The End of the School Year: Confusion, Uncertainty, Fear and Chaos

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

TS Eliot

  Chris Hayes

@chrislhayes

“Do policymakers realize that without full time school this fall, parents are screwed and everything will fall apart? I get that it’s a hard problem! I don’t know the answer, but anything approaching “normal” is not possible for working parents while homeschooling”

Will New York State be in Stage 4 by September and can we look forward to a return to regular school?

Is an upsurge in COVID inevitable as we begin to open up the economy?

Is Chris Hayes (2.1 million twitter followers) right? Will “everything fall apart” if we end up with anything less than fulltime school?

BTW, who decides whether schools will re-open? And what an “open school” would look like?

Betty Rosa, the Board of Regents Chancellor reminds us that the NYS Constitution uses the term “governed” ….

The corporation …, under the name of The Regents of the University of the State of New York, is hereby continued under the name of The University of the State of New York. It shall be governed and its corporate powers, which may be increased, modified or diminished by the legislature

 State education law grants the power to “advise and guide …all districts … in relation to their duties and the general management of schools” to the commissioner.

 He shall have general supervision over all schools and institutions  which  are  subject to the provisions of this chapter, or of any statute  relating to education, and shall cause  the  same  to  be  examined  and  inspected,  and  shall  advise  and  guide  the  school  officers of all  districts and cities of the state in relation to their  duties  and  the  general  management of the schools under their control.

 However, tucked into the 2020-21 Enacted Budget is a section that gives the governor sweeping authority,

… broad emergency powers to temporarily suspend or modify statutes, local laws, ordinances, rules and regulations during periods of disaster emergencies,

 The governor has issued over 200 Executive Orders, the latest requiring fourteen day quarantines for visitors from high COVID states.

Earlier in the year as I arrived at the majestic State Education Building I noticed a crowd waiting at the entrance, and they suddenly pushed past security, rushed into the building unfurling banners and raced through the halls demanding a meeting. They were anti-vaxers, protesting the requirement that children are vaccinated for specific diseases before enrollment in school. Eventually they met with members of the Regents who told them they were picketing the wrong building; vaccination requirements were the domain of the Department of Health.

Should decisions relating to school opening health issues be made by the NYS Department of Health?

.Governor Cuomo appointed a Reimaging Education Task Force, New York City Mayor de Blasio a school re-opening Advisory Committee and the Regents identified a few hundred education leaders from every constituency across the state.

The State Education Department has held four regional meetings, “guidance” from experts and many resources for parents and schools (see here)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published “guidance” for schools, as well as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association also issuing in-depth guides.

The CDC guidance is clear,

  • Lowest Risk: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
  • More Risk: Small, in-person classes, activities, and events. Groups of students stay together and with the same teacher throughout/across school days and groups do not mix. Students remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures, or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes).
  • Highest Risk: Full sized, in-person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials or supplies, and mix between classes and activities.

How much “risk” do teachers and parents think they want to expose themselves  and their children too?

Chris Hayes is simply wrong. As states rushed to re-open, Texas, Florida, Arizona and other COVID cases exploded. Ironically New York State, the first state to confront the explosion is now one of the few states that appear to have corralled the spread of the virus.

New York City is slowly and carefully crafting plans with many, many questions to be answered:

  • Temperature checks at entrances for adults
  • Protocols for COVID positive staff and students
  • Testing prior to the beginning of the school year for all staff
  • School cleaning
  • Protocols for “at-risk” staff members, and
  • Social distancing school models, i. e., alternative days, alternate weeks, others.

As school districts cobble together plans advocacy organizations are releasing instructional and teacher training suggestions for September, the Center for NYC Affairs  plan here  and the NYU Metro Center is hosting a virtual conference here.

As the school community inches towards a re-opening plan Mayor de Blasio announced the possibility of layoffs, and UFT President Mulgrew responded,

On June 24, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would play to lay off up to 22,000 city workers to fill the budget gap left by the coronavirus pandemic.

In response, UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued the following statement: 

There’s a “thank you for your service” during the pandemic — a layoff notice for thousands of city workers who created an unparalleled virtual education program, staffed the clinics, drove the ambulances and kept other city services going.

The New York City budget is due June 30th, neither the Mayor nor the City Council wants an Emergency Financial Control Board; a budget will be in place.

The governor, after reviewing state revenues as of July 1, under his emergency power can adjust the budget, aka, further reductions or release of additional funds.

The HEROES bill is stalled in the Senate, without the passage of the bill a bad situation will undoubtedly continue to deteriorate.

The September re-opening plans are overwhelmed by the specter of layoffs.

Sleep late Monday morning, remember the “rules,” exercise, meditate, improve your remote learning teaching skills, take long walks on beaches or the country, just another chapter in your memoirs.

A dark song performed and written by a friend …..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7EAnbCzMH8&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR3DA8HizYiGJhEuFN4Rum-pwMMJRgUkDpSIwOLp4mC4oYoSawPx9fFUA1U

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