Thursday, July 02, 2020

De Blasio Says He'll Open School Buildings. What Could Go Wrong?

Mayor de Blasio has had an interesting couple of days. First, he determined it was too dangerous to open restaurants for indoor dining. Then, he decided to just open all the school buildings. After all, three of four people who took his open online survey, the one you could fill out anonymously as many times as you wished, said they want schools to open.

Mind you, I read the survey, and it didn't precisely ask under what conditions they'd be willong to open. It didn't cite an acceptable sickness or death rate for UFT members, school children, or our loved ones. Broadway, of course, is closed until January because people who pay hundreds of dollars for orchestra seats are so fragile that if anyone touched them, they would probably break.

It turns out, though, that schools will be only sort of open. You know, like when you were in junior high school and that girl liked you, but she didn't like like you? You could talk about that math teacher and how he gave to much homework, but you couldn't run off into the school yard together.

This means students will come in on alternate days, something I discussed here and here already. I've heard from the UFT chapter leader survey that says, if this actually manages to spring full blown from the mayor's opium pipe, that schools will have to alternate between seeing students physically and remotely. If I recall correctly, most schools will have three cohorts, but there are outliers that will see five.

I'm in one of those outliers, and I really wonder what the hell 80% of my students will be doing while I meet whoever among the rest shows up on their day. Will they remember to come in on the right day? Will their math classes meet the same day as their science classes? Will our custodians show up between classes and clean hundreds of rooms before anyone else arrives?

These are just a few of the questions to which Mayor de Blasio has given no thought whatsoever. How exactly am I supposed to get in touch with my other students 80% of the time? Should I give one lesson five times? Should I give five lessons once and hope the other 80% of my students just feel the vibe? I'm a great believer in vibes. Will they now teach vibes in teacher programs? (I'd go back to learn that.)

Meanwhile, on this astral plane, all that remains are questions. And they remain in abundance. All over the country, we are backsliding on Corona. We've managed to control it here in New York, after once being the epicenter. Who thinks we can continue after we open the schools? I mean, if they weren't able to pull it off in South Korea, which initially handled the virus much better than we did, how can we pull it off here. Israel was not very successful either. Beijing also reversed itself on school openings.

I have one overarching question here. Does anyone reading this believe Bill de Blasio will do a better job than the governments of South Korea, Israel, or Beijing? I've been pretty close to things as they've developed here, and it's my considered opinion that if Bill de Blasio had a good idea, it would likely die of loneliness. He's the guy who kept schools open after Broadway closed, and he was dead wrong. He's also the guy who wants to re-open school buildings before Broadways does, even as he says it's too risky to open indoor restaurants.

People I know, both in UFT and DOE, tell me one story in common. There is no planning coming from central. They make decisions on what they hope for, throw up their hands, and ask those of us who actually do the work to figure out how to make it happen. Any actual decisions are put off until the last possible moment, just one more reason why this premature announcement is remarkable. I wonder whether de Blasio watched to much Captain Picard back in the day, and fancies himself the guy standing there saying, "Make it so."

I think what Picard was suggesting was, "Make it so it works well," while de Blasio just says, "Make it so it happens any gosh darn way  it happens, and hope for the best."

I don't know about you, but I'm not precisely feeling the love for this "plan."

Update: Cuomo, of course, says the mayor's decision is premature and that the governor will decide on safety. I'm not an expert on whose authority it really is, but the decision is ridiculously premature, and perhaps a last-ditch attempt on de Blasio's part to remain relevant.
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