Sheltering in Place: Children, Parents and Teachers Coping With (What Could Be) the New Normal

My phone “pinged,” time to confirm my reservation for the April Board of Regents meeting: not this month. Governor Cuomo just extended the state-wide school closing until April 15th, and probably for a lot longer.

Online, or remote learning, has completed its first week in New York City. The enormous undertaking is incredibly complex. I spoke with a supervisor, Zoom meetings with teachers, with the school leadership team, with the superintendent, checking on teacher lessons, contacting parents; the city is using Google Classroom. I asked a teacher: who are the kids who are participating?  S/he said, “About half the kids, others are having trouble getting online, and the kids were a cross section, the high achievers and others.” A start: hopefully it will improve over the weeks or months ahead. Not surprisingly, in addition to an opportunity gap there is a technology gap, the NY Times has a scathing article. (“Locked Out of the Virtual Classroom”)

In one online fifth grade class the teacher began with a yoga session and moved on to research assignments, “What is an endangered species?”  “How do species become endangered?” “How can we protect endangered species?”  How many students are fully engaged?  How long should the kids be online? How much homework? We’re all exploring a new world.

The questions from teachers and parents keep rolling in,

Will Regents Exams be cancelled?

How will grades be determined?

How will schools determine high school graduation?

Is the State waiving student teaching requirements?

Others states set out detailed guidelines, New Mexico.

High school seniors will earn credits and achieve eligibility for graduation by completing a locally designed demonstration of competency, which may include:

  • Passing a locally designed test,
  • Completing a locally designed series of assignments,
  • Achieving a set cut score on a college entrance exam,
  • Demonstrating applied work experience.

The UFT, the NYC teacher union and the Department of Education issued roles and responsibilities “remote learning,”

New York State hasn’t sent out any guidance, one reason, the state budget is due April 1.  What were the major issues a few weeks ago are gone: changes in Foundation Aid, the funding of the CFE lawsuit, state aid; all overwhelmed by an anticipated 15 billion dollar budget shortfall.

The NYS budget will be in the hands of the governor and he will allocate dollars: perhaps monthly or quarterly:  school districts creating tentative budgets.

Will the school districts hold budget votes in early May?

High wealth school district receive dollars primarily from property taxes, low wealth from state aid: how will the state reduce these glaring disparities?

Will school districts face teacher layoffs in September?

Is a billionaires’ tax on the table?

The questions of the moment may be overshadowed by the larger questions; questions that are frightening, while the president talks about “opening” by Easter, world class scientists see a troublesome scenario.

Looking … into the future, what do you anticipate? Will COVID-19 ever disappear?

What it looks like is that we’re going to have a substantial wave of this disease right through basically the globe ….

 And the question then is: What’s going to happen? Is this going to disappear completely? Are we going to get into a period of cyclical waves? Or are we going to end up with low level endemic disease that we have to deal with?

  Most people believe that that first scenario where this might disappear completely is very, very unlikely, it just transmits too easily in the human population, so more likely waves or low level disease.

 A lot of that is going to depend on what we as countries, as societies, do. If we do the testing of every single case, rapid isolation of the cases, you should be able to keep cases down low. If you simply rely on the big shut down measures without finding every case, then every time you take the brakes off, it could come back in waves. So that future frankly, may be determined by us and our response as much as the virus.

Every morning I jump on my bike and take a long, lonely ride, the birds chirping, the wind blowing in my face, in late afternoon, back on the bike, zipping along empty roads, watching the sun glint off the bay ….  spending the day “sheltering in place,” at least I’m getting into better and better shape.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “We Could Fly”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KhzRgqcBBc

Stay Safe

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