Close the Pubs, Open the Schools (Plague, Day 124, July 8, 2020)

Disclaimer: I have a paid work gig project that has to get out the door, so I’m going to have write this quickly. Probably too quickly.

FINALLY. People suddenly realized that our schools are probably not going to open, if it is left up to local education officials (and the teachers’ unions), and that it MAJOR FUCKING DISASTER. It’s a disaster for the economy, and for kids and parents.

It’s a disaster for the young kids, whose little pliable brains were completely neglected for half a year. Did you know there is a short window of time to teach certain skills, like handwriting, and when that window shuts, it’s very, very hard to learn those skills.

It’s a disaster for special ed kids, who were totally neglected for six months. Those kids need every second of education that they can get, and they got nada.

It’s a disaster for teenagers, who are prone to depression and self-hatred. Without their packs of friends, they have been moping in their rooms for half a year. What happens when we add another year onto the prison sentence? Bad stuff.

And women, who had to pick up the slack, are fucked career-wise. They have been the unpaid laborers of the school districts for six months. Now add another year? Screw you. Pay me.

Schools could reopen if we made schools the priority for the pandemic relief efforts. Instead of opening bars, let’s force everyone to wear masks and open the schools in September er.

Speaking of bars, my college kid is going to get a job as a bus boy at a bar and grill this week. Society thinks it is okay for my kid to work in a restaurant around a whole bunch customers, many of whom are teachers and professors, but he can’t take an upper level seminar with ten people. THERE WILL BE MORE PEOPLE IN THE RESTAURANT THAN IN THE SEMINAR ROOM. Will someone explain this to me?

Right now, I don’t expect either of my kids to enter a classroom in September, and I basically want to stab everyone.

Betsy DeVos gave a press conference about the need to open schools this morning, and for probably for the first time ever, I agreed with everything she said. That is where we are at, people. Dogs and cats living together.

This whole ideal of public education may be already falling apart. I’m hearing stories about armies of tutors being hired this summer to make up for the complete and utter collapse of public education this spring. The rich and the UPM are going to have governesses and tutors. Everybody will get trade school.

25 thoughts on “Close the Pubs, Open the Schools (Plague, Day 124, July 8, 2020)

  1. Yes. This. I think DeBlasio agrees with me, which is my version of cats and dogs living together. Whether he will get it done, I don’t know: he hasn’t been particularly effectual during his tenure.


  2. DeBlasio and NYC DOE seem to be pushing for 1/3-1/2 time in school depending on the school facilities –

    We have to see what comes of the inevitable pissing match between him, Cuomo and Mulgrew.

    My kids who where at a NYC middle school last year really missed their friends and the socialization
    From a pure education perspective, it was not bad. They had around 2 hours a day of live classes, plus pre-recorded videos, some from their teachers and some from third-parties.

    I would estimate they learned somewhere between 80-90% of what they would have in school. More in math and science, less in ELA and social studies. I was really impressed with how the teachers adapted on the fly..


  3. As I’ve mentioned but as a recap: My grade 3 kid lost the time, except what I provided. His online experience was awful. My grade 9 student got quite a bit of education, but not quite what he would have had (part of this was a 2 week delay in launching online education.)

    I’m a little frustrated that Ontario hasn’t provided money + creating partnerships with business with online training expertise + incentive to school boards to beef up online education and make it /better/, although given our current Premier’s background and politics I’m not surprised. We’re still in Stage 2 of reopening, not Stage 3, and I am wondering if we’re still in Stage 2 in part because there’s a bit more understanding (thanks to Melbourne and Israel) that you really should /crush/ your curve before reopening, from a sheer COVID perspective. (Which is not holistic.)


    What I really came to say is that I’m doing two online post-secondary courses right now. I’m a lifelong learner and have taken a lot of continuing ed classes, writing workshops, and corporate training sessions. I am engaged with the material and the instructors are clearly committed and diligent…and I am writing this at this time because I have been trying to make it through a module of video instruction and I. am. struggling. to pay attention. The instructor has a monotone and is working through screens. In class, I would probably feel about the same way but I could look at other students or doodle but in front of a video I’m finding it goes at a pace that makes doodling hard (or maybe it’s that the screen is closer so I can’t doodle and track what’s on the screen as well?) and there’s nothing to look at but my living room, which is cleaner and cleaner because I keep looking up to see something that needs to be straightened or dusted IMMEDIATELY.

    I also find, and I think this is consistent with research, that if a video is just a video and doesn’t have an interactive problem solving component, I really have more trouble retaining it than I would in a classroom. Apparently I’m like a 3-d human learner, as I can still remember class discussions from my last editing class in 2003.

    I am gaining in sympathy for the child side of all the arguing I had with my kids this spring about staying on task.

    In Ontario I am hoping we get to where we can go back in September in some form unless Something Bad Happens but…we won’t have our plans for a while yet, and our household may have to opt for distance anyway, at least for my little guy. My kids do not have special needs and I feel like we can work to catch them up, mostly, but I am with you on being increasingly worried.


  4. You do realize it isn’t just 10 person seminars, right? That is it also the professor/instructor who not only will be in a 10 person seminar, but also in a big lecture that is now cut down in capacity so they can fit everyone in the room over the course of the week (but the prof still has to be in that same possibly unventilated room for 1.5 hours at a stretch with all those students), times 4 or 5 or even 6 for community colleges, times 3 to 4 for regional universities/small institutions (non-elite)? That the staff has to interact with thousands to feed them and clean everything. That all the students cannot move through the hallways and still keep any kind of distance? Believe me, I want my kids back and school and my college back in session (because I sure as heck don’t like prepping my courses for 3 possible scenarios on all my uncompensated time this summer), but it is scary as hell, and I’m at a place that is at least mandating masks in the classroom (but won’t let most profs choose online, because we need the room and board revenue).

    So I agree, it is stupid to let people be inside at bars and restaurants, but it is also stupid to let them be in 10 person or 30 person or 50 person rooms with no a/c, and no windows that open, and expect the virus to just not transmit. I realize Rutgers probably has better ventilation than my school does, but still.


    1. And the problem is DeVos isn’t saying what you are – close the pubs, open the schools. They want it all open to get the economy going, supposedly (I don’t know about the UMC’s habits, but this solidly middle-middle to low-middle class family is saving money as much as possible in preparation for pay cuts/furloughs and/or my wife’s business taking another hit in a shut down, so there is no spending going on no matter how open anything is.)


  5. Just on the catch up side.

    Here in NZ the kids have been back at school for 6 weeks following an 8 week lockdown. During that lockdown they had about 4 weeks on online education. Some children engaged with this more than others – for a whole variety of reasons.

    But since they’ve been back at school, my 12-year-old (who I *made* do the work online – with a lot of help from me), has basically been spinning his wheels – while the teachers try to catch up all the kids who didn’t do the work/learning remotely.

    I would say that during this term of 12 weeks, the class as a whole has done about 4-5 weeks of learning (combining online and in person). Having talked to his math teacher (math is the subject he struggles with) – the estimate is that 1/3 (at least) of the kids basically learned nothing online – (not judging, there are reasons). And this is a school which really did their best to offer online classes/tutorials/learning options.

    For one term of work, at 12 years old, this isn’t a disaster. These kids have plenty of time to catch up and the teachers have the time (it’s the middle of the school year for us), to go over topics again.

    But what does this mean for schools who are closed for much longer? And for older kids who have critical exams?

    I have no idea if there is any research going on into this situation here in NZ – but there should be. Schools in other countries could learn a lot from the experience of re-starting the ‘live’ school environment. And what remediation is required….


    1. Oh we fantasize about learning from New Zealand but are pretty far away from imagining what in person remediation would look like.


  6. At the moment I’m watching a technical discussion of how to handle COVID on my college campus according to regular industrial safety standards, by someone who’s been working in the field for 30+ years and resigned from the state panel (along with another expert) because the schools were just blowing off their concerns. The level of caution/equipment/maintenance that we would need to take to meet basic standards – that is, what would have been considered “basic” pre-COVID – is way higher than our school can afford. Now, we are lucky in that cases are way down here, so maybe we’ll luck out.

    On my campus they are going to great lengths to schedule classes with more space between, keep numbers low so spacing is possible (the one up side to a huge decline in enrollment in the last ten years is we can fit people here!), switch some classes to online. My classes will be kind of hybrid – my class of 35 will divide into three since no more than 15 students can be in my classroom at a time. So I’ll prep some online lectures and other activities, but then have a once a week discussion section (as opposed to a 3 times a week class).

    Almost everyone I know is assuming that students will come back, there will be 100+ cases within three weeks, and then we will go to all-online. But the plan is to be F2F until Thanksgiving and then be online after that. After watching this I’m guessing we will bail on our plans to do any F2F before the semester starts – unless things are really, really good here in terms of case numbers.

    Of course the bars should be closed also. Our restaurants are only at 50% capacity and we have a sensible governor. I have no good suggestions for K-12. Some of our college students will lose momentum if everything is online, and that sucks, but it’s nowhere near as bad as for K-12 students.


  7. Laura wrote, “The rich and the UPM are going to have governesses and tutors. Everybody will get trade school.”

    It’s worse than that.

    A lot of the trade school education cannot be meaningfully offered without live, hands-on classes.

    It’s not like you can read a book, write an essay, take a paper test, and be prepared to do plumbing work.


    1. This is true. My niece wants to get a BS in nursing and we are wondering how they will handle all the lab classes, not to mention the clinical instruction. Luckily she doesn’t graduate till 2021 but who knows?


  8. I don’t see any solutions, frankly, for school or college. There will be risks and significant losses and they will be balanced against each other and we can’t know what will happen. Kiddo suggested the other day that he’s thinking, could he get infected and then isolate himself for two weeks after he got well. But that only works if infection actually confers immunity. Colleges might up being an experiment in that theory.

    I do think more people have to start thinking of themselves as potentially essential workers and demand, not the working remotely (unless they can do their job that way; some people can) or not working at all, but, instead, the best practices protection to be able to work in person.

    Unfortunately, I think schools have a bad track record at providing that safety, and, won’t have the resources to do so.

    What makes me saddest is how confrontational all these interactions are. People are fighting over dysfunctional solutions and we’ll get the worst of all worlds if they do.


    1. We’re going to get the worst. It looks like by the election, there will be pretty close to 1% of the U.S. dead from Covid. That’s not something you can win an election on as an incumbent if the election is about governing. That means more denial and “won’t somebody think of the statues” and attacking the people who could actually run a reasonable response.


      1. MH said, “We’re going to get the worst. It looks like by the election, there will be pretty close to 1% of the U.S. dead from Covid.”

        That is close to mathematically impossible.

        100% of the US would have to get COVID to have 1% of the population die of COVID.


      2. I think the worst case is probably something like .5%. But even if there’s no vaccine or sound policy, that will take longer than November.


  9. I find the restaurant analogy only a partial parallel. The other is health care locations. We can make rules about distancing for restaurants, but less so for schools. Kindergartners aren’t going to distance and, pretty much, neither are college students. Putting teachers or college administrators in policing the behavior of those groups isn’t going to work. So, I think we have to have scenarios presuming no distancing (which means protective equipment)and to have scenarios of what we do when coronavirus infections are detected.


    1. And the ‘stop’, ‘start’ problem is pretty severe as well. Starting up classes, then closing them down again when there’s a Covid case, then going online, then starting up again, — repeatedly — is a really bad model for any form of education. Constant change is much worse than just sticking with a solution (even if the solution isn’t perfect).

      But, what are the alternatives?
      * Go online – for how long? Forever? Because Covid isn’t going to just disappear…. We know that online education isn’t a great (or even a viable) option for everyone.
      * Just keep the classes running – regardless of Covid infection rates. (So you stay at home if you have symptoms, but just don’t worry, otherwise). Not going to fly with teacher unions (even if it did with parents). Given that Covid in general has minor effects for most kids – this can actually be defended as an option for education. The issue, however, isn’t the kids getting infected, it’s that they pass that infection onto their families….
      * Open up schools with reduced class sizes (run morning/afternoon sessions)? Can’t see that this helps materially. Kids will still interact in the playground and classroom….
      * Wait for the pandemic to burn out – for Covid to become endemic, rather than epidemic. And just plan on repeating a year of school for everyone? I’m increasingly seeing this as the only viable option for a large chunk of kids – especially ones who either have no access to online learning, or find it a really difficult model to engage with.

      Also, people (not just kids, but everyone) just will not maintain social distancing/isolation precautions indefinitely. [We’ve just had one self-entitled moron walk out of quarantine with Covid to go to the local supermarket – I’m sure you can imagine the vilification being directed at him, right now; and Melbourne has just had a spike of Covid cases due to security staff sleeping with people in quarantine!]
      But, in general, if you perceive the risk is dropping – then you lighten up on the onerous precautions. And it’s just not realistic to think that young kids are going to maintain protective equipment – it’s just not going to happen. As for students, they might in small tutorials – but will be partying and interacting outside of class – that social interaction is one of the big parts of why most people go away to University.


      1. Ann said, “Constant change is much worse than just sticking with a solution (even if the solution isn’t perfect).”

        I don’t know. I’m personally much more comfortable with on/off than 100% off.

        “Open up schools with reduced class sizes (run morning/afternoon sessions)? Can’t see that this helps materially. Kids will still interact in the playground and classroom….”

        You’re right, and I think parents will HATE half-days with a passion. My youngest is doing half-day therapy right now. It’s better than nothing, but the driving back and forth eats up an enormous amount of time relative to the mom free time it creates.

        Also, as other people have pointed out, if kids are going to outside childcare (which a lot of them will whether or not it is legal), half-days and partial school weeks just increase the size of their social circle, which is really counterproductive.

        “Melbourne has just had a spike of Covid cases due to security staff sleeping with people in quarantine!”

        Oh, man. Today I learned something new…


  10. If families wind up with kids on opposite half-day or half-week schedules, it’s going to be tar and feather time.


    1. They experimented with this split session concept a bit at a couple of our schools – before we opened up fully. And very quickly got the message that it wasn’t workable! Also tried older/younger kids on different schedules – and got the message that parents wanted their kids to be going to and from school at the same times.
      Initial plan was for 8-14 year olds to go back first. Then 5-8 year olds. Then 14+
      Parents of the 14+ kids were furious – these are the ones with serious exams on the horizon – who really, really needed to be back in the classroom a.s.a.p.
      Also, these were the kids who would be caring for younger siblings (if the younger kids weren’t able to go to school, and the parents were working outside home)
      Plan was ditched before even trialed.

      New plan was for children of essential workers to go back first. This was pretty much just babysitting. They were still doing online learning – just physically at school, rather than at home. Strictly controlled numbers (you had to book your child in at least 2 days in advance). Physical distancing (individual desks in the school hall). Limited access to school facilities: only designated bathrooms open; no support facilities (e.g. computer lab or library). Supervised playtime – not allowed within 2 meters of each other.
      Anecdotally, kids and teachers both hated it.
      Lasted about 2 weeks before full school opening.


  11. As the spouse of a k-12 teacher, I will never, ever, ever forgive anyone involved if my husband dies. I will pursue this issue until the end of time. I will write articles and books and form interest groups and give money to defeat anyone involved in this debacle. I will run for office. I’ve already started. I called everyone I could think of today. Thinking about picketing my local pediatric specialty building tomorrow because of the AAP providing cover for Trump and De Vos on the issue of schools. I am furious.

    We have decided to throw teachers back to work with no concern for their safety, with no attempt to protect them. It is clear we will just let them die. It is nothing like college. NOTHING. They are in little closed-in rooms for HOURS and HOURS at a time, not 50 minutes, not 1 hour fifteen, and with little time to go wash up. Anyone here who is not a k-12 teacher has absolutely no clue how hard they work. The conditions they work in. The lack of concern for them, their safety, their mental health, their well-being. The parental entitlement, the excessive expectations. No clue.

    All we have to do is repeat the year, in order to save thousands of precious lives. Separate out high-needs students and give PPE and resources to teachers to work with them. Be creative, find solutions. All we have to do is slow down the spread by staying out of the bars (what teachers and professors are hanging out in bars or restaurants? I still haven’t been to a grocery store!) But we will do nothing. We will do nothing. We will let the teachers die. And still the students won’t learn, because the schools will have cases and they will be quickly closed. The deaths sill be in vain.

    In several years time, there will be investigations and research and handwringing over our failure to protect teachers. The AAP will apologize. I have a long memory and will not forget. At the moment I consider the social contract broken–as what is the social contract to me if nobody cares to sacrifice anything to keep my loved ones safe? I have been good and helped others and cared about my community. But they will do nothing but tell older teachers to get back to work. I will not spend one extraneous dime on the economy. I will not support local businesses, as they do not care to support teachers. Let the stock market burn down. I can live on almost nothing. It’s sick, sick, sick that we care more about that than we do the people who are dying.


    1. lisag2 said, “Thinking about picketing my local pediatric specialty building tomorrow because of the AAP providing cover for Trump and De Vos on the issue of schools.”

      Has the AAP shown any previous eagerness to prop up Trump?

      Presumably, they and their membership can see for themselves what prolonged school closures are doing to their patients and the impact of prolonged isolation and educational neglect.

      On the other hand, I think that there’s a lot more that you could do if you wanted to to make sure that kids are making progress while studying remotely. For example, every kid or family who is not on track should be getting a daily phone call and there should be a lot more use of the phone if video conferencing is impractical. Also, there ought to be (distanced) home visits if kids are failing or truant. If kids are in the public school system and the parents haven’t officially filed for homeschooling, treat it as truancy. (I think what we’re going to find out is that a lot of kids have been home alone for long periods of time and/or have been parked in–likely illegal–home care situations with a bunch of other kids and/or vulnerable older people.)

      I suspect that if we knew more about what has been going on with low-end childcare arrangements the last few months, there wouldn’t even be a discussion with regard to the fall.


  12. I also think people are being way too blithe about the long-term risks. This is a novel virus, not a killer flu. But even the 1917 flu pandemic was thought to have caused early onset Parkinson’s years later (in people in their 30s and 40s, though) due to the depletion of neurons in the substantia nigra. (That’s what the movie Awakenings–and the book it was based on, by Oliver Sacks–was about. Parkinsonism patients that filled homes decades after the flu epidemic). Viruses regularly cause long-term effects. Polio not only has immediate effects, but causes post-polio syndrome. Herpes never leaves the body. Measles can produce Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis 6-15 years later, a condition which is invariably fatal. HPV causes cancer. Hepatitis causes cancer. Today an article was published in Brain about what is currently known the neurological impact of Covid. It is not difficult to imagine we will learn about dreaded, life-ending or life-changing long term complications of this disease that follow mild infections like those in children and teens.

    If I had a school-aged child, I would not send them in school in places where Covid-19 is endemic, which inludes pretty much the entirety of the U.S., until more is known about this virus. I will let my college kid have the facts and hope she makes wise decisions, as she is an adult.


    1. Lisa, I hear you. Nobody wants anything to happen to your husband. At least, I don’t. If something did happen to him, I would join you in any boycott of society. But here’s where I’m at…

      I go the local supermarket once a week now. It’s a standard suburban supermarket – medium sized, not the fancy type place. Everybody knows me, because I used to shop there everyday. I go in there once per week now, and chat with the workers, who are all middle aged men and women. I ask them, “what’s the story? Anybody here sick? Everybody well?” And they say, “Knock on wood. Yes.”

      My area of New Jersey was in the hot spot for the bad Italy version of the virus, and we now have hardly any cases. I’m sure that closing the schools helped to stop the spread. I was very vocal, if not here than on twitter and Facebook, that schools had to shut down in the spring. Also, we are militant mask wearers around here. I still walk to the other side of the street to put lots of room between myself and other pedestrians. We also shut businesses, churches, and everything.

      Those measures clearly worked. The numbers prove it, even if people discount my anecdotal chats with supermarket employees.

      Now, people in all sorts of professions are preparing to go back. Steve’s home until January, only because having his team at home is saving the company money. Other workers in his office are already back in the office. My BIL who is the director of a major architecture firm, is preparing to open his offices this fall. My neighbors the doctors are back. Jonah’s dentist is back. Every other profession, if they haven’t fired everyone, is preparing to reopen.

      Maybe that’s foolish. I’m not sure. But I do think that the lessons from this area of the country are super important. Masks and social distancing are highly, highly effective. Now, you might convince me that those measure are impossible in a classroom. You could also convince me that schools won’t be able to afford cleaning products and the safety procedures that are in effective in the private sphere. But we should think through options and take into consideration the incredible toll on children and families on school closures.

      I also think the argument can be made that society clearly values teachers. After all, I have not read any accounts of mass furloughs or layoffs of teachers, which has happened in other professions. Workers, like people who work for my husband, are home schooling their kids, while putting in a full day on their computers. They are doing two jobs every single day. We need to honor those people and appreciate their sacrifices.

      Also, keep in mind that I am arguing for school openings and I have a child with uncontrolled epilepsy. The medicine still isn’t working. He had a seizure during our vacation last week. The life expectancy for someone with autism and epilepsy is 39. If he gets a fever, it could trigger a massive, life ending seizure. Still, I want him back in school, because I believe that the safety precautions work.

      (Might make this comment it’s own post, because I want to generate debate.)


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