Tuesday, July 28, 2020

some (incomplete and unordered) thoughts on school reopening

(1) I’m frustrated by so many public comments in defense of face-to-face learning. No one is arguing that face-to-face isn’t preferable to virtual learning. That just isn’t the conversation.

(2) The decision as to how schools should reopen in the fall is bigger than the students and faculty and parents directly impacted. It’s a decision with very real public health ramifications, and (unfortunately) must be considered in that light.

(3) The fact that these decisions are being made by local school boards represents a massive failure of state and federal leadership. I support local governance, but a pandemic is not a local issue, and your local school officials do not have access to the same tools and expertise that state and national governments do.

It’s a pandemic… It should be self-evident that local action should be coordinated at the broadest level possible.

(4) I’m again and again struck by how terrible we (humans) are at evaluating risk, and, by extension, terrible at evaluating the efficacy of any risk mitigation strategies or protocols. We are terrible naive statisticians. I know this, and yet it still does not help me in making decisions, it just makes me more wary of anything that I think I know.

(5) While I believe that public schooling is an entitlement program that every American should embrace and even express pride in, there is a kind of ugly selfishness in the way some talk about their entitlement.

An illustration: When faced with the possibility that schools may reopen something close to virtual only, many respond, “WTF. Is the district going to compensate me for my childcare?!” Whereas a person embracing a paradigm of responsibility might say, “Shoot, this stinks. I do not like this, I do not agree with it, but I’ve gotta figure out a way to make this work.”

(6) Where is the teachers’ association in this discussion? I have not heard anything, neither directly nor indirectly, from our local teachers’ association.

I understand that teachers are divided in their positions and preferences, but helpful guidance might look something like this:

“If you go face-to-face, here are some concerns we’d like addressed.

“If you go virtual, here are some concerns we’d like addressed.”

(7) Related to the previous comment, any discussion of reopening MUST consider the health and safety of our teachers. As their employer, that is the district’s responsibility.

If even a minority (but significant number) of teachers do not feel safe in returning to face-to-face instruction, that poses a serious structural problem for the district. If, say, 10 teachers decide at the last minute that they can’t risk coming back to school and choose not to return, that puts the district in a serious pickle.

Furthermore, for those teachers who would return, but still do not feel safe doing so, one has to ask what impact that feeling of insecurity has on their ability to effectively do their job.

(8) Administration and faculty committees have been working on plans since before school let out. We’ve been discussing school reopening plans (not a complete plan, but bits and pieces) at board meetings for over two months.

Prior to last night's board meeting, grand total of public participants in those meetings? Maybe 25.

Prior to last night's board meeting, grand total of public comments during this planning period? 0.

(9) In public comments last night, one person suggested that the members of the board have already made up their minds so they might as well just vote. I’m not at all sure that’s true. I certainly don’t have things all figured out. My thoughts go all over the place on this. And I am very much swayed by new information or analysis (though hopefully not disproportionately).

(10) Personally, I am super frustrated that it’s taking us (as a board, as a district) so long to make a decision for the fall. It’s not only just really irritating, I also think it’s a pretty significant administrative failure. And I’m sorry.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You articulated the dilemma accurately. I don't think you're alone in your frustration. Thank you for taking your time to write.