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Remember to Look Beyond the Crisis of the Day

September 11, 2020 pm30 3:38 pm

New York City public schools have been open for staff for two, three, now four days. And we have been busy dealing with problems.

Our immediate focus was drawn to personal protective equipment (PPE) and associated cleaning supplies (disinfectant spray, wipes, sanitizer). That seems to be solved? Maybe. Took some schools (Hi there!) two days to get deliveries; many are still incomplete. But most “stuff” is in most places. There are still issues. In some schools principals are refusing to distribute sanitizer, wipes, and gloves. Various parts of deliveries were short. But for the most part, “stuff” has arrived.

And then there was a storm over ventilation. Trust me, we will hear more about that topic. We are looking at a whole bunch of half-measures, many of which will no longer suffice on September 21 when kids arrive. Interior offices are a ventilation nightmare. (Stay out, if you can, unless you have been promised safety, in writing). And what spaces are safe, under what conditions, without HEPA or MERV13+ filters? And ventilation all goes to hell when the heating season starts. It is the height of irresponsibility to open schools in September, hoping that you will think of a plan for November. Who knows, and is remaining silent?

And now? Three COVID-19 cases in school so far. Nope. Six cases. Nope. Eight cases. Actually, sixteen so far. And this was just day three. There will be a flurry of concerned news stories. Except perhaps the NY Times, whose ace reporter thinks cases will happen and we should get over it, when she is not retweeting a reopening proponent, without identifying him as such.

But do not lose the big picture – all of this is dangerous, all of it is unfair, none of it will work.

Do not let each day’s crisis, and there will be another, and another, and another, do not let this series of crises distract from the need to go all-remote, or the fact that the opposition comes from our Governor, our Mayor, iur Chancellor, (and for now, our union).

We should not get so caught up in the “issue of the day” that we forget all the ways that going remote is the right decision, and not going there is wrong:

  • Yes, keeping spaces sanitized will be challenging, even with the proper supplies.
  • Yes, you were right to be nervous. Ventilation is a big problem. And everyone should know that the temporary solutions (might be good enough for now) won’t work when it gets cold. People know and aren’t speaking about this.
  • And yes, sick people will come to school without knowing they are sick (it’s already happening) and get more people sick. This system of not mixing kids through the day, and random testing – it is designed to limit the SIZE of the outbreaks. It is not designed to stop the outbreaks from occurring.

But there is more:

  • The planning (pedagogical, scheduling, and logistical) was done by almost two thousand principals, many of whom are not qualified to do this planning. We should not have to watch the results the week of September 21 – 25 to decided that the impending disaster is actually a disaster.
  • The blended learning models will provide WORSE education than fully remote, in most cases. This will be true in 100% of high schools (except a substantial number that have used an exception to essentially avoid implementing the chancellor’s plan – or, as I am currently hearing, never applied for an exception, but are simply disregarding their chosen model). And, we are in the hole. Instead of our most ambitious planners devoting this summer to preparing for fully remote, we have instead been engaged building a blended sandcastle, which we will watch wash away.
  • Social distancing is hard to maintain for adults. It will be much harder with children. Carranza’s plan “teach them” is just his way of shifting blame onto the classroom teacher in advance, for a problem that he created.  It will be massively problematic in the majority of our schools, at every level. Kids get close. Kids touch. Kids share things.
  • School overcrowding in NYC is a real thing. Because of this the DoE planned not for a good number for each classroom, but for the maximum number that could support social distancing. They shifted their guidelines. They went from 65 square feet to person to 50 square feet per person, often forgetting to count the teacher. They advised  that 9 – 12 would be typical. I know, you should know, the Chancellor knows – if schools are given choices, and put in impossible situations, they will choose the maximum allowable. And the repercussions? See “social distancing” above.
  • Entry and movement plans are not easy to devise, and may be hard to maintain. Especially for 1800 principals without training. Imagine what happens when too many people enter at once. Or when the line extends around the corner – or into the street. Or when a kid shows up on the wrong day. Or when twenty do, and there’s no space…
  • There is another aspect to overcrowding: other space. Where will teachers sit when they are not teaching? And by sit, remember, that many teachers will have to run live lessons with kids at home. Where is this space coming from? Many schools, probably most, do not have adequate office space or empty rooms to allow teachers to work, while socially distanced. And, oh yeah, don’t forget – the worst ventilation problems? Offices.
  • And then there is staffing. The UFT and DoE agreed to a staffing plan that created need for many more teachers – at a time when there was no more budget. This will not work. Some schools are putting “vacancy” as the teacher’s name for 5, 10, even 20 or 40 teachers. Other schools are not providing instruction while the child is remote (often two thirds of the time). And other schools are just waiting. Schedules are a mess. We do not have workable plans. And with all of our space eaten up, we cannot combine classes, or move them to the auditorium. Carranza brought us to the breaking point, and left us there, so that normal circumstance will do the actual breaking.
  • Back to staffing, and workload. There is one more approach that many schools are choosing – perhaps most schools. They do not have adequate numbers of teachers to run the school with the plan Carranza and the UFT agreed to. So they are giving teachers full schedules, and then adding remote classes. Instead of pushing the school to the breaking point, they are pushing the human beings who work there to the breaking point. The spring was brutally difficult to be a teacher. Workload was off the scale. We felt, many of us, most of us, physically exhausted. But that was not by design. Carranza is watching principals actually plan to do even worse to us – full remote teaching load, plus extra hybrid remote classes. And the UFT agreed to higher class size limits for remote. Or full in school teaching load, plus hybrid remote.  They are pushing the workload off the scale. I wish I knew that the UFT was looking at teacher schedules.

Unsafe conditions. Chaotic “planning.” Schedules that will not work. And unbearable workload. AND people getting sick. It’s time to stop this nonsense before it goes any further. We need to go remote, now.

 

 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Arthur Goldstein permalink
    September 11, 2020 pm30 7:48 pm 7:48 pm

    I’m confused by your title. It’s like, remember to look beyond the crisis of the day, because there’ll be a crisis the next day, the next, and the day after that. Crisis without end, amen. That’s how it feels, anyway.

    • September 11, 2020 pm30 10:08 pm 10:08 pm

      It’s not really one crisis after another – the whole thing is a crisis – and the answer is to move to remote.

      Better?

      • Arthur Goldstein permalink
        September 12, 2020 am30 7:18 am 7:18 am

        Easier to understand.

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