop this and take all measures with full compliance today, we still wouldn't have resolution by the time schools need to re-open.

    It is hard for me as a teacher not to be frustrated by this. The shutting down of schools was unprecedented and was by far the clearest and most unilateral message to families that we needed to take this seriously. The nation got this message, four full months eternities ago, in March.

    At this point the whole world is all too aware of how our country has been subject to such glaring mismanagement and misinformation. There are many, too many people who somehow still don't understand there is a threat despite it completely disrupting life for every single family in every single state in our country, as well as in countries across the world. Incalculable suffering and loss is the result. We are being slapped across our national face right now for our arrogance, and we need to take the sting it produces to heart, or we will continue to lose more. Many, many more.

    I say all of this from my soapbox as a preface for the idea that much of the discussion I've seen about opening schools assumes the best, but I think, given our track record, the decision should be informed by assuming the worst. It is only reasonable to estimate that our terrible trend will hold. If at this point people still haven't changed their ways, what will cause them to? I don't have any sort of faith in any answer to that.

    With that in mind, my short answer is that we simply shouldn't re-open. Re-opening will, more likely than not, cause our already out of control spread to further skyrocket. As such, the best case scenario at this point is to start now to come up with very strong remote learning plans and expectations so that families and students can at least have that consistency, rather than the uncertainty and shifting sands that a more flexible model will undoubtedly create. If we re-open and then have to shut down and do remote learning anyway on account of viral spread, it's better to head that off at the pass and just start remote in the first place.

    The problem with this is that it takes no burden off of working parents. If you are someone who has been quarantining this whole time and you do not have kids, then I encourage you to think about how much more difficult your life would be if you had to manage a little one (or several) on top of your normal daily routines, whatever they are. I also encourage you to think about how you can't take them fun places and do lots of fun things with them, because you're locked out of so many different options (the local ice cream place, the movie theater, amusement parks, etc.). I encourage you to think about how at this point kids are probably sick of screens and are crawling up the wall for lack of social interaction and hanging out and enjoying a summer and life for what it normally is.

    Every parent I know and spoke to in my job was already tangibly exhausted from quarantine back in May. Something I don't often see discussed is that quarantining locked families out of child care not just in the form of schools but also in the form of extended family members. In the US, two working parents is now the norm, so grandparents and other family members often take up the child-care mantle not out of kindness but out of sheer necessity, since there's not usually one parent staying at home any more. Quarantining caused a double removal of child care -- not having the relief of either schools or family. These parents, so many parents, simply do not have the stamina to push further like this, and that goes for many in the best case scenario -- those unaffected personally by the virus and those that have maintained employment. For many parents, however, life looks worse than it ever has. Job loss, illness, or death has pushed family life to new and horrifying depths.

    Schools are a relief valve for them -- a way of lessening the mounting pressures that have accumulated over time and will undoubtedly continue to build. As such, I do believe that we need some form of child care to relieve pressure on parents. As I said in my other comment (and gave much more specifics for), I do think we will re-open but I think it will be aimed more at providing child care rather than education. I think those that can stay home will (and should), and those that cannot, on account of a lack of child care, will come to schools where the primary focus will be on keeping them under adult supervision for the day rather than conveying a full education to them.

    15 votes
  3. CALICO
    Link
    Assuming we haven't completely given up trying to control this thing, assuming we haven't thrown our hands up, assuming we haven't embraced the idea of millions dead; I think it's a terrible,...

    Assuming we haven't completely given up trying to control this thing, assuming we haven't thrown our hands up, assuming we haven't embraced the idea of millions dead; I think it's a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

    Children may be among the lowest risk demographic, but their teachers aren't. Their bus drivers aren't. Their parents, or caretakers aren't. Many of their parents or caretakers go to work somewhere that isn't the home. Some of them work public-facing jobs.

    You put children back on a school campus, they bring it home. Their parents or caretakers bring it to work. Some of them bring it to the public. Cases spike harder than lonsdaleite. Every ICU in the country reaches maximum capacity fast enough to violate causality. The death-rate goes through the roof due to lack of access to life-saving care.
    In one step you've rendered every quarantine & lockdown—past, present, and future—pointless. There's no putting the lid back on that grease fire.

    Our worst-case scenario looks... very bad; I posted about this in March.

    15 votes
  4. MonkeyPants
    Link
    America is a total covid clusterfuck. Our county has a school board of five elected members. These members are apparently responsible for deciding if our schools should be reopened. They listened...

    America is a total covid clusterfuck.

    Our county has a school board of five elected members. These members are apparently responsible for deciding if our schools should be reopened. They listened to the various concerns of parents and teachers, then voted. Not exactly a science driven approach to reopening.

    I wish Newsom took a stronger line similar to Cuomo

    If there were coordinated & free testing like in other countries and perhaps a focus on sending back the younger children who could really benefit from in person socialization, and the youngest teachers, then I would feel like we had some adults behind the wheel.

    But this decentralized smorgasbord approach is beyond disheartening.

    12 votes
  5. grahamiam
    (edited )
    Link
    Until the federal government decides to provide more money to allow adults to stay home, there's no choice but to reopen, I don't think. I mean, schools could close, but it would be an absolute...

    Until the federal government decides to provide more money to allow adults to stay home, there's no choice but to reopen, I don't think. I mean, schools could close, but it would be an absolute disaster for low income families.

    In Taiwan, here are things we did at school back when the virus was still a threat:

    • Everyone wore masks 100% of the time when in the same indoor space as other people, and were required to have a mask to enter the school. Students and staff were already used to this as people who aren't feeling well, have a cough, etc., are expected to wear a mask already.
    • Temperature scans of every single person entering, along with hand sanitizer provided.
    • Cafeteria was completely shut down to students. Lunch was delivered to homerooms, where teachers enforced distance between people eating as much as possible. The students were used to this, as they ate in their homeroom four days a week before this.
    • Our hallways are already open air.
    • All of our classrooms already had windows - they were kept open as much as possible.
    • Anyone who had a family member travel into Taiwan was required to stay at home for a quarantine period.
    • The school was closed down for only two weeks in February.

    Now, I want to point out that Taiwan has not had a domestically transmitted case in months, and yet our mask wearing rate in the school is still super high (it's technically still required but enforcement is lax), masks are still 100% required on public transportation, students still can't use our cafeteria, etc. (this is the last week of school, so it's still ongoing).

    A lot of the practices were based on things that were already set up. I just don't see most of them happening in the US, even if they were possible.

    11 votes
  6. knocklessmonster
    Link
    I think they need to simply not open. I don't care what else happens. I can't think of a solution that doesn't require some sort of "grand theory" or hyper-complex plan. I know we'll lose some...

    I think they need to simply not open. I don't care what else happens. I can't think of a solution that doesn't require some sort of "grand theory" or hyper-complex plan.

    I know we'll lose some development, but if we do this right, we can minimize it. If we need to freeze education for a year, I'd say it's okay, it won't be that bad. But, I don't have any solutions, and there are no simple solutions to this.

    The other concern is kids have been shown to be excellent vectors for this virus. My primary concern is the kids, but they don't exist in vacuums. Strictly academically, if we were sacrificing teachers to give kids a guaranteed bright future, I'd be all for it, but that's not the case and never will be. That's not even how it works on a good day because of our country. The reality would be we're putting all of our kids at risk to potentially kill all of our teachers, and any other adults they come in contact with.

    Our only way out of this, in the US at least, is a complete lockdown, and we'll deal with the survivors later.

    8 votes
  7. viridian
    Link
    I'm beginning to hear tales of suburban infighting from friends, public call outs and shaming for any family who intends to send kids in if they are working from home. I'd bet a sizable amount of...

    I'm beginning to hear tales of suburban infighting from friends, public call outs and shaming for any family who intends to send kids in if they are working from home. I'd bet a sizable amount of money that facebook and nextdoor shame campaigns are going to lead to more covid problems than they solve, all while upping the general animosity between neighbors. I feel like so many people I know are now in a constant state of total war against half a dozen out-groups.

    It's just so tiring from all directions, whether it's getting asspats from people praising me for cancelling my wedding, or people trying to convince me that the governor is angling us towards martial law and quartered troops.

    7 votes
  8. Deimos
    Link
    I was going to post this in the weekly thread, but maybe here is more topical: Los Angeles and San Diego public schools announced that they will not re-open initially and will start out the year...

    I was going to post this in the weekly thread, but maybe here is more topical: Los Angeles and San Diego public schools announced that they will not re-open initially and will start out the year as online-only.

    According to the NYT article about this, those are the two largest districts in California and cover about 825,000 students.

    United Teachers of Los Angeles did an informal poll of over 18,000 members on Friday, and 83% agreed that schools should not re-open physically yet.

    6 votes
  9. DanBC
    Link
    This article from the UK (mostly England) sums up how I feel. https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2020/07/13/putting-children-at-the-heart-of-scientific-advice-on-covid-19/

    This article from the UK (mostly England) sums up how I feel.

    https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2020/07/13/putting-children-at-the-heart-of-scientific-advice-on-covid-19/

    The key point we made was that “Is it safe for children to go back to school?” is not the right question to ask. It’s more meaningful to ask “On balance, given all types of risk to children’s wellbeing and development, is it optimal for them to stay out of school?”

    3 votes
  10. [4]
    Pistos
    Link
    Is there no conversation or planning going on in the US regarding remote education? Canada did that from March to the end of the school year (end of June). Tech (laptops and Internet access) was...

    Is there no conversation or planning going on in the US regarding remote education? Canada did that from March to the end of the school year (end of June).

    • Tech (laptops and Internet access) was rolled out to low-income families.
    • Teachers and students already had some means of electronic communication pre-COVID, by way of things like email, Google Classroom, and other online services.
    • Teachers and students would occasionally hold video conferences, whether with Zoom or MS Teams or Google Meet.
    • Homework was still assigned, worked on, submitted, and graded -- all electronically, sometimes by way of "take a photo or scan, and upload".
    • Tests and exams were replaced with projects or assignments.

    You could even add to all of that the idea of holding classes virtually via video conf, with required attendance.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      This comment seems like a pretty convincing rebuttal of the idea that's a good replacement.

      This comment seems like a pretty convincing rebuttal of the idea that's a good replacement.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Pistos
        Link Parent
        That's quite lengthy, so pardon me for just reading the first paragraph and a half, but: The argument seems like a strawman. I'm not saying remote education is better, or even equal to, normal...

        That's quite lengthy, so pardon me for just reading the first paragraph and a half, but: The argument seems like a strawman. I'm not saying remote education is better, or even equal to, normal in-building education, but it does seem superior to not educating at all.

        4 votes
        1. Atvelonis
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          My purpose with that comment was to suggest that online learning is so astonishingly far from effective for students that employing it in full may as well make things worse. The corollary is that...

          My purpose with that comment was to suggest that online learning is so astonishingly far from effective for students that employing it in full may as well make things worse. The corollary is that some form of heavily modified in-person learning (perhaps a hybrid in-person/online model) would be necessary to provide students anything resembling a valuable education while also staying safe. Even disregarding the socioeconomic imbalances that distance learning perpetuates—which are weirdly under-discussed in the media—communicating entirely online places students in a liminal position of unreality, where motivation is reduced to near-zero, material is significantly harder to learn (especially in lab-based courses), and the ability of teachers to give meaningful assignments to begin with is limited such that any work begins to feel pointless. Being physically separated from their peers also magnifies social anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

          I see that people in this thread are mostly against a return to in-person classes. I don't blame them, but they probably aren't the ones being hit the hardest by online learning. The pandemic is deeply traumatic to young people in ways that older generations don't (can't) understand; the inhumanity of months of Zoom calls is going to have a much greater toll on students—especially those in elementary school—than I think most people realize is possible. I tossed around a few potential solutions on this thread which attempt to maintain cognizant of the virus while also not permanently damaging the lives of Gen Z, although I recognize that we're in completely uncharted territory here.

          5 votes