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For September – All Remote? How about Almost All Remote?

July 27, 2020 pm31 8:05 pm

Mayor de Blasio is ordering schools back in session for September – and Carranza insists that each school gets to make its own decision – by choosing from among his unworkable models, or jumping through hoops for an exemption.

What should we do?  Fight de Blasio’s tone-deaf incompetence? Yes.

And in the meantime? Apply for an exemption? That sounds like the wise course, for the moment. But what sort of exemption?

Four Cohorts? A/B/C/D?

There are a bunch of schools that will ask for 4 cohorts instead of the 2 or 3 the Chancellor pre-approved. In fact, slick move, if the “cohort models” worked (which I don’t think they will for most schools), more schools would need 4 (requiring an exemption), than would need 2… but it would have been bad PR to put out 4 as an option (what, a child goes into the building just 16 times before Christmas? Why are we fighting so hard for so little???). In any case, if you are applying for an exemption, it might as well be for something that would let you run a schedule. A fourth cohort wouldn’t do that. And, if you are applying, it would be nice to protect people. That’s not a case for a fourth cohort.

Fully Remote

So this option makes sense. It keeps everyone safe. It allows teachers to actually begin planning. And it allows some serious teacher conversation – how can we make remote teaching into something more substantive than what we did in the spring? But the DoE has said, no. One strategy might be to force them to say, no. And then, no. And no again. And bombard them with requests. I think this might work, but I’m not so sure that principals are up for this sort of brinksmanship.

Mostly Remote

So this is what I want to talk about. What if we project a bunch of school functions still being in school? Some guidance? Some special services? Some social supports? Some clubs? Meal pick-up? Maybe some therapy that can’t be delivered remotely? IEP services? Socially distanced physical activity? Advisory? AIS?

In other words, what if we planned for a host of academic, emotional, and social supports, in person, in the building? And what if we kept classes remote? Oh, and what if our buildings’ wifi networks were available for those kids who cannot access their classes from home?

We would be projecting a much better plan than the mayor, the chancellor, or their over-priced consultants have conceived of. There would be consistency and reliability. Teachers could begin planning, now. Schools could create schedules that actually work. The reasons that students need to come into the building (aside from childcare), those needs could be partially met (and met far better than under the Carranza Cohort nonsense, with its daily chaos by design). And people would be safer than under de Blasio’s politically motivated scheme. Not as safe as staying 100% at home, but there would be fewer commuters, and social distancing could be well-maintained in the school buildings.

The DoE is terrified of reasonable alternatives

How could the DoE say no? Easily. Because their plans are motivated by politics, and not by care about children or care about safety, they will reject plans that make sense.

Stuyvesant proposed fully remote. Rejected. Except I think they included Academic, Emotional, and Social supports in the building. NEST+ proposed fully remote. Rejected. Except I think they included Academic, Emotional, and Social supports in the building.

There are at least 3 dozen more schools planning similar proposals. I would be surprised if the number does not turn out to be much higher. A principal could put forward a reasonable proposal, that does not directly contradict the DoE, and that makes sense, is workable, and keeps more people safe. Or that principal could implement Carranza’s plan and be held responsible for the inevitable September chaos and sickness that will result.

More Reasonable Alternatives

Two very different proposals have just been floated

Mark Treyger, the chair of the New York City City Council Education Committee, released this weekend: Creative Thinking on School Reopening is Necessary to Prioritize Safety and Student Well-Being. Treyger calls for a later start to the school year to allow time for planning, real safety guidelines with thoughtful, careful implementation, and for the youngest and neediest children to go to school full-time, starting with elementary students, and students with IEPs.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams rolled out his White Paper on Opening New York City’s Schools, today. it is a careful and cautious plan, that builds up infrastructure first, then brings in elementary school, and only as that stabilizes does he bring in middle school and high school. I would describe it as comprehensive and thoughtful. There is an eye on detail, including waiving state testing, including regents, increasing access to mental health, rent moratorium, providing child care, improving remote learning.

I don’t love either of the politicians plans – but I credit them for being serious, for being concerned with safety, and for being far less political than the Mayor’s disaster. Either plan could be the starting point for a serious public discussion of what we should do. And I trust both Treyger and Williams to actually engage in thoughtful conversation. Carranza and de Blasio? Nah.

I also appreciate the implicit comment both men have made: we need a new plan, because the Chancellor’s plan is not a plan.

COVID Risk Chart(This doesn’t really fit, but it’s colorful, and about COVID risks, and you should really be supporting geek comics by visiting yourself. It’s xkcd.com. By the way, I’m glad I don’t have to pick one corner of the chart and live there. Except I kind of am.)

End Game

Is it possible that a “mostly remote” approach takes hold, that Carranza adopts it, and that we run it in September? Yes. Or could one of the new plans get taken up, and that we are implementing one of them in September? Yes.  But more likely, by the time we get there, that the pandemic is spiking and we all stay home. Most thinking people expect New York City schools to be fully remote come September. We see what’s going on in the rest of the country. Our numbers got low, and stayed there. The virus is not – poof – going away. The Carranza plans are unworkable.

But in the meantime, it’s worth talking about “mostly remote”:  It’s a serious conversation. It allows teachers to make real plans. It protects principals. And it keeps many more people much more safe.

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    July 28, 2020 am31 11:03 am 11:03 am

    Given the lack of information on 100% RL and fears that kids may be taught by teachers outside of their school, parents at my school are already planning on signing up for Blended Learning with no intention of ever sending their kids into the building. This way, they can guarantee being taught by one of their teachers, having class with their classmates and learning the same curriculum. The problem with this deception is that it may take away more in-person days for students that really need to be in the building. How are principals supposed to plan with ficticous numbers?

    One solution for NEST, Stuyvesant and any other school looking to have more control over it’s destiny is to protest. Not picket lines and signs but a schoolwide (or citywide) effort of protest by having all of the students sign up for in-person Blended learning even if they want 100% remote learning. Then on the days those students are supposed report in-person to school, they tell the school the reaon for their absence is in protest to the lack of viable options/safety/etc. The students that need or want to be in the building, report to school on those days.

    For schools that want 100% RL, this could achieve that end instead of waiting for an exemption that will never get approved. This will also guarantee your kid will be taught by one of your school’s teachers.

    They can’t punish 100’s or perhaps 1000’s of students. Besides it’s a bad look for the DOE to punish kids whose parents are trying to protect them during a global pandemic.

    Oh and…doesn’t de Blasio love a good protest?

    • July 28, 2020 am31 11:06 am 11:06 am

      I love a good protest…. But I absolutely don’t want to get to Labor Day with blended still on the menu… Need something that works earlier…

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