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Six thousand school doors

August 9, 2020 pm31 4:33 pm

That might be the number of public school doors in New York City. There are over 1800 schools, but some are in leased buildings, and some are “campuses” which in New York means one building shared by several schools. In the rest of the country a campus is one school spread into several buildings. The New York City Department of Education claims 1557 buildings. That’s from a survey from last year, the number is probably pretty close to reality.

My first school had eight doors. Or was it six? My current is a leased building, but has two doors. I’m guessing four might be near the average, which is how I get 6000. If you told me I was wrong, that it was actually 5000, or 9000, I would not be shocked. But we get the idea. The NYCDOE has in the neighborhood of 6000 doors to the streets.

It’s a good thing that we do not need a separate hybrid plan for every door. That would be a lot of plans. But we do need a separate hybrid plan for each school. And at nearly 2000, that’s still a lot of plans.

You know what every plan needs? Every plan needs to include doors. Let’s talk about that for a moment. Let’s talk about morning entry.

Friday July 31 New York City had an outline, not a plan, as one of Cuomo’s aides accurately pointed out. Then Friday they submitted a new plan. Last Friday they turned in 32 pages. Small towns were turning in over 50. Yonkers was over 100. This Friday the NYCDoE turned in 109 pages.

Are there any English teachers reading this? Let me know if you’ve heard this story before. This one is 109 pages – but 33 are a list of every school in New York City, and another 18 are title pages and index – sound familiar? – large font, generous margins, most sections end with 5 lines eating up a full page?

But there is enough content this time that just maybe it will be considered a Citywide plan. OK, so what does it say about doors? Hmm. Check that. What does it say about “entry”? The word shows up five times:

  • Every school will be required to ensure that all individuals stay at least six feet apart at all times, including at building entry…
  • Students and staff will need to thoroughly clean their hands as soon as possible upon entry to the school building.
  • Afterschool program staff who work at a location or school other than where they are supervising afterschool activities/coaching are required to follow daily entry protocols upon arrival to the afterschool site.
  • The BRT will be responsible for managing and supporting the school’s response to any incidents related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes collaborating with the principal to plan
    and execute morning entry plans.
  • When BRT is activated to address COVID-19 related incidents (“COVID-19 activation”), team members will assume the following additional responsibilities:  BRT Leader: serves as the point of contact for all team members during entry, dismissal,…  Special Needs Coordinator: For the purpose of COVID-19 activation, manages the school staff assigned to conduct temperature screening at each point of entry.

Point of entry!  Those are doors. They mention doors!  Not 6000 times, but they mention them. And what is the plan for the doors? “Every school will be required to ensure…” “Students and staff will need to thoroughly clean their hands…” But how do we maintain 6 foot separation? How do we line kids up to use the bathroom to wash hands before going to class?

The DoE still has an outline! They have guidelines! It’s not a plan.

This matters. A solid entry plan does not guarantee that a school can operate just fine (I doubt many will be able to), but lack of a solid entry plan guarantees that social distancing will be massively violated before a single student has planted their behind in a socially distanced classroom chair.

What needs to be in an entry plan?

Time; Number

An entry plan must include time that each entry begins, and how many students are entering. For example, a 6 – 8 school of 1350 students, might be operating in three cohorts, of 450 each. Bringing in 450 all at once would likely cause the crowd to smoosh together. Perhaps the school brings in 150 7th graders at 8, 150 8th graders at 8:30, 150 6th graders at 9:00.  That’s the beginning of a plan. Has your school begun a discussion that looks like that? No? Probably very few have.

Doors

Will your school be using one entry door? More doors would allow quicker entry, but see “Post-Entry” below for complications. Also, multiple doors require more staff.

Gathering Location

An entry plan must include where the children are prior to entry. What if your school always had kids come hang out in the playground or school yard? Issue, right? Ever try to keep middle schoolers from touching each other? Who will keep them socially distanced in a school yard? Or perhaps they should be lined up from the moment they arrive? (I was getting to that). A six foot distanced line for 150 students is about 900 feet (almost 0.2 mile). That’s approximately one full avenue block in Manhattan, or 3 1/2 short street blocks. Is there adequate sidewalk space? Are there issues with driveways? Perhaps the street could be shut off from 7:30 – 10:00 for entry, and a zigzag Disneyland-style (but with much more space) line could be constructed. Maybe there is a nearby parking lot? The least of the problems are putting down marks and cones.

Line mechanics

A sidewalk line with markings doesn’t have to be reset each day. Blocking off driveways does. Blocking off a street and putting up cones or stanchions and ropes does. That’s not the hard part, but it’s part. Much more challenging, as students arrive, moving them to the right spot, and getting them to stay there.  Assume our 900 foot line has been folded so that it is 150 feet, zigzagging about 25 feet in the street (making a rectangle). There is work to do monitoring the line (from outside the line), maintaining spacing, moving students forward. These are serious assignments. If a person assigned is a teacher, this is not prep time.

Entry duration

I have no idea how long it takes to bring 150 students into a building while maintaining social distancing. I am here assuming that 30 minutes is more than enough time – but do I know that? No. And see “Post-entry” below, which could slow things down. If 30 minutes are insufficient, the “stagger” might need to be greater. I can’t imagine that less than 15 minutes is possible.

Post-Entry

As a student enters the building, the DoE requires they wash hands. Where are your bathrooms? How will the student reach the bathroom? How long will hand washing take? Will you create a line outside each bathroom? How long can the line be before you cause crowding / lose control? Remember, social distancing must be maintained in the hallways and lines and bathrooms, not just the classroom. The answers to some of these questions may lead you to slow entry, to keep the numbers under control. Also, if you are using multiple entries, how will you coordinate to prevent pile-up in the hallway?

Wrong Day Richard

Students will arrive on the wrong day. It will happen by mistake. It will happen intentionally. The student might miss school. The parent might seek to drop off the child because there is no one to watch her. How will the school verify that the correct students have arrived? What will happen to the student who arrives on the wrong day?  And here, I’m sorry, the answer can’t just be “call the parent to come pick him up” – where will the child stay in the meantime? One option in regular times that is not an option today: no mass preps in the auditorium without violating social distancing.

Takeaway?

Maybe a school could use my list, or a better one, and answer these questions and be completely ready. Maybe they could write it up and put it in the NYCDoE’s actual plan that eventually gets submitted to New York State (because their 109 pages, actually 58, large margins, lots of half pages, big font, – it’s still an outline/guideline, not a plan). But coming up with the entry plan for each school is not enough. There are logistics issues, and few schools have even started. There is a real space problem with Wrong Day Richard. And there are staffing issues, and staffing is already a problem. Even with a good entry plan, this hybrid approach is wrong. And we do not have 1800 good entry plans for 6000 doors.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——– —– — — – – 

Oh! There’s the first day! What were you going to do the first day? We can talk about that another time.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    August 9, 2020 pm31 10:16 pm 10:16 pm

    By the time everyone lines up, enters the building, washes hands adequately and appropriately and reports to their class, they will have to start getting ready for the same procedure for dismissal. The city wants it’s citizens to think there is a plan so that others can be blamed at the last minute as the reason their plan could not be carried out.

    • August 12, 2020 am31 10:30 am 10:30 am

      It also underlines the absurd lengths de Blasio is proposing we go to ensure some minimal amount of in-person time… We are not debating remote vs in-person. We are debating remote vs remote disrupted by an occasional traumatic trip to the building.

  2. cklaus permalink
    August 11, 2020 am31 10:23 am 10:23 am

    This would require WPA levels of personnel investment to carry out, day after day. And what about contingencies? From a teacher’s perspective, this reads like the day from hell, and class hasn’t even started yet! Let’s hope that your leaders quit deluding themselves.

    • August 12, 2020 am31 10:31 am 10:31 am

      This is a titanic task set in place for a badly substandard in-person experience. With health risks. You are right, it is absurd.

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