The Plague is Coming, Part 4

This morning, I tried to finish off an article that has nothing to do with the virus. It’s probably going to sit on my editor’s desk for a month, but I still want it done, so I can move on. I am waiting for a source to get back to me with a fact check, but am increasingly worried that I won’t hear back. He works in a public school, which is probably in back to back meetings about an upcoming closure.

Since my kid attends a public high school in another school district, I’ve been getting emails all day from TWO districts about what they’re going to do when the schools close. The public schools are very freaked out about meeting that 180 day school day minimum. They’ll run into big problems with the teachers’ unions and extra pay issues, if they can’t create an online plan in a day or two. It will destroy the budget.

For a massive school district, creating online education overnight is very tough. Add onto the issues that most teachers do not have the tech capability at home to run online classes.

Jonah’s college is shutting down tomorrow, but his history teacher already canceled today’s class. He still has three more days of school that will happen in one form or another online. Then there’s spring break, followed by two weeks of online instruction.

Colleges can handle these problems better than public schools, because so many classes are already online. The older profs will probably struggle, but they don’t teach too many classes anymore anyway.

University faculty, who are mostly contingent, adjunct instructors, aren’t protected by a union, so the universities don’t have to worry about extra pay or support for them.

I am frantically getting my ducks in line here. I have to close up all the work loose ends. I actually just ran to the post office to mail out some vintage books. (I sell old books as a weekend hobby. I made $300 on some encyclopedias from the 1940’s today.) Jonah’s bedroom has been used to sort out old books and clothes for the Good Will, so I have to tidy all that up in the next hour. If we’re all working from home, I need office supplies, including more printer ink.

Still no word on when Wall Street is going to start working remotely. Steve doesn’t have a date for that yet.

Still up in the air… Will Ian be able to take his scheduled SATs this weekend?

More later. Let me get my ducks in a row.

24 thoughts on “The Plague is Coming, Part 4

  1. Speaking as a community college English professor, I think the toughest aspect of closing a college is what to do about courses with a didactic component–science labs, automotive technology, welding, dental hygiene, graphic design, even nursing, which has a large simulator component these days. Our other allied health programs, like respiratory therapy and OR tech, also have in-house lab components that cannot be put online. Many of these programs are externally accredited by national organizations, and they have strict hour requirements to meet.

    Those are the folks I am worried about, especially if they are using Pell grants to pay for them–what happens if they have to shift their lab component to summers, when they might be working in order to pay for the next semester?

    I also bet high schools are concerned with athletics, which is tied to college scholarships (unfortunately). I can imagine the grumpy parents besieging schools to hold athletic events and practices to keep their children competitive for sports at the next level.


  2. It’s only been two weeks since I was telling people at meeting that I was worried. Only two weeks. And since, all of our independent schools have closed campuses, including ones who did not have online instruction set up. Today is the first day of instruction at the k-8 my kids went to. Colleges are shutting down, kicking the students out.

    I am waiting of news from my kiddo, listening to the dings on my phone.

    It has been a very long two weeks.


    1. bj said, “It’s only been two weeks since I was telling people at meeting that I was worried.”

      School or work?

      Coincidentally, 16 days ago, I was sitting in the last parent meeting before the seniors’ (now-cancelled) Italy trip. At that point, everything was going to be going forward as planned and the administrator running the meeting used air quotes around the word “epidemic.”


    2. School. And, the next day, Bothell HS closed, for a day, and then opened again. The situation has evolved so fast. Today, the Seattle Public Schools closed for two weeks.


  3. burkemblog said, “what to do about courses with a didactic component–science labs, automotive technology, welding, dental hygiene, graphic design, even nursing, which has a large simulator component these days.”



  4. I think we have to admit that the education they are receiving will not be the same. But, I guess, no one wants to put asterisks next to people’s qualifications (and, as you say in certificated fields, they can’t). In the long run, I think those lab/technical components are going to have to be done later. When will depend on how long the distancing remains in play. We’ll also need to make money available, though I do not what kind of distribution will be most effective.


  5. The middle-school girls carpool and I spent yesterday afternoon’s drive discussing how we’d handle their younger siblings if Austin schools close. The older kids’ magnet school has extensive provisions for online learning, and–while there are likely to be some debacles–they even have hotspots and computers to provide for kids who don’t have internet access at home. The elementary kids have nothing of the sort, so we can expect weeks of bored kids at home.

    Open issues were whether to quarantine each household from each other (which sounds miserable), and–if not–how to organize some kind of rotating neighborhood school. If we were to do the latter, what would we teach the kids that wouldn’t be re-taught when they go back to school? The plan we came up with was math drills (to keep in practice) at one house, history (which they are not taught) at another, and science documentaries at a house with a large TV and couch.

    The rest of the ride was spent discussing whose house we’d raid when the toilet paper stocks ran out. I’m not sure which plan was more realistic.


    1. BB,

      That sounds adorable.

      If our school closes for only a week or two without any home instructional orders, I’d put the big kids on normal summer schedule:

      –1 hr. reading
      –1 hr. educational activity (unless duplicated by reading)
      –1 hr. housework (cook, dishes, tidy, help with baby sister)
      –1 hr. exercise

      (I’m not actually that much of a hard case during the summer–but that’s what we tell the big kids that our expectations are.)

      The 1st grader would hopefully be doing the following (which is our current spring break schedule for her):

      –5-10 minutes Kumon workbook handwriting practice
      –5-10 minutes Kumon math workbook practice
      –read 2 books
      –do some toy pickup
      –non-germy outdoor activity?
      PM (after dinner)
      –read 2 more books.

      I’m pretty comfortable with the 1st grader finishing out the year on that schedule if we have to. I think the 9th grader is OK, too. On the other hand, unless school comes up with something brilliant, I’m at a loss how our 12th grader would keep up with AP Calculus AB and AP Physics 1, given standardized exams in early May.


  6. I thought we were getting two weeks without instruction, but was just informed that there are assignments accessible on line.


  7. The private schools are offering remote instruction, in the case of the K-8, with Zoom, and teachers and classmates. I’ll hear more about how it went soon.


  8. The public school made the decision precipitously, and has not dealt with some important issues, including the special education decisions.


  9. “When a reporter in the Capitol asked Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, 85, what precautions he was taking to protect himself from the disease known as Covid-19, he said none — and extended his arm with confidence: “Wanna shake hands?””

    On old people not listening.

    Glad my parents are reasonable.


  10. My mother was supposed to fly out to visit in a week. Not happening.

    I have been thinking of my dad’s cousin. His mother died of the flu, and he and his siblings went to live with my dad’s family until his father remarried.


  11. I was out grocery shopping this evening and saw something I’ve never seen before.

    You know those grocery cart disinfectant wipes at the store entrance that just about nobody normally uses? I saw literally six very diverse people (including myself) wipe down their grocery cart handles before going into the store (and yes, I did lurk around a bit watching). This is the first time I’ve ever seen this done by so many people.

    I hear that the NCAA is going to have basketball tournament games this spring played without fans in the stadium. The Houston Rodeo (a multi-week event with enormous attendance) has also been halted prematurely after an attendee came down with coronavirus.

    My guess is that (aside from intrinsic benefit) closures and cancellations are beneficial, in that they encourage ordinary people to take coronavirus seriously. Organizers are putting their money where their mouth is by cancelling or modifying events, and this is a lot more convincing than just words.


  12. My mother just got the waiting list for a retirement community – one of those places you have an apartment, then assisted living, then nursing home all in one place. She said it is a one year waiting list. I said, “maybe less” and laughed. I’m so going to hell.


  13. I’ve just entered into a friendly wager with my high school senior.

    If School announces a closure by March 18, my senior owes me $5.

    If School does not announce a closure by March 18, I owe my senior $5.


  14. Another reason why it’s easier to go online for colleges/universities: students are more capable of being independent learners. I cannot imagine how you transition to online learning for a kindergarten or 1st grade class without TONS of parental supervision and engagement.

    As I mentioned in Twitter, our state has already waived the 180 days requirement – I strongly suspect other states will do the same. This is going to be a HUGE natural experiment with the kids in school as guinea pigs.

    On a personal note, I am also anxiously following SAT testing closures as my son is scheduled to take it Saturday. My nephew’s SAT test in CA has been cancelled – no rescheduled date for him yet. Hoping ours goes on as scheduled this weekend – and yours too.


  15. slnoonanj said, “As I mentioned in Twitter, our state has already waived the 180 days requirement”

    That’s good.


  16. The entire article is worth reading. Short version: senior communities should isolate themselves. Do not visit grandma in her nursing home.

    The head of the American Health Care Association says relatives and friends should not be visiting loved ones in long-term care facilities
    He described coronavirus as ‘almost a perfect killing machine’ for the elderly
    At least 11 nursing homes in Washington state have reported cases, including Life Care Center of Kirkland, linked to several deaths and infections
    The center’s spokesman said residents have gone from no symptoms to death within a matter of hours


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