30 votes

As a teacher, what can I do to protect myself and my students should schools reopen in the fall?

I'm a teacher in the US, and the question of whether schools reopen is very much still up in the air (and location dependent). However, I heard some internal talk from my district that looks like they are, at present, leaning towards a partial reopening that will likely have me back in the building, in-person, with a room of students in the fall.

Assuming this is the case, I want to prepare now. I'm operating on the following assumptions:

  1. Provisions from the school and district will (allegedly) meet a certain minimum, but there is an effective maximum beyond those measures that I can independently pursue.

  2. Until the virus's spread is contained, the likelihood of someone who is infected with COVID-19 being in my room is non-negligible.

As such, I'm looking to maximize the safety of myself and others in my room as much as possible. I'm looking for guidance in the following areas:

  1. What are the best, legitimate masks I can get for myself? N95s are out of stock everywhere, or, if they're in stock, they're from sketchy sources that are almost certainly selling fakes.

  2. What are the best masks I can get for students? They are supposed to be bringing their own, and I assume our school will have something in place for kids without them, but if for whatever reason a child makes it to my class without a mask (or breaks theirs or something like that), I'd like to have extras on hand for them.

  3. Is there any other PPE I should look into? Gloves, facemasks, robes, etc. I don't mind wearing whatever will keep me and others safe, even if it looks ridiculous. On the other hand, I don't want to go overboard either.

  4. Where can I get bulk hand sanitizer and/or cleaning wipes? These also seem to be widely out of stock. Also, are there types/brands that are more effective than one another?

  5. Is there anything else I should stock up on now? I'm worried about a run on already low supplies once schools announce reopening plans.

  6. What best practices should I employ while in the classroom setting? I want to protect myself and the kids in my room as much as possible. Anything that I can control to reduce risk (e.g. procedures, ventilation, etc.) I want to implement.

  7. What level of risk am I potentially putting myself in? I need some straight talk here. Be as transparent as possible with me about the reality of what I'm potentially facing.

  8. Is there anything else I need to know or do in advance of the school year starting? I've got time to prepare. I want to make sure I do whatever I can now. Even if it turns out in hindsight that I overprepared, I'll be happier knowing I did everything I could rather than being in a position where I wish I had done more.

Also I should note that I am willing to pay for quality. I don't want to put my life in the hands of the cheapest options out there. As much as I resent the idea that I would have to pay for any of this myself, I'm not about to gamble on this.

44 comments

  1. [7]
    Algernon_Asimov
    (edited )
    Link
    I've been spending far too much time reading about the coronavirus (for any Aussies here, I highly recommend /r/CoronavirusDownunder on Reddit!). Finally, I get to put some of this knowledge to...

    I've been spending far too much time reading about the coronavirus (for any Aussies here, I highly recommend /r/CoronavirusDownunder on Reddit!). Finally, I get to put some of this knowledge to use!

    Masks

    Any mask is better than no mask. Even if you just wear a scarf or bandana wound across your face, that's better than nothing.

    Masks protect other people more than they protect you. They stop outgoing spit and saliva and mucus better than they stop incoming droplets carrying coronavirus particles. That's not to say that masks don't protect you at all, but you'll get more protection from your students' masks than yours, and your mask is more for protecting them than you.

    Your mask

    With all that said, I recommend a reusable cloth mask. The experts say a good mask has at least two layers of cloth, with the weaves at different angles. When I did research a few weeks ago, I ended up buying this mask as the best, considering style and price and protection and availability. It has three layers - the two cotton layers outside, which provide comfort and protection, and the meltblown polypropylene filter in between, which is the type of material used for surgical masks.

    I've seen a lot of handmade masks like these, which are two layers of cloth with a "pocket" between them to insert filters. That's another option, but it'll become costly to keep buying new filters.

    I found lots of people making masks and selling them all over the internet - eBay and Etsy, for example. Find a design that provides this multilayer protection.

    Buy a few masks! You'll need to wash each mask after one day's use, and I'm not sure if you can tumble-dry them, so you'll need a mask to wear today while yesterday's mask is drying on your clotheshorse.

    Students' masks

    I recommend you buy disposal surgical masks for your students: these blue ones. If they're good enough for doctors and nurses, they're good enough for your kids. The kids can wear them and then throw them away. They might need two per day - one for the morning and one for the afternoon.

    Again, I think you should be able to buy these easily via somewhere like eBay.

    Hands

    Gloves

    Gloves don't provide any extra protection than bare skin. In fact, I remember reading something which said that the virus sticks to gloves better than to skin. The only benefit of gloves is that they might remind you not to touch your face, and you can throw them away after wearing them. That's it.

    Washing or sanitising your hands will provide about the same level of protection as throwing the gloves away. In between, you still have to watch out for touching your face with your hands. This is the big risk, and it will happen whether you're wearing gloves or not.

    So, choose: gloves or sanitiser. There's no need for both.

    Sanitiser

    I think sanitiser might suit your purposes better.

    As long as it contains between 60% and 90% alcohol, it's fine. Too much alcohol in the mix can be just as bad as too little - I read somewhere that the alcohol needs some level of dilution in order to work effectively at killing viruses. The recommended optimum mix of alcohol in sanitiser seems to be about 75-80%, but 60% is the minimum that all the literature recommends.

    Get the kids into the habit of sanitising every time they come into the room, and even every hour or so while they're in the room. Make it part of your routine. "Okay! Time to get up, stretch those legs, take a deep breath, and sanitise your hands!"

    You might need to provide moisturiser as well - I found my knuckles dried out and even started to bleed after a few weeks of hand-washing and hand-sanitising.

    Ventilation

    The literature is starting to suggest that airborne virus particles are more of a risk than we thought, and possibly more of a risk than surface-bound particles. Therefore, ventilation is important if you're going to have 20 people in the same room.

    If you can move any virus particles out of the room, and keep a flow of fresh air coming into the room, that will reduce the risk. In general, indoors spaces are riskier than outdoors spaces, so the more you can do to emulate an outdoor airflow, the better.

    The details will depend on the layout of the room, the weather outside, and whatever direction the wind is blowing - but getting a crossflow through the room somehow is desirable. Whether that's an open door on one wall and an open window on the opposite wall, or two windows on the same wall with fans to direct air in one window and out the other, just get the air moving.

    Parents

    Beware of parents. Adults are riskier than children.

    Adults' immune systems are more experienced than childrens', and will fight the coronavirus stronger. This fight causes symptoms, and what's called "viral shedding", where people share the virus via coughing, sneezing, even talking. Adults are better at passing on the coronavirus than children are. Therefore, make any parents you meet follow the same health precautions as your students - masks and sanitising. And stay an anti-social distance away from them.

    Miscellaneous

    • Don't let the kids share their lunches! Sharing is no longer caring.

    • This also applies to things like toys and pens. No sharing.

    • I recommend you track down some spray disinfectant and spray everything a couple of times per day (before school and during lunch): table tops, door handles, toys, pens - anything that young hands will touch.

    • I have no idea how to enforce social distancing among children, especially when they play. Good luck with that!

    Risk

    I can't tell you what your level of risk is. I'm pretty sure even an epidemiologist would not be able to do that. All we can do is reduce the risks and wish you luck.

    19 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Thank you so much for this thorough response, Algernon. It's very structured and informative, and I appreciate the amount of time you took to type it all out for me! The point about adults is...

      Thank you so much for this thorough response, Algernon. It's very structured and informative, and I appreciate the amount of time you took to type it all out for me!

      The point about adults is something I wasn't aware of. I plan on having minimal interactions with anyone and everyone while at work (if that's even in the cards), but this helps remind me that I need to be vigilant with my co-workers and refrain from sharing space with them at all.

      6 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        You're welcome! Happy to help. I didn't even think of your co-workers! I was too focussed on the classroom (I actually imagined a classroom, and tried to work out the various risks I could see,...

        You're welcome! Happy to help.

        I didn't even think of your co-workers! I was too focussed on the classroom (I actually imagined a classroom, and tried to work out the various risks I could see, and their mitigations), and didn't think about the staffroom. But, you're right that you just apply the same principles to your fellow teachers as to parents. But don't avoid them entirely. Social distancing works. Masks work.

        Something else I thought of overnight, after writing this comment: no singing. Public group singing has been banned in some countries, because pushing out breath at high speed and high pressure is an extra-good way of spreading the virus. I don't know if your students have sing-alongs in class (we had them when I was in primary school), but they can't do that any more. If you want to include singing in your curriculum, take the kids outside.

        6 votes
    2. [3]
      vektor
      Link Parent
      Agreed on the ventilation part. I'm not sure what kind of an environment you're in @kfwyre - that is, whether you expect it to be too cold and rainy in the fall to be outside - or whether you're...

      Agreed on the ventilation part. I'm not sure what kind of an environment you're in @kfwyre - that is, whether you expect it to be too cold and rainy in the fall to be outside - or whether you're still going to be relying on AC in the fall - or whether it's going to be nice out. But consider moving class outside if at all possible. You're going to have perfect ventilation outside. Of course that's not really possible if your school is in a densely packed urban area. This advice comes from Prof. Drosten, Germany's most prominent scientist right now. I've quoted the podcast this is from in the past.

      In Germany, schools opening in the fall would mean that class would undoubtedly have to be inside, while outside is possible in summer and parts of spring.


      In any case, beyond that I would - if you can somehow do that - allow remote education still. You can phrase it to the school district/administration as "trying to protect at-risk families of pupils". Parents can pull their kids out of school and kids can continue to learn. Intuitively, this will only keep the least dangerous kids out of the classroom - those from careful/alert families. But it'll give you more space in the classroom to have effective distances.

      The social and pedagogical impact of the above - you'll have to weigh that.


      Now I don't know much about how exactly schools operate in the US. But if you've modernized y'alls teaching culture like we have, the usual would include lots of group work and tables set up either in smaller round tables or as a big C shape with the blackboard in the open arc. All of that seems like a lukewarm idea to me. I'd probably go with very small table groups, possibly individual. Like you see in movies of US schools. Examples The usual over here is C or D, but I think I'd go for A during the pandemic.

      That said, recess/breaks pose a serious risk for infections among students because frankly, they don't care about distances, depending on their exact age. The younger, the worse I would think. Depending on how well that works out, D might be an option again, because you can maximize the distance between the groups - if you assume that friend groups are going to infect each other anyway. But my preference would be to try to keep breaks as hygienic as possible. Ask the administration if they can figure out a way for break times to be distributed, such that not all classes are out in the yard at the same time.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        kfwyre
        Link Parent
        The rows and teacher lecture style you see in movies is very much out of vogue in American education, so our classes -- under normal circumstances -- probably look similar to yours. I actually...

        The rows and teacher lecture style you see in movies is very much out of vogue in American education, so our classes -- under normal circumstances -- probably look similar to yours. I actually think this is a pretty big misunderstanding at present though. In my community, parents are very strongly in favor of reopening schools (and I don't blame them), but I don't think they realize that reopening is very much going to look like the movies: kids sitting far apart from one another, in rows and masks, with minimal interaction, with a teacher lecturing from the front who's also behind a mask. Either that, or it's going to look like kids on computers all doing their own things while they just happen to be in the building. Regardless of the model, it's not going to be the same thing that their kids are used to.

        3 votes
        1. vektor
          Link Parent
          Agreed. And the one thing that's going to be like before is breaks, which also pose the highest risk. Anything about a school in day-to-day operation is a hygienic disaster during a pandemic. But...

          Agreed. And the one thing that's going to be like before is breaks, which also pose the highest risk. Anything about a school in day-to-day operation is a hygienic disaster during a pandemic.

          But I'll digress into my opinions of how we should personalize and digitalize education in day-to-day anyway if you let me keep on going for much longer. I'll have to pick your brain on that one another day.

          1 vote
    3. Halfloaf
      Link Parent
      Along the lines of mask effectiveness per a few different construction methods, this was a really useful paper for me: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c03252

      Along the lines of mask effectiveness per a few different construction methods, this was a really useful paper for me:

      https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c03252

      3 votes
  2. [9]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    Update: I got an offer in the mail for supplemental life insurance today. I might be out of a job soon. I've been thinking a lot about this. I haven't made any decisions yet and won't be able to...

    Update:

    I got an offer in the mail for supplemental life insurance today.

    I might be out of a job soon.

    I've been thinking a lot about this. I haven't made any decisions yet and won't be able to until I know where things are a month from now, but I'm at the point where I've pretty much decided I will not put my life on the line for this job.

    I've already been doing active shooter drills -- with children -- for years now, like that's somehow a normal thing that should be happening instead of a grotesque failure of this country to deal with the problem of school shootings. The expectation that I might be shot and killed in the course of a day's childcare has been formally embedded into my job since 2013.

    That. Is. Fucking. Absurd. I can't adequately express in words how not normal that should be.

    As horrific as that idea is, though, at least it was a statistically unlikely threat. But now we're adding a deadly, infectious virus that is omnipresent in our country. It's literally everywhere. Its casualties and suffering are everywhere. I'm legitimately terrified of it. Scared shitless, honestly.

    For some reason we're talking about reopening schools right now when we, as a country, have failed to deal with the problem that closed them four months ago. If it was necessary to close them then, well, reopening them looks mighty irresponsible now. We closed them on the mere threat that things could heat up, yet we're wanting to reopen them while the situation is hotter than it's ever been.

    I realize I can't talk about this without sheer terror in my heart because I'm too close to things, but I think it says a lot about my lack of faith in school leadership that I believe I'll be asked to return to a potentially fatal environment for the sake of education. We're always asked and expected to sacrifice for our kids, but... this?

    I don't think I have it in me to do this. My heart goes out to all the essential workers who never even had a choice. I've lived a carefree life staying at home for months and legitimately enjoying playing up my introvert tendencies while you have all been out there, living in and dealing with this fear every day. I don't know how you do it. The fear is real to me now, and it's debilitating. I don't think I'm strong enough to adequately handle it.

    11 votes
    1. [7]
      Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      I can't say what's correct for you or what the right decision is for the world. What I can say, however, is that I believe your heart is in the right place. You are a fantastic educator and...

      We're always asked and expected to sacrifice for our kids, but... this?

      I can't say what's correct for you or what the right decision is for the world.

      What I can say, however, is that I believe your heart is in the right place. You are a fantastic educator and regardless of your decision I believe you will be teaching the next generation an important lesson with your choice.

      I don't think I have it in me to do this.

      Frankly, why should you? We wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for a horribly corrupt and inept system. No one should even be asking you to risk your life so their children can ... what? Receive a slightly higher quality of education than they would find at home? Why can't this be done remotely? Because the parent's don't want to take on the extra work of keeping their children focused? Because a very small portion of their children's lives will be different than the generations that came before? Furthermore what of all the adults who may be infected through the disease vector that is children? There are so many problems with this that unwrapping them all seems daunting and impossible.

      I don't know how you do it. The fear is real to me now, and it's debilitating. I don't think I'm strong enough to adequately handle it.

      I don't value my life a whole lot. But I know what I'm doing might help someone else, and I do value their lives.

      What your school is asking you to do is something that not even I would do. They are asking you to throw your life away and frankly, it's not okay.

      7 votes
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Thank you for the kind words. I, too, am angry. Handling the coronavirus was a group project, and, as is all too common with those, not everybody did their part and we waited until the last minute...

        Thank you for the kind words.

        I, too, am angry. Handling the coronavirus was a group project, and, as is all too common with those, not everybody did their part and we waited until the last minute to get started. Now we're looking at the F on our report card and trying to get it to a C through force and a sob story.

        It doesn't work that way. Our grade is our grade, and it's representative of our efforts.

        9 votes
      2. [5]
        Turtle
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I think you're understating the potential consequences of this to an absurd degree. Maybe if you wrote "assume upper middle class family working in tech" it would make some sense? But that...

        I think you're understating the potential consequences of this to an absurd degree. Maybe if you wrote "assume upper middle class family working in tech" it would make some sense? But that describes a ridiculously small fraction of the population.

        Receive a slightly higher quality of education than they would find at home?

        It's not "slightly higher". It's not even close for many classes (i.e. math, any language class, any lab based science class, any class that is considered difficult in general). Not to mention the difference in environment. For lots of students there's literally no good place at home where they can focus/study/work.

        Because the parent's don't want to take on the extra work of keeping their children focused?

        Most families don't/won't have the privilege of working from home and it's not realistic to expect them to just put their careers on pause. There are bills to pay.

        Because a very small portion of their children's lives will be different than the generations that came before?

        We have no idea what effect a whole year of online school will have on students. You can't just hand wave away 9+ months without socialization or meaningful interaction with teachers working under a (for many) completely new educational paradigm as just "different". I think for many students, especially the very young and underprivileged, it will potentially be disastrous. I'm not saying we should or shouldn't reopen, just that people who do want to do so have really valid reasons beyond being slightly inconvenienced like you seem to be implying.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          Gaywallet
          Link Parent
          Apologies, perhaps I should have reworded what I was saying. 9+ months of education is not worth the deaths of some number of individuals because we have decided to do this in a way that is...

          We have no idea what effect a whole year of online school will have on students. You can't just hand wave away 9+ months without socialization or meaningful interaction with teachers working under a (for many) completely new educational paradigm as just "different". I think for many students, especially the very young and underprivileged, it will potentially be disastrous. I'm not saying we should or shouldn't reopen, just that people who do want to do so have really valid reasons beyond being slightly inconvenienced like you seem to be implying.

          Apologies, perhaps I should have reworded what I was saying. 9+ months of education is not worth the deaths of some number of individuals because we have decided to do this in a way that is underfunded and not well thought out.

          You're absolutely right that many of these individuals will not receive as good of an education if an education at all from home, but 9 months of education for some individuals is not something I'm willing to trade for the lives of others.

          6 votes
          1. [2]
            Turtle
            Link Parent
            It's not just about education though? Keeping schools closed will put a huge amount of financial strain on working class families. I think it could also have pretty severe consequences for young...

            It's not just about education though? Keeping schools closed will put a huge amount of financial strain on working class families. I think it could also have pretty severe consequences for young people's social development. Also, do you realize that keeping schools has always necessarily lead to the deaths of some number of individuals (including children and faculty) through the spread of other diseases like the flu, as well as traffic accidents and (unfortunately) school shootings? Should we ever reopen schools? Is any death too much for you?

            2 votes
            1. Gaywallet
              Link Parent
              You're absolutely right, but I think solving the financial strain is more important than solving the schools. We have some limited evidence that this will be bad, but we frankly do not have a ton...

              It's not just about education though? Keeping schools closed will put a huge amount of financial strain on working class families.

              You're absolutely right, but I think solving the financial strain is more important than solving the schools.

              I think it could also have pretty severe consequences for young people's social development.

              We have some limited evidence that this will be bad, but we frankly do not have a ton of science on this in general. Most science approaches it from a perspective that existed before the internet and other forms of social interaction existed. Unfortunately I don't think we can have an answer to this anytime soon.

              Also, do you realize that keeping schools has always necessarily lead to the deaths of some number of individuals (including children and faculty) through the spread of other diseases like the flu, as well as traffic accidents and (unfortunately) school shootings?

              Absolutely and agreed, but these are things we as a society have decided not to take on. We have as a society decided to take on coronavirus as a problem. Well, I guess some of us have and others haven't. This isn't such a hot debate in countries which treated this appropriately and which have instituted change which has drastically reduced the spread.

              Until we're in a place where we're managing the disease appropriately, I don't think we have the right to ask people to make this potential sacrifice. It's placing an unfair burden on our educators. Instead I believe we should be using exactly these talking points to push for systemic change - the kinds of change that would have prevented us from being in this situation in the first place.

              Should we ever reopen schools?

              Yes. Eventually. I'm not comfortable with the way we're approaching it right now because we haven't taken the virus seriously and I don't expect we are going to take re-opening schools seriously either.

              I think perhaps its best to frame through the following statement: right now we have something going on in America that we have almost never seen before. We have people upset and fighting for the government to drastically change. I want people to feel empowered to capitalize on that because for the first time in a long time we have collective action and I want people to stand up and fight for themselves.

              5 votes
        2. kfwyre
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I agree with you that this situation is undoubtedly damaging to students and disproportionately affects lower class families. I also very much believe that parents need relief, and I would gladly...

          I agree with you that this situation is undoubtedly damaging to students and disproportionately affects lower class families. I also very much believe that parents need relief, and I would gladly be a part of that if I believed it would be happening safely.

          That said, I do want to address the idea that re-opening schools isn't necessarily better for students' development either. There's a common misconception that schools will just sort of re-open as they were, when in reality the environment and experience will be pretty much unrecognizable to kids and possibly significantly damaging on its own.

          First off, I believe that quality education simply will not be happening even in a reopened environment. From a pedagogical standpoint, I'm not even allowed to get near the kids. I can't work alongside them. I can't put them in groups. I can't even give them materials. Restrictions unfortunately eliminate many best practices.

          More than this, however, I'm concerned about students' social and emotional health. Much of what I do as a teacher is relationship-building. My job isn't just about giving lessons but in about developing meaningful relationships with all of my students. Restrictions will also seriously inhibit this. I won't be able to give my students high fives or fist bumps. The students I have next year, who will be new to me and not know who I am, won't even know what my face looks like. Furthermore, even outside of me, school is social for students, and this too is significantly disrupted. They will likely be in the same room all day with the same students. They won't get to sit with their friends at lunch or on the bus. Even in the class, where they'll spend all their time, they'll all be separate from one another and unable to meaningfully interact. They will have strict protocols for the most basic of actions: drinking water, going to the bathroom, etc. Much of the communication they'll receive from adults will be about strict enforcement of these restrictions out of necessity. Having adults barking at kids all day because they can't stay in their seats for hours at a time is going to be torturous to so many students. Kids always joke that school is like prison, and next year will make that more true than it has ever been.

          Finally, and this is what I'm most concerned about, students will be expected to attend school underneath the specter of potentially infecting their parents, grandparents, or other people close to them with something that could kill them (to say nothing of the fact that they themselves could fall ill, though this is less likely). This is not at all conducive to positive student well-being. It makes my heart break thinking about it.

          I mentioned in another comment that I did a mental "walkthrough" of what my first day would look like, and part of that was envisioning what I would say to kids. So many students are already terrified on the first day of school of a normal year -- this coming one will make those feelings worse than they've ever been. As a teacher charged with ensuring the safety of the students in my classroom, I would be negligent if I didn't communicate the need for all the severe protocols and the danger that accompanies breaking them, but the idea of starting the year on such a dire, devastating note is crushing to me. Where do we even go from there? Why should they be invested in what they're learning with that sort of weight looming over their heads?

          I don't think students should have to sit in a classroom and be told that they could potentially be responsible for the death of those close to them, but I also think not communicating this to them could make the potential for that as an outcome far worse.

          If we do reopen, after experiencing what that oppressive and restrictive environment feels like on that first day, is any student going to genuinely want to come back the next?

          6 votes
    2. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      You're not the only one. I came here to let you know about this article that just got posted: Teachers are ready to quit rather than put their lives at risk: "Most parents have no idea how bad...

      I'm at the point where I've pretty much decided I will not put my life on the line for this job.

      You're not the only one. I came here to let you know about this article that just got posted: Teachers are ready to quit rather than put their lives at risk: "Most parents have no idea how bad this is going to be"

      5 votes
  3. [2]
    vakieh
    (edited )
    Link
    Maximise? There's only 1 possible call when you're somewhere as rampantly infected as the US - don't be in the room. Do whatever you need to do to not be in the room. See a doctor about whatever...

    Maximise? There's only 1 possible call when you're somewhere as rampantly infected as the US - don't be in the room. Do whatever you need to do to not be in the room.

    See a doctor about whatever reason (whether legitimate or bullshit) that puts you in a higher risk category, and don't go in to the office. Refuse to teach in person under any circumstances.

    It doesn't matter how many precautions you want to employ (and kids are simply not capable of following hygiene rules or social distancing rules, and parents will send them to school I'll ill as I am sure you already know) - if you go in to work you are gambling by definition. Teachers have died, more will die.

    10 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I've also thought about this, and I can't say that it's not off the table for me. I'm lucky enough that my local situation is not nearly as dire as many other places out there right now. I'm also,...

      I've also thought about this, and I can't say that it's not off the table for me. I'm lucky enough that my local situation is not nearly as dire as many other places out there right now. I'm also, statistically speaking, not as in as high a risk category of many of my coworkers. That said, any risk still feels like too much.

      I did a mental exercise last night where I visualized myself re-entering the building on the first day of school, what I would do, and what that would feel like, and I felt my anxiety spike heavily just in that thinking exercise -- to say nothing of what it will be like should it actually happen.

      I don't want to have to walk away from my job, but I also don't want to put my life on the line for it. I'm going to have some very difficult decisions ahead coming up should they announce a re-opening for my district.

      7 votes
  4. [11]
    stu2b50
    Link
    For masks, it's really more about having them, then the quality. In the end, it's unlikely for anyone to successfully use an N95 to filter out the viral particulates. Not only is properly wearing...

    For masks, it's really more about having them, then the quality. In the end, it's unlikely for anyone to successfully use an N95 to filter out the viral particulates. Not only is properly wearing a mask for an entire work day difficult, but other vectors like your eyes exists, so it's really a fruitless exercise.

    What is important, is that when everyone sneezes, talks loudly, breaths, etc. that their droplets don't fly into the room, but get stuck behind their mask, saving everyone else.

    So I would prioritize just getting as many masks as possible for your students in case they come in without one. That's what's important--everyone in the class has to wear a mask.


    Gloves would be useful. Mostly because humans tend to touch their faces A LOT. A glove on can perhaps be a mental reminder not to do that. Otherwise sanitizing your hands repeatedly is about as good.


    I don't know how reasonable this is, but if at all possible, turn off HVAC, and have all the windows open. There have been many studies that a single person can infect an entire building via the AC system. But if it's ultra hot no one is going to agree to that so :shrug:


    I need some straight talk here. Be as transparent as possible with me about the reality of what I'm potentially facing.

    I would give yourself like at least a 30-40% chance of getting COVID at some point in the academic year. If AC is running maybe bump it up to 60-70%.

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      patience_limited
      Link Parent
      I'm not certain where you're getting your information, but this is exaggerated: Even the passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship didn't attain a 60 - 70% infection prevalence after being...

      I'm not certain where you're getting your information, but this is exaggerated:

      I would give yourself like at least a 30-40% chance of getting COVID at some point in the academic year. If AC is running maybe bump it up to 60-70%.

      Even the passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship didn't attain a 60 - 70% infection prevalence after being closely confined together for a month.

      Data and modeling from air travelers and crew confined inside airplanes don't support this assertion. It's an environment where people are in very close proximity to each other for hours at a time.

      Airplane circulating air is filtered and exchanged regularly, so it's apparently true that masks plus modest social distance plus air exchange plus sanitation can cut risks very substantially.

      COVID-19 isn't measles, thankfully. With measles, the number of viral particles to cause an infection is in the single digits, the aerosolized virus stays viable for many hours, and an infected person can actually contaminate a whole building via recirculated air.

      A teacher's relative risk of contracting COVID-19 is more comparable to a retail worker or member of the general public than to that of a healthcare worker who's in close proximity to maximally infectious patients. Of healthcare workers who sustained COVID-19 infection early in the pandemic, less than 1% had eye infection with the virus, suggesting that eyes aren't a very high risk route of viral infection for the general public. The American Association of Opthalmologists suggests switching back to glasses from contact lenses and hand sanitizing or washing before touching your face.

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        stu2b50
        Link Parent
        The difference is that this is the probability over an entire semester. If you have a 1% chance to get it on any particular day, there's only a 40% you don't get it over 90 days. The longer you...

        The difference is that this is the probability over an entire semester. If you have a 1% chance to get it on any particular day, there's only a 40% you don't get it over 90 days. The longer you go, the more the exponential nature of repeated trials increases the likelihood you get it.

        And while planes genuinely have "military grade" HVAC systems, crusty school buildings don't.

        9 votes
        1. kfwyre
          Link Parent
          Yeah, my main concern is risk over time. Even a very small risk on a daily basis becomes much larger when multiplied across multiple days/weeks/months.

          Yeah, my main concern is risk over time. Even a very small risk on a daily basis becomes much larger when multiplied across multiple days/weeks/months.

          2 votes
    2. [7]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Thanks for all of your insight. Some follow-ups, since you seem quite knowledgeable about this: Are masks like these or these enough to have on hand for students? These seem to be the only type I...

      Thanks for all of your insight.

      Some follow-ups, since you seem quite knowledgeable about this:

      Are masks like these or these enough to have on hand for students? These seem to be the only type I can commonly find. How would something like those compare to fabric masks?

      Would having a fan near an open window help cycle air in and out and reduce risk, or would it just help spread around potentially infectious air? Are there any mitigation strategies for the winter, where having windows open would be unfeasible?

      I would give yourself like at least a 30-40% chance of getting COVID at some point in the academic year. If AC is running maybe bump it up to 60-70%

      Fuck.
      That isn't aimed at you but at the situation. I appreciate your candor.

      4 votes
      1. [5]
        patience_limited
        Link Parent
        I don't know the average age of your students, but adult-size masks might be too large for a close fit, which is the most important factor in ensuring that inhaled/exhaled air undergoes...

        I don't know the average age of your students, but adult-size masks might be too large for a close fit, which is the most important factor in ensuring that inhaled/exhaled air undergoes filtration.

        Otherwise, the material is adequate for general public interactions, moreso when adding social distancing and ventilation measures.

        5 votes
        1. [4]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          This is a really good point. I was so preoccupied with trying to find masks that I didn't even think about size!

          This is a really good point. I was so preoccupied with trying to find masks that I didn't even think about size!

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            Omnicrola
            Link Parent
            I've been printing "ear-saver" straps of different flavors for my wife who works as a nurse in Detroit. She hands them out to anyone who wants them. Something similar for kids might be applicable...

            I've been printing "ear-saver" straps of different flavors for my wife who works as a nurse in Detroit. She hands them out to anyone who wants them.

            Something similar for kids might be applicable here. Say the word and I will print and ship as many as you want. The normal ones take ~2hr per group to print while I do something else. I could probably print at least twice a many kid sized one in a batch. (also available in batman/superman/etc )

            4 votes
            1. kfwyre
              Link Parent
              That is incredibly generous of you, and I genuinely might take you up on that offer! One of my main concerns for reopening is that most people -- but especially kids -- aren't used to wearing...

              That is incredibly generous of you, and I genuinely might take you up on that offer! One of my main concerns for reopening is that most people -- but especially kids -- aren't used to wearing masks for the long durations being proposed for schools.

              Something that takes the pressure off ears would go a long way towards making that easier.

              5 votes
          2. vektor
            Link Parent
            If your students are too small for the usual masks, see if you can get local grandmas to help out. Maybe adapt masks such that they fit better, or make a whole batch of kid-size cloth masks. You'd...

            If your students are too small for the usual masks, see if you can get local grandmas to help out. Maybe adapt masks such that they fit better, or make a whole batch of kid-size cloth masks. You'd have to research guidelines on whether cloth masks are acceptable. There's designs out there where you can insert paper for better filtering, but I don't know too much about whether that helps or is necessary.

            But even the thought of a horde of grandmas sewing masks (safely, at home) gives me the fuzzies.

            2 votes
      2. [2]
        Comment removed by site admin
        Link Parent
        1. Deimos
          Link Parent
          You can post corrections without being this hostile about it. I'm sure the poster wasn't deliberately trying to give bad information, and there's absolutely no need to do things like call it...

          You can post corrections without being this hostile about it. I'm sure the poster wasn't deliberately trying to give bad information, and there's absolutely no need to do things like call it "fucking idiotic". That's much more likely to turn this into a fight than to help anyone improve their understanding.

          Let me know if you edit the post to be more reasonable and I'll un-remove it.

          6 votes
  5. [3]
    culturedleftfoot
    Link
    I don't have any novel suggestions, but I do want to ask: will the school/district support the cost of whatever measures you might want to implement if you do return, or would that fall on each...

    I don't have any novel suggestions, but I do want to ask: will the school/district support the cost of whatever measures you might want to implement if you do return, or would that fall on each individual teacher?

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Unlikely. I don't want to be too definitive as this is unprecedented and we're still on shifting sands, but the last I heard was that staff and students would be expected to provide our own masks....

      Unlikely.

      I don't want to be too definitive as this is unprecedented and we're still on shifting sands, but the last I heard was that staff and students would be expected to provide our own masks. This is par for the course for us teachers, who have been paying for our own stuff for so long it's an expectation of the job at this point.

      Getting pre-approvals for any of this definitely won't happen, as it's an intentionally long and bureaucratic process, and I would need the supplies long before those cleared. Meanwhile, getting reimbursements likely won't happen as they're hesitant to okay payment for anything that hasn't been pre-approved.

      5 votes
      1. culturedleftfoot
        Link Parent
        That's exactly why I asked. The whole scenario sounds shitty all around, tbh, because financial concerns seem to be the ultimate determinant behind many of these reopening decisions across the...

        This is par for the course for us teachers, who have been paying for our own stuff for so long it's an expectation of the job at this point.

        That's exactly why I asked. The whole scenario sounds shitty all around, tbh, because financial concerns seem to be the ultimate determinant behind many of these reopening decisions across the country. For whatever little it might be worth, I'm wishing you good luck.

        5 votes
  6. [2]
    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link
    The CDC seems to recommend layered cloth masks over surgical masks, although it's unclear to me if the difference is substantial. Overall, try to minimize physical contact with anything that...

    The CDC seems to recommend layered cloth masks over surgical masks, although it's unclear to me if the difference is substantial. Overall, try to minimize physical contact with anything that students touch, like papers that at least one of them almost definitely sneezed on, or pens, or markers, or basically anything. Have them submit everything electronically, if possible. When you get there in the morning, I wouldn't even touch the doorknob before wiping it down, and do the same before you leave. Orient the desks so that no student is facing another one eye-to-eye, and obviously try to keep them six feet apart.

    Have a serious talk with your students at the beginning of the year about the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask within the classroom. If you think that you could die if you got the disease, and they're old enough to handle that info, tell them as much directly. If you're getting it from anyone, it's probably going to be an idiot teenager who thinks they're immortal.

    Would having a fan near an open window help cycle air in and out and reduce risk, or would it just help spread around potentially infectious air?

    I'm not an expert here, but my intuition is that you'd want as much ventilation to the outdoors as possible, but not coming from other rooms inside the building. The reason the virus is problematic indoors is because the air can't be readily moved elsewhere to dissipate it. Indoors, particles coughed out by infected people become denser in a given area over time, increasing the chance that you'll inhale them.

    If it's nice out and you have a good space for it, I'd honestly just say to have class outside.

    What level of risk am I potentially putting myself in? I need some straight talk here. Be as transparent as possible with me about the reality of what I'm potentially facing.

    This depends on your age and the strength of your immune system. If you're young and get over illnesses quickly, I wouldn't be super worried (not that young people are immune, of course). I can't give you a real percentage that you'll get sick, but it's definitely not negligible. I know a number of professors who are returning to teach classes in person in the fall. I also know a lot who aren't; they're mostly older. I think the most important question isn't "am I going to get the virus?" but rather "am I going to die if I get the virus?" If the answer to that is "yes" or "probably," then you should not return in the fall to begin with.

    However, if the answer is "no" or "probably not," then do what you think is best. I know a guy who wears a literal plastic face shield over his normal face mask in public in case someone sneezes on him or something. I'm sure it raises some eyebrows, but he made that call for his health and doesn't care what other people think. If you're in a high- or even medium-risk group, I wouldn't blame you for doing the same.

    5 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Thanks for this response. While I like the idea of outdoor classes, I ultimately don't think it'll happen simply because I think my district will prioritize tech-based instruction and assignments...

      Thanks for this response.

      While I like the idea of outdoor classes, I ultimately don't think it'll happen simply because I think my district will prioritize tech-based instruction and assignments for next year and our Chromebooks' screens simply aren't visible in direct or even ambient sunlight. Weather would also be a pretty big difficulty with that model, particularly once we hit the winter months.

      As for your friend who wears a face shield, good for him! Doing something to protect yourself and others, even if it looks ridiculous, is something I fully support (note: I don't believe wearing a face shield currently makes you look ridiculous, but I'm sure that other people he encounters do). It is very likely that I will wear one myself (in addition to a mask) should I return to the classroom.

      3 votes
  7. [5]
    Omnicrola
    Link
    A different kind of suggestion, to try and help kids understand why masks are important: If you're able to get some contamination powder you could run a simulation with the kids about how...

    A different kind of suggestion, to try and help kids understand why masks are important:

    If you're able to get some contamination powder you could run a simulation with the kids about how infections spread. Just dust one kid then wait a few hours and show them how it spread. This of course doesn't simulate airborne infections, but depending on the age of the kids they would understand the similarities.

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This is a really great idea! I do think I might try to find a video of the concept rather than the real thing, as a child coming home on the first day of school to announce to very fraught and...

      This is a really great idea! I do think I might try to find a video of the concept rather than the real thing, as a child coming home on the first day of school to announce to very fraught and nervous parents that their teacher "put powder on us to show us how germs spread" could go sideways very quickly (I know this sounds like a joke, but it's genuinely a serious consideration).

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        Omnicrola
        Link Parent
        I have just the video! Mark Rober did one a few months ago just as the pandemic hit and it includes young children. @Algernon_Asimov you will probably also enjoy the video if you've never seen the...

        I have just the video! Mark Rober did one a few months ago just as the pandemic hit and it includes young children.

        @Algernon_Asimov you will probably also enjoy the video if you've never seen the stuff in action.

        I remember having a health professional of some variety come and do this demonstration somewhere around grade 3-4. It was specifically centered on hand-washing. They gooped each of us with a liquid version of this, then had each of us go wash our hands for as loooooong as we wanted. Anyone who came back with no goop left won a token prize of some sort. It took most of us 2-3 return trip to the bathroom to scrub it all off. There was one kid who got it on his first try, but he stayed in the bathroom for a solid 10+ minutes just scrubbing his hands.

        5 votes
        1. kfwyre
          Link Parent
          This is an excellent video, and I'll be sharing it with my students whether we're in-person or remote. They need to know the information either way. Thanks for linking it.

          This is an excellent video, and I'll be sharing it with my students whether we're in-person or remote. They need to know the information either way. Thanks for linking it.

          1 vote
    2. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Ooh. I didn't know this type of stuff existed! That's an excellent idea for @kfwyre's students!

      Ooh. I didn't know this type of stuff existed! That's an excellent idea for @kfwyre's students!

      3 votes
  8. [2]
    mrbig
    Link
    It’s worth asking: what happens if you simply don’t go? Is the penalty something you can leave with? If the answer is yes, maybe you should stay home.

    It’s worth asking: what happens if you simply don’t go? Is the penalty something you can leave with? If the answer is yes, maybe you should stay home.

    4 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      At worst I'd lose my job. I could certainly get another one. When I put it like that, the decision sounds easy. The reality is that I've spent my entire career working towards the position that...

      At worst I'd lose my job. I could certainly get another one. When I put it like that, the decision sounds easy.

      The reality is that I've spent my entire career working towards the position that I'm in now. Good teaching positions are very hard to come by in the US, and for as much as I complain about mine, I'm in a spot that is far, FAR better than most. I don't want to give that up, especially because it's taken me a ton of effort to be here.

      5 votes
  9. cmccabe
    Link
    If you patiently watch some of the deal tracker websites like https://dealsea.com/ you can find "relatively" good prices on masks. I even saw a deal on N95 masks just today. More often, they post...

    If you patiently watch some of the deal tracker websites like https://dealsea.com/ you can find "relatively" good prices on masks. I even saw a deal on N95 masks just today. More often, they post deals for cloth masks or single-use paper masks. You can even set up an alert on Dealsea that will email you whenever a deal matching a particular search term ("mask", "n95", etc) has a new deal.

    Edit: and good luck to you!

    2 votes
  10. [2]
    joplin
    (edited )
    Link
    If you do go, consider getting some sort of air filter with at least a HEPA filter and preferably with a UV light in it to kill viruses and bacteria as they circulate. They are usually not cheap,...

    If you do go, consider getting some sort of air filter with at least a HEPA filter and preferably with a UV light in it to kill viruses and bacteria as they circulate. They are usually not cheap, and often require filters that need to be replaced and are likely in short supply these days. (Although, we haven't had any problems getting them for our air filter at home, so maybe it's not a big deal.)

    Edit: Also, the Department of Homeland Security has a good web page where you can see how long the virus sticks around in the air given different environmental conditions.

    2 votes
    1. kfwyre
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      This is also something I hadn't thought of. I actually have a pretty heavy duty air filter at home that I use for allergens because I'm allergic to seemingly all of nature, but it doesn't have the...

      This is also something I hadn't thought of.

      I actually have a pretty heavy duty air filter at home that I use for allergens because I'm allergic to seemingly all of nature, but it doesn't have the UV light built in. I'll have to do some research into the efficacy of different types and see if what I have would be sufficient. Thanks for this tip.

      2 votes