Thursday, May 21, 2020

Can We Safely Reopen Buildings? If So, How?

We're looking at the possibility of opening our building in September. Will that happen? Your guess is as good as mine, but mine is we will not. Nonetheless, everyone's got to plan otherwise. I imagine a lot of schools would go end to end. That is, half the students enter in the AM, and half in the PM. Teacher schedules in high schools would overlap the sessions. I suppose elementary teachers could prep while other classes are going on, but I don't know much about what they do, so I could be wrong.

Now this will suck for a whole lot of reasons. One is the schedules could easily run 6 AM to noon, and then noon to 6 PM. I don't imagine many people will be happy about either. Another is this will only reduce student population by half, and that may not be enough. In my school, already at 210-220% capacity, it will certainly not suffice.

How do you achieve adequate social distancing to make a school building safe. Well, on top of your end to end programming, you could have students come in every other day, or every other week. You could then have classes stream via video, and the other half of the students could submit work via Google Classroom or something of that nature.

In the case of a building like mine, perhaps students could come in live every third or fourth week. This really underlines the lack of vision of those who run the DOE. As though it weren't bad enough that they had such disregard for us and our students that they forced us to convert classrooms into two, and convert closets into classrooms, the health issue makes it that much worse. And you can't argue that students who get so little face time with teachers are being treated equally. This makes the state's decision to defy the C4E decision, the one that specified lower class sizes, all the more egregious.

As for those who speak of schools being babysitting services, those days are over. Parents will have to make other arrangements for child care, and the city and state will have to find ways to provide it, much as they've been using abandoned school buildings to provide it during this crisis. How will they do that? I have no idea, but fortunately I'm not governor or mayor.

It would be folly for government to open schools under unsafe conditions. Of course the President of the United States wants to do it anyway, because for him, the only important thing is his reelection. In fact, as we approach 100,000 deaths, he met with the Senate to discuss how he manages to get reelected rather than how we best deal with the ongoing crisis. That we allow a self-centered, self-important, self-serving juvenile to lead us suggests we deserve just what we're getting. We need to change that in November or things will get markedly worse.

There is, of course, the possibility that there is not a safe way to open schools in November, and there's a lot of evidence to suggest that. For example, how could we safely manage hall passing? Could we stagger it, so only half the students in the building pass at a time? That would mean two concurrent bell systems, which would be confusing. Could we leave students in one classroom and have only teachers do passing?

And if we were to achieve that, what can you say about this?

Aerosolized coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours. A mask can help prevent that spread.

That's from Harvard, but it could be contradicted somewhere else. I can't even watch the news anymore, because it's just numbers about how bad it is, how it's getting a little worse, or a little better, and almost invariably about how someone disagrees with the information. Now I'm not talking about the idiots who demonstrate we should open now, who are out of their minds. Let's say it is safe, though, somehow.

Imagine wearing a mask to meet your students, all of whom are wearing masks. Imagine trying to learn their names. Most of my students have Chinese names, so it's always an uphill battle for me. And if we absolutely cannot pull this off, imagine meeting your new classes online, and perhaps never seeing their faces.

Whatever we do, things are going to be quite different. I can't say I'm looking forward to it with a whole lot of joy or anticipation.
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