I keep seeing those on both sides of the COVID debate continuing to go back and forth about reopening schools. At this point, the debate has become more about politics than it does about actual infection control. Everyone is trying to condense this COVID thing down into a 3 second soundbite or tagline so they can get in a cheap zinger, this reducing a complex issue into monkey poop flinging.
I am torn. I can see valid reasons for either decision. Let me explain:
– Our society can’t seem to decide. In Florida, the Republicans claim that the disease is such a threat that bars must remain closed, while restaurants and movie theaters can only open at 50 percent capacity. Sporting events are cancelled because gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited. Unless that gathering is a high school sporting event, because reasons. Either open it all up, or cloase it all down. Stop trying to pick winners and losers.
Schools themselves are not taking this seriously, but at the same time, they are. For example:
– we are being told that schools are going to remain safe through a campaign of social distancing and mask wearing. Class sizes remain at the same size as they always have. I teach 6 periods a day. Periods one through five have an average of 22 students per class(1). There is no way for me to ‘socially distance’ 23 people who are all in the same room. If we can’t socially distance, everyone is required to wear masks. How successful do you think we are going to be in getting 1300 teens to stay away from each other and wear masks all day? We can’t keep them apart and from trying to copulate during the best of times.
– My school claims that the teachers will be sanitizing their classrooms in the 5 minutes we have between classes. That is impossible, because the school hasn’t provided any supplies for doing so- no sanitizer, no spray bottles, no supplies of any kind. In fact, all we have been given so far for COVID supplies are 3 disposable ear loop masks, and an 8 ounce bottle of alcohol based hand sanitizer.
– My school also claims that our rooms were thoroughly cleaned and sanitized by our janitorial staff while we were locked out. When we returned, the desks still had eraser shavings on them.
If the eraser shavings are still there, the desks have obviously not even been wiped down, much less sanitized. In fact, the bathroom on my floor still has dried urine in one of the corners from when a student decided to piss on the wall a year ago.
Florida is currently seeing thousands of new cases of COVID per day, with dozens of deaths each day. Whether or not you think those numbers are reliable (I don’t) the fact remains that the illness is worse than it was back in March when the schools were originally shut down. Every teacher that I know is convinced that we are going to eventually shut down. There is even a pool going on how long. My pick is ten school days after the students resume classes. The guess that has the longest pick is October 1.
That creates a problem for teachers. What made the spring shut down so difficult was that teachers had 48 hours from when the shutdown was announced to have their classes back up and running online. We had such silly restrictions that the online classes of the spring were a joke. Each of us is determined that online classes in the next shutdown will be of higher quality and that we will not be caught by surprise.
1- My sixth class is an online class to accommodate those students who are attending virtually. It has 45 students in it. 48 teachers in my school are teaching online courses. The courses are large. It creates a large workload on teachers. I have a total of 160 students, all of whom must have their papers graded. I have to make lessons, study materials, and assignments available to all of my students- the ones who are face to face get papers, the ones who are online get electronic. On top of that, I have to figure out how to do tests and quizzes online while making the playing field even between the online kids who can and will cheat, and the kids who are physically in my class.