* “If we don’t re-open schools another generation of students will be doomed to a life of poverty and the poorest, must vulnerable parents will burdened with childcare expenses; if our economy doesn’t revive a depression paralleling the Great Depression is inevitable.”
* “We have to follow where science leads us, testing, contact tracing, social distancing, masks, and not allow politics or emotions to dissuade us.”
* “I’m afraid, I know too many people who died or who spent weeks recovering and months later are still suffering, until there’s a vaccine I’m not going back to work or allowing my children to go to school.”
*”I go to work every day, I have no other options, I have to pay my rent and feed my family; teachers say they love our kids; not enough to be willing to go to work, as I do.”
School opening opinion varies widely.
As tropical storm Isaisis blows by torrential rain interrupted by glaring sunlight flashes by, sort of like the school opening discussions of the moment.
For weeks the Board of Regents, the Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio dueled over who would make the school reopening decisions.
The governor appointed a commission, the Board of Regents gathered up a few hundred stakeholders, the mayor selected his commission. The Board of Regents/State Education Department issued their 149-page school opening guidance requiring that each of the 700 school districts in the state submit a plan for every school (4400 schools, 1800 in New York City). The New York State Department of Health issued guidance, the governor announced he would make his decision on school opening “the first week in August,” and set a metric, COVID positive testing below 5% (as of 8-3-20 COVID positive testing was at 1%).
To the best of my knowledge the only district that failed to submit a plan was New York City, the city submitted the outlines of a plan, Read here.
At his Monday (8/4) press conference the governor said, “… the final decision on whether kids will head back in September will be up to parents;” I guess he means if parents don’t like the local plan they can opt for full remote or home-schooling for their children. The governor went on to say, “Where you have a district with multiple schools, they have to address the plan for every school … If you don’t have the details for each school then you don’t have a plan, because how can a parent make a decision, and it’s not just New York City — it’s any school district…. A district could have a uniform plan for the schools in its system, but they would need to work out the logistics for how each school is going to things like testing in order to track the virus.”
Does the city plan to survey parents in each of the 1800 schools? Is it conceivable that some schools will offer a hybrid model and others a remote model? Is the failure to inform the Department that you are opting out by the August 7th soft deadline the only evidence of supporting the school plan? The plan you have never seen?
The Re-Opening Plans were posted on school district websites and many school boards hosted parent meetings to answer questions. See a school opening plan for a small district (one K-8 school with 700 kids) here.
On Monday evening the school district hosted a virtual session for the community and welcomed questions about the plan, the meeting lasted over two hours, and, Tuesday the district posted the Q & A on their website , in English and Spanish.
A neighboring school district (Read here)) posted their plan, and included a parent survey: 35% feel comfortable sending their children back to school, 25% not comfortable, and the remainder somewhere in the middle.
The elements of the New York City Plan that the mayor announced and that appear on the site include a 3% COVID positive test metric to trigger all remote, COVID testing available to all staff prior to school re-opening, a process on how schools respond to COVID positive students and staff, and fails to address many, many other questions. The city cannot provide a school nurse for every building (the plans above have school nurses on staff), the overnight deep cleaning without additional custodial staff appears unlikely, and, the supervisory and teacher unions are “doubtful” that the city can address all the outstanding issues before school opening; the first day for students in NYC is Wednesday, September 10th.
The instructional models, aka, which days are kids in-school which days at home, a hybrid, in-person/remote model is still being discussed, although the chancellor has a preference,
Principals and school leadership teams will compare the different programming models to the specific needs of their students and communities to select a best-fit model. However, the Chancellor has identified certain models as “Chancellor Recommended” so that there is greater consistency for parents across the system.
What does “greater consistency for parents” mean? There are 1800 different schools, why not allow schools to craft models that meet the needs of the students in their schools? See the “key tenets” of the programming models here.
While the NYC planning is fluid, without many key elements resolved will the plan satisfy parents and teachers?
A week ago at the American Federation of Teachers convention Randi Weingarten and Dr. Anthony Fauci had an hour chat; Dr Fauci answered questions from teachers and nurses across the nation. (Listen to the discussion here). As I talked with teachers who listened to Dr, Fauci some were comforted and other discomfited by his comments. Science provides facts, not advise.
Urban school districts across the nation are opening with remote only instruction and have COVID positive rates far, far above New York City rates:
Los Angeles seven day average COVID positive testing rate: 8.8%
Chicago seven day average COVID positive testing rate: 5.4%
Houston seven day average COVID positive testing: 14.1%
To answer my initial questions: for teachers and parents a visceral, deeply emotional quandary; for the governor and the mayor, the political implications can be career making or career ending. For the governor very high marks can dissolve if he supports school openings and the COVID positives spike, for the mayor, a mayor who continues to be bashed by mayoral contenders and the conservative media, and by his own stumbles, a chance to resuscitate his mayoralty.
In my opinion the governor who wanted to be the ultimate decision-maker appears to be backing away. The mayor is desperately looking for friends, to “satisfy” parents and teacher/supervisor unions and a Board of Regents/State Education Department without the capacity to review plans for 4400 schools could be the scapegoat.
For the unions assuring a safe opening for their members and students is paramount. The Israel early school reopening disaster is resonating, The UFT, the teacher union is demanding,
For school buildings to reopen, school communities need:
- Voluntary testing for all students and school-based staff returning for in-person instruction.
- A rolling testing regimen in every school community for adults and student volunteers to identify those infected with the virus but asymptomatic.
- The results of these tests should be available within 24 hours.
- A dedicated group of contact tracers to investigate who else has been exposed when an adult or a student in a school contracts the virus.
- A school nurse in every school building.
- Evidence that the protections and procedures outlined in the plan have been implemented, including the testing and upgrading of ventilation systems, and the necessary staff and supplies to deep clean the buildings every night.
Listen to the Almanac Singers, “Which Side Are You On”