Greetings from the COVID cave! It’s not a huge newsflash by now, but omicron is omnipresent, at least here in New Jersey. Even though I was vaccinated and boosted, I got it last week, which meant that we cancelled our extended family gathering. The draft menu with a dozen Italian fishy dishes was crumpled up and tossed in the garbage. I watched the kids open their gifts with a zoom lens on my camera from a safe distance, and then went back up to the bedroom for another several days.
Omicron is everywhere in New Jersey, but the good news is that it wasn’t very harsh for me – somewhere in between a cold and the flu — and now I have super immunity. I think it’s nearly impossible to avoid it; the real question is how we’re going to handle it. Are we going to shutdown society and schools again?
There is enormous pressure from the top to not close schools. That’s why the CDC has shifted its recommendations for dealing with positive people. Now, positive people only have to isolate for five days. Fauci says that positive people are really only contagious two days after exposure and the first three days of symptoms. After that, they say that the risk of contagion is minor. (So, we quarantined for ten days for nothing? Ugh!)
My guess is that big city schools are going to shutdown. School leaders in Washington and Chicago, under enormous pressure by the AFT, are saying that schools will probably go remote in January. Mayor Adams in New York City says they won’t. Behind the scenes, there must be HUGE battles going on between the various groups in the Democratic Party. If schools close down, Democrats will lose every election for the next ten years.
I suspect that the Democrat leaders are making some deals that suburban schools stay open, because they can’t afford to lose the suburbs, but they’ll take the loss in the cities.
In politics, there’s always a big difference between what will happen and what shouldhappen. What should happen is that schools remain open, because kids have still not recovered from remote education. One education expert called remote education a “cruel joke,” and I think he’s right.
By now, there’s just so much evidence about learning lag and behavior issues, but what’s freaking me about today are the stories from teachers saying that their students are developmentally delayed. Third graders are acting like kindgarteners. First graders don’t know how to play with their classmates on the playground.
In the New York Times, Erica Green did a deep dive into the massive damage done to kids at one school in Pennsylvania. In addition to all the learning and behavior problems, she also honed in on the developmental delays.
For Nikolas Tsamoutalidis, an assistant principal, the most vivid image of the post-pandemic student body was at lunch this year, when he saw ninth graders — whose last full year in school was seventh grade — preparing to play “Duck, Duck, Goose.” “It’s like fifth or sixth graders,” he said, “but in big bodies.”
But I don’t need studies or newspaper articles to see the damage. I’ve got damage right here in my house. After three semesters of watching his professors drone on and on with You Tube lectures, my college kid hates college so much that I’m just thrilled that he is sticking with it and will graduate in May. He will never step foot in a classroom again. He loathes his college and has no relationship with any faculty at his school. With all this time locked in his dorm room, he doesn’t even look physically healthy.
And my 19-year with high functioning autism is an even worse spot. His social skills regressed after 18 months in his bedroom with remote education. And then he graduated to an 18-21 program, where they don’t think he deserves compensatory education, and they can’t do anything else with the kids either. Transition programs are supposed to help kids learn job skills, so they can move from special education to a real world jobs. However, businesses are refusing to take students with job coaches right now, so there are no practice-jobs. He spends all day in a basement classroom — getting 1,000 steps per day — playing video games on his phone.
Even though disabled kids like my son were disproportionately hurt by the pandemic and remote education, he has gotten nothing extra. No tutoring, no special clubs to work on rusty social skills. The community hasn’t provided clubs or activities. Neither has the school district. It’s like he doesn’t exist.
During this school break, he doesn’t even have time-wasting stuff with the school district. He has no friends, no job (no one will hire him), no school, no college, no New Year Eve parties, no trips abroad, no future plans. He’s up in his bedroom playing video games all day. He bored and sad.
I try to fill the gap the best that I can. I had him help make dinner yesterday, and then took him to the movies. After lunch today, I’ll take him on the bus into New York City and we’ll go to a museum. But I can’t do everything. Steve and I have to work, too. (I found a program for him in Connecticut. Fingers crossed that it works out, she said vaguely.)
If schools shutdown again, my mostly-abandoned autism son will be totally abandoned again. I cannot face that reality.
But there is absolutely no way that we can go back to 2020-2021 shutdowns of work and school. No way. It’s over. Kids are so massively damaged right now, and I am angry with everyone who tried to cover up that information last year. It’s shameful what happened to young people during the pandemic.
Masks may be permanent. At-home COVID tests might be permanent. But we must never shut up young people in the basement again. Why? Because a poorly education public is BAD for the country. Interrupted education is BAD for our democracy.
We already have a terrible track record with teaching basic skills like reading and math — only 34 percent of fourth graders can read on grade level. With all this chaos, things are going to be worse. Some are even making the argument right now that students, who will someday being working in McDonalds, don’t need to learn algebra and biology. If you are not worried about a future without educated citizens, you should be. Illiterate and uneducated citizens cannot make good choices in the voting booth.
Our democracy is sitting on the bedrock of public education, and right now that bedrock is made of sand.
51 thoughts on “The Fallout From Remote Education: It’s A Fiasco for Kids, Families, and Democracy”
“For Nikolas Tsamoutalidis, an assistant principal, the most vivid image of the post-pandemic student body was at lunch this year, when he saw ninth graders — whose last full year in school was seventh grade — preparing to play “Duck, Duck, Goose.” “It’s like fifth or sixth graders,” he said, “but in big bodies.”
That’s not really a persuasive example. There is nothing wrong with Duck Duck Goose, and I’ve seen older kids play childish games before. In fact, I wonder if Squid Games has something to do with it. (I haven’t watched it, fwiw.) But the “old school” children’s games were part of it, so perhaps it set off memories of other childhood games.
We were in Manhattan for about 24 hours a couple of days ago, and my husband woke up with a sore throat today. We avoided eating in restaurants (we were lucky the weather was warm enough for lunch at outdoor seating at a diner) and kept our masks on. I guess we will see what happens in the next day or two. We have 2 home tests here.
Ugh. Hope everything is ok!!!! Could just be allergies, too
Laura wrote, “Are we going to shutdown society and schools again?”
I’m not the biggest fan of school closures, but I think you could get a lot of bang for your buck by just closing schools (and I mean closing, not fake remote school) for two weeks (14.0 days) in the 100+ case per 100k per day areas and just tacking an extra two weeks to the end of the school year.
I don’t think Omicron is going to make a lot of people deathly ill (mortality is currently very flat) but it is going to cause a lot of disruption, even with streamlined CDC guidelines, especially since rapid tests are still coming online again. Starting the spring school term after MLK Day could help a bunch.
(This probably isn’t good advice if your area currently has low or moderate cases.)
Of course, a bunch of Biden administration vaccine mandates probably start kicking in in January, so who knows. We may wind up with a combination school labor crunch involving both Omicron and the federal vaccine mandates.
100+ per 100K? Hah, that’s cute. My town (Metro ATL suburb) got down into the 70s for about five minutes in late October/early November, and has been over 100 since two weeks before Thanksgiving. Our town’s report today was nearly 1000 (not typo), and our county is at almost 1700 per 100K. It’s basically a vertical line at this point, so next week is going to be much worse still
Otherwise I agree with the general tenor here, but just pointing out that from the perspective of what’s happened this fall in the South, these numbers are crazy naive low. We started school this fall when cases were at 500-600 per 100K at basically the peak of Delta. Thankfully, the schools have not been a major transmission engine so far in previous waves. I get a covid close-contact notice roughly once per week on at least one of the kids, but they don’t require quarantining for exposures, just masking (optional for the school, not in my house). So far nobody’s gotten it, but I suspect our luck will run out next week if we do actually go back.
Sure, it’s nice that our kids can go to f2f school — virtual school was terrible for mine too — but also, my choices are basically full-homeschool or throw them into the fray with essentially zero precautions beyond whatever they are responsible enough to do themselves. Since they are 7th and 9th graders who can’t always be relied upon to wear deodorant…. well, let’s just say that y’all in the northeast are living in a different world.
Laura writes, “my college kid hates college so much that I’m just thrilled that he is sticking with it and will graduate in May.”
Even with (masked) in-person classes for my commuter college student, I’ve had a really hard time getting across the idea that college is supposed to be fun! And you are supposed to make friends! And you need to talk to your professors! They can tell you things!
“Transition programs are supposed to help kids learn job skills, so they can move from special education to a real world jobs. However, businesses are refusing to take students with job coaches right now, so there are no practice-jobs. He spends all day in a basement classroom — getting 1,000 steps per day — playing video games on his phone.”
“I found a program for him in Connecticut. Fingers crossed that it works out, she said vaguely.”
Unlike all the cool kids, we somehow haven’t ever gotten COVID. I’m going into my pre-trip semi-bubble right now.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good fit for your boy — I think we’re going to be living in a disrupted world for a time to come and that we need to find solutions under those conditions.
It’s hard to imagine getting through January without omicron related disruption (even if our best hopes about it’s relative medical manageability pan out). Colleges that start in early January seem to be planning remote, maybe even with the goal that the students might get sick, but not so badly that classes are significantly disrupted and that the staff stay well enough to teach. I think that’s fairly reasonable, for colleges.
For schools, indeed I think the solution would be to close and extend the school year. With the shortened isolation & potential teacher concern, maybe? there would be teachers who would agree to an extended winter break with time cut into summer? But I don’t know that this is being considered at all in my district.
If my family was representative of everyone, I’d like to see a remote January (my kid did fine with remote, though he much prefers in person learning). I do see that it doesn’t work the same way for everyone. Maybe high schools could go remote while K-5 extended the school year?
bj said, “I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good fit for your boy — I think we’re going to be living in a disrupted world for a time to come and that we need to find solutions under those conditions.”
There is a possible silver lining to COVID, given that there is a tight labor market and employers may need to be more forgiving of resume oddities, given COVID disruptions.
“It’s hard to imagine getting through January without omicron related disruption.”
Yeah, even pretty conventional flu-like symptoms could be disruptive if enough people got them at the same time.
“If my family was representative of everyone, I’d like to see a remote January (my kid did fine with remote, though he much prefers in person learning). I do see that it doesn’t work the same way for everyone. Maybe high schools could go remote while K-5 extended the school year?”
That’s not a terrible idea, but I think remote high school works better for middle class families with good home supervision and support.
My 11th grader could totally do remote and do fine (at least for 2-3 weeks), but he has a number of squirrely classmates who need more structure. On second thought, my kid is in AP Chemistry and they need to do their labs. I can imagine a scenario where school is remote…except for the AP Chemistry kids coming in to do their labs.
“I think we’re going to be living in a disrupted world for a time to come and that we need to find solutions under those conditions. ”
Maybe the labor demands could open opportunities but I fear that the labor disruptions are mostly concentrated in industries where people are providing services to their clients/customers/. . . . which has become an even more demanding navigation of humans facing stress and anxiety. From the flight attendant union head: “Staffing remains tight as workers are hesitant to pick up voluntary overtime due to disruptive passengers, COVID concerns, and COVID-test positives during the busiest travel period of the year,””
And, the main advice for passengers: “If you do not need to travel, consider delaying,” Hudson said. “If you do need to travel, come prepared for crowds and the potential for change.””
That’s true for everyone who expects a service right now, school included. I do hope for some relief after January, but, the lesson of the pandemic has been to always be prepared for change.
My college kid who loved school already is still enjoying college. She had to work really hard at it last year, though, to find a fit of friends; but her work in joining/finding/engaging panned out and she now has as close as I think can be found of the college experience while mitigating the pandemic risks.
I do feel like more kids than I thought in her social circle are moving away from quantitative fields where professors showed less flexibility with regard to demands (potentially because classes are more dependent on knowing material that preceded and can’t just be slowed down by an individual teacher and because the assessment of not knowing the material is more clear). Some of them will do five years and find their way, but others (and, yes, mostly women) have shifted their focus. I’m worried about that, though it doesn’t affect my kid, who planned on her current path, mostly.
bj said, “Some of them will do five years and find their way, but others (and, yes, mostly women) have shifted their focus. I’m worried about that, though it doesn’t affect my kid, who planned on her current path, mostly.”
Our college girl started out on a classics/math honors track, with the classics being her idea and the math being mostly our idea. We weren’t sure what her “ceiling” was going to be for math, but we wanted her to keep going until she found it. Unexpectedly, she’s gotten less interested in her classics (mostly due to the writing-huge-research-papers aspect) while getting more confident about her math. She’s taken Calculus 2, Calculus 3, Intermediate Logic and Foundations of Mathematics in college and has done fine. She’s also taken Physics 1 (the calculus flavored one) and did pretty good on the computational side…but she says she hates lab science. She only took 4 courses at a time freshman year and she’s probably on at least a five year track. Her dad and I have made our peace with that. There’s a lot of academic exploration that needs to happen, and there’s no medal for finishing in 4 years.
My BFF was a chemistry major, and she says what drove her into it was the realization that she wouldn’t have to write papers for it.
While your daughter may not be a math major, I just wanted to mention that the best project and technical managers I’ve worked with (all women) all happened to have been math majors for a time. One changed to comp sci and one other to industrial engineering and they’ve both had interesting careers.
Marianne wrote, “While your daughter may not be a math major, I just wanted to mention that the best project and technical managers I’ve worked with (all women) all happened to have been math majors for a time. One changed to comp sci and one other to industrial engineering and they’ve both had interesting careers.”
Thanks! That’s interesting.
She’s in a sort of multidisciplinary honors program, so she’s not technically a math major, but we hope that she will do the equivalent of a math BS.
I have a first cousin who did a math PhD and he’s now doing something for Square.
Glad that the pandemic disruptions haven’t derailed her finding the quantitative skills. The writing/reading demands in non-tech college classes is a surprise to many HS students. We had a great intro lab class when I was a first year that let us sample labs in different fields(from measuring ekgs to the sway of the tallest building on campus) — so not all labs are the same. I hated weighing/pipetting but that ekgs and fruit flies were fun.
bj said, “Glad that the pandemic disruptions haven’t derailed her finding the quantitative skills.”
She’s been in-person for all of her college courses, except for one very asynchronous summer Calculus 3 course. It is early days (second term sophomore year), but she is currently on track to do a math BS with at least a minor in classics. She’s supposed to do Introduction to Computer Science as part of the math BS, and I’m really curious whether that road will lead anywhere. We’re trying to give her enough time to try a lot of academic doors.
One thing that has helped a lot was checking in with her after the first week of class and telling her it’s OK to drop a problem course. That meant only doing 4 courses per term freshman year, but it built a lot of confidence. It’s taken a while to acclimate to the whole college STEM if-you’re-smart-you’ll-get-it-so-we-don’t-need-to-teach-you-anything vibe, but she seems really at home now.
The big question mark is her senior thesis. I think it could be very good for her, especially if she plans to do graduate school, but it’s a huge process, a huge commitment to one topic, and the wheels start turning very soon.
The private school I know well planned the year with a hybrid model in mind (with the plan of dropping the hybrid when everyone could be vaccinated — I don’t know if there will be more shifts with the immune evasion of omicron or not). Parents who didn’t accept the testing/remote regimen and had higher risk tolerance chose other schools after last year. A decision might be made to accept the relatively low risk of serious illness in, especially vaccinated, young people, even children & the boosted adults, but they will start remote after the holiday, as is the usual scheme for the school.
Hybrid means they switch back and forth between remote and in person, have some remote only students, and quarantine classes going remote when the pooled testing at school shows exposure.
My sister’s school district did something similar with a hybrid model and it went very well. Per my sister my nieces didn’t get behind and the oldest even took enough college credit STEM classes that she is on track to finish her BS in nursing a semester early. But they are a wealthy suburb (my sister lives in the less fancy part) and their school district is ranked in the top 5 in Ohio. So they have resources to do things well.
One downside is the youngest niece has befriended some wealthier girls and now wants Lululemon and other expensive things. My sister is a bit exasperated with her. But 13 year olds are hard.
HS school district just announced no school on Monday, has acquired 60K tests, and offers everyone voluntary testing. Presumably the voluntary testing would also result in a modification of school plans if a high percent tested positive.
Our county testing sites, which collaborate with the university have been working well in my opinion, but are now seeing 20+ positivity, which means they can’t use pooled testing to speed up results. So, they will only test confirmed contacts and symptomatic people now.
(and, have I mentioned that we have five inches of snow on the ground and have since Sunday? it does snow about once a year, but to have snow on the ground for so long because it is below freezing is odd)
I still think the elementary schools should close and extend the school year if staffing/positivity means they can’t open right now. We’ve had a week’s worth of snow days before that resulted in school year extensions.
The teachers unions will never agree to extend the year. We are destroying children.
” Behind the scenes, there must be HUGE battles going on between the various groups in the Democratic Party. If schools close down, Democrats will lose every election for the next ten years.
I suspect that the Democrat leaders are making some deals that suburban schools stay open, because they can’t afford to lose the suburbs, but they’ll take the loss in the cities.”
Laura, we have Randi Weingarten prating about her having made big efforts to keep the schools open over the last couple years! Can we spell g.a.s.l.i.g.h.t.i.n.g., children?! Here in VA, parents grumpy about schools – partly leftoid curricula/CRT, partly the shift to lottery admission for enriched schools, and partly things like closures and instabiity – were a big part of the Youngkin victory.
So I think teacher unions have become something of an albatross around the Dem party’s neck. Election after election, the Reeps are doing substantially better with groups the Dems have confidently thought to be permanently in their corner. South Texas Latinos, Virginia Latinos, Florida Black women – Dem majorities are not gone but they have been whittled away at. So I think the Dems don’t have an absolutely clear path forward at this point. Ruy Teixeira very thoughtful here, the gerontocrats running the Party far less so.
I am in danger of thinking Virginia is the world, but it’s where I am, and what happened here was a chipping away at previous majorities more or less all across the Commonwealth. And, of course, enormous enthusiasm for the Reep slate in already Reep areas, huge turnout. This any match for what happened in Jersey?
They wouldn’t agree to more work without more pay, but if remote isn’t an option, in our state some extension is mandated under the instructional days requirement. In 2019, school was extended for a week because of an unusual number of snow days. I don’t know what happens if there’s a month long closure, but there is some negotiation power through the state’s number of hours required.
Last year, the state allowed remote hours to count, even “asynchronous remote” but I don’t think blanket exceptions will be granted this year.
It’s hard to imagine what practical outcome the teachers unions want from all this.
It seems highly likely that pretty much everyone is going to catch Omicron (though I’m speaking here from a place in the world which has yet to have it’s first local case – touch wood).
The reality is, that teachers are going to catch it – whether they’re in-person or teaching remotely – they’ll pick it up from *somewhere*.
The preference for remote teaching, can’t, therefore, be, to protect teachers from infection. And it’s never been an effective solution (AFAICS) for protecting students from infection – they catch Covid (though at a lower rate, and with fewer complications) – predominantly at home, or *from* teachers at school (rather than the other way around). And teacher unions don’t care about kids in any case.
I can imagine localized instances of school shutdown, just because 50%+ of teachers are sick with Omicron at the same time. But, with Omicron being so much less virulent than Delta (and previous Covid incarnations), the vast majority should be out of the classroom for no more than 5-7 days. So 2 weeks at the outside.
However, as a parent, my preference would be to keep the kids in school – even if they are doing make-work – simply for their social development, not to mention the continuity that many of them need.
And, I agree that if schools are closed because of teacher sickness – then they can’t teach remotely, and the school days should be added on to the school year (either a few days at the end of each term, with shortened holidays, or at the end of the year).
There will be limited (if any) sympathy for any strike action by teachers (on this, or any other issue). Parents have had more than enough – and so have their employers and work colleagues.
It seems as though the political leaders need to take a hard look at the pros of siding with the teacher unions over this one.
Here in NZ all teachers are covered by the vaccine mandate – required by law to be fully vaccinated – (2 Prizer doses ATM – boosters not yet required) by tomorrow (1st of January) – with schools back from the long summer holidays in the last week of Jan or first week of Feb.
Which has rather drawn the teeth of the unions – since they can’t argue that teachers are at greater risk than students – and the unions are being internally vilified by that small, but vocal, minority of teachers who didn’t *want* to be vaccinated. [Most of these have been vaccinated (however reluctantly) to keep their jobs, but there’s a chunk of hard-core objectors who have left the schools – some, now looking to do tutoring (either in person or online)]
This vaccine mandate covers all adults who work in the school (not just teachers), and have any possibility of interaction with students (so all teacher aides, caretakers, IT staff, school admin, principals, bus drivers, etc. – including parent volunteers in classrooms) – but not parents just dropping kids at the gate.
Vaccine boosters have just been released for the over 60s and high risk jobs (border workers, etc.) – who are around 6 months since their 2nd jab. Window has been reduced from 6 to 4 months – for the next tranche – all in preparation for Omicron to get loose, and there to be widespread infection in the community.
So my Mum (over 80) has just had her 3rd dose. My sister (50s) qualifies on the 5th of Jan, but I don’t qualify until March (4 months since 2nd jab) – by which time it may be academic!
“It’s hard to imagine what practical outcome the teachers unions want from all this.”
Um, less sickness and death?
How? The teachers are unlikely to be infected by the students at school (lots of science showing that children/teens are both less likely to catch Covid and less likely to spread it). The biggest risk at schools has always been the Staffroom (adults in close quarters are the most likely to spread Covid). Have yet to see a school or union proposing to close down the staffroom, and require Teachers to eat outdoors.
Unless you’re proposing a hard lockdown (everyone to remain at home unless visiting a supermarket or doctor) – which hasn’t yet been done in the States – those teachers are going to catch Covid from somewhere.
So shutting schools won’t result in less illness or death.
We really don’t know how omicron will play out in schools — our schools saw a doubling of cases in the last week of school, ending on dec 17 after keeping the numbers low until then.
“So shutting schools won’t result in less illness or death.”
I think that is wishful thinking.
Anyway, both my husband and I are dealing with mild symptoms right now, which showed up starting about 2.5 days after we were in Manhattan. We’re not sure if we have it. We might have it and our Moderna boosters are doing a good job fighting it. Or we just have allergies. We get tested tomorrow.
Metro Atlanta here, parent of two HSers and a middle schooler. Given that our Covid graph is a vertical line right now and 1% of the population is getting diagnosed per day (a likely undercount), there is no way we can realistically start back with in-person f2f school in three days.
We’ve already had to have our kids warehoused in the gym at times during the Delta wave because of a lack of staff, and the bus and lunch situation has been really iffy. The biggest question isn’t the learning but whether the schools will be physically capable of providing appropriate supervision and physical plant for children.
It’s also not fair to the significant portion of the student body who are sick or exposed and who can’t come to school — teachers can’t teach effectively when a quarter of the class isn’t present. Fulton County has refused to offer any kind of hybrid instruction, so you’re either in the classroom or you’re taking an absence if you are sick or quarantined.
I don’t think it will last more than a few weeks while this blows through, but Monday isn’t going to be a normal school day. We are over 1000 (not a typo) cases per 100K, and I think we’re gonna need a minute to get this settled back down.
EAB said: “The biggest question isn’t the learning but whether the schools will be physically capable of providing appropriate supervision and physical plant for children. ”
I guess things have changed a lot since I was at school. I vividly remember (from both sides) having the ‘oldest’ kids assigned to monitor classrooms at various times during my school days – usually during ‘flu’ season (when there might be 5 or 6 teachers out, and only 1 or 2 replacements available)
Not teaching, but effectively riot prevention – and an early warning system to allow the staff to cruise between classrooms. Kids would have classwork to get on with (assigned by the teaching staff at the beginning of the day), and a reasonable amount of collegiality was OK (certainly not business as usual)
The ‘worst offender kids’ (and the school certainly knew who they were) would be pulled and send to another class to be supervised (usually the toughest, grumpiest teacher – so there was a positive incentive to *not* be one of those kids)
“NZ is (or was) an incredibly different school environment, at least judging from what I’ve heard from my Kiwi MIL”
Oh, yes, our schools are stratified by grade as well. And most urban schools are similar in size/scale to the US ones. Primary around 300-500 kids (though there are larger/smaller ones); high-schools – up to 3.5 K (biggest in NZ a couple of suburbs over from me) – with the smaller ones around 500 kids (we don’t, by-and-large, have middle schools in the same way you do).
Most elementary schools are walkable distance (some kids need to take the bus or be driven – some parents prefer to drive them); most high schools have extensive bus routes (and still have the helicopter parents driving their precious darlings).
Mixed grade schools were pretty much only in the country (10 kids in a school house ranging from 5-10) – and are really, really rare now. It’s cheaper to have them schooled by correspondence or make parents drive them an hour to school.
Classroom size: first years up to 20 per class, mid elementary 25, older elementary & high-school 30 ish. They are doing these modern-learning environment classrooms – which fit 2 or 3 classes of kids in a single multi-functional space with their 2-3 teachers, co-teaching. Jury is out on whether it’s an effective teaching solution – but does mean that you can be down 2 teachers and still have one to baby-sit them (won’t be much teaching going on).
Cafeterias aren’t an issue. We don’t have them. Kids bring their packed lunches, and eat outdoors (if the weather is suitable) or supervised in classes if it’s not. The emphasis is on being outside unless it’s actually raining (or in the south, snowing)
The occasions I was recalling were when I was final year in high-school – and we’d (prefects, mostly) be distributed in pairs to supervise the first & second year high-school classes (teachers sick, or some other crisis which took them out of the classroom).
Students and subjects deliberately chosen to be most effective/least risk of missing out. For example, I’d be chosen to supervising during an English period (I was at least 2 years ahead of the class at that point), but never during Maths (where I was just scraping a pass). One of my good friends was never chosen – lovely girl, but no command presence.
Ann wrote, “They are doing these modern-learning environment classrooms – which fit 2 or 3 classes of kids in a single multi-functional space with their 2-3 teachers, co-teaching.”
My 5th grade class (1985-1986 in the rural US) was a double class of 50+ kids team taught (extremely capably) by 2 teachers, but I would never recommend that as the norm. As I recall, Ms. B did math and Ms. M did PE and composition.
Prefects! There is no widespread US equivalent.
My kids’ private school technically has prefects. Here’s an actual conversation I just had with my college student about them.
Me: What do the prefects do?
College kid: I don’t know.
Yes, things have changed. It’s hard to sue schools, but that would do it.
Not only have things changed, but also NZ is (or was) an incredibly different school environment, at least judging from what I’ve heard from my Kiwi MIL. Our kids mostly go to large schools that are stratified by grade, so you’ll have K-2 or maybe K-4 in a building — there just aren’t “older” kids to watch the littles. Elementary class sizes are huge, ~30 kids each, so missing just a few teachers means you’ve literally got a hundred unsupervised children. The schools themselves are very large — our MS is 1200 kids and our HS is right at 2000. Schools aren’t located in walkable neighborhoods, so you’ve got to have adequate bus transportation to get those thousands of kids to school, and cafeteria staff capable of feeding 500 kids every half-hour. (No, parents can’t drive them, the roads physically can’t handle the traffic.)
It is literally a scaling problem that has nothing in common with my MIL’s stories of cozy primary schools where the younger and older kids learned together. Smaller cities and rural areas aren’t necessarily like this, but the large suburbs have trended toward creating economies of scale. That’s a good thing in many ways, but it has downsides.
Amy P said
“My 5th grade class (1985-1986 in the rural US) was a double class of 50+ kids team taught (extremely capably) by 2 teachers, but I would never recommend that as the norm. As I recall, Ms. B did math and Ms. M did PE and composition. ”
It’s big in the pedagogy in NZ – all of the new Ministry of Education classrooms are built along the MLE lines (2-3 class sizes) – with ‘co-teaching’ the flavour of the moment.
Mr 14 had 2 years of this in his last 2 years of primary school (new block built).
Ist year (year 5 in our terminology – he was 9) was a combined yr 4/5 class of 85 kids with 3 teachers. All teachers were excellent, and complementary skill sets. He did really well (though this was combined with an external tutor finally getting through to him with reading, and beginning the remedial work on maths).
2nd year (year 6 – last year of primary school) – was a combined class of two year 6 classes. Total disaster. Really bad teacher, combined with someone who was first year out of training college.
I was not happy…. [This was the parent-teacher interview where the teacher said “he’s just trucking along in his maths group” – when the kid was 18-months behind his age group. She apparently saw no issue this this. I was fuming!]
Now he’s at secondary (combination middle and high school in your terms) – and back into single-cell classes (1 teacher in a standard classroom).
So, my take on the MLE is that they *can* work, if you have good teachers. But, when they go bad, they’re an utter disaster.
They’re also really bad news for any kids who struggle with the ‘busyness’ of general classrooms (some kids on the spectrum, ADHD kids, anyone with hearing issues, etc.) – since the busyness of the MLE is exponentially greater. While the classrooms are *supposed* to be designed to have quiet areas – most teachers don’t manage them in that way – and those kids really suffer. There was one kid in Mr 14’s year 6 class who frequently just lost it – totally overwhelmed by the relentless stimulation (and teased, because the useless teacher couldn’t do classroom management) – and would just lie down and scream.
Amy P said: “Prefects! There is no widespread US equivalent.”
I did wonder – it’s an import from England – from the days when we were part of the Empire. But it’s pretty persistent – even the most cutting edge of the State school have some form of prefects or school leaders.
Mr 14’s school has an ongoing programme where each prefect (and some other Yr 13s as well, I think) take responsibility for a group of 5-6 of the Year 7s (11 year olds, just starting at the school) for the year. They introduce them to the school, they get to go on a special beach day together (with some organized games IIRC), and have a weekly catch up.
The theory is that the kids are more likely to ask other boys for help/guidance – and it gives the new boys a friendly face in the older classes – who they can go to, if needed; as well as giving the older boys the chance to give back to the school.
Prefects also do a lot of the other co-curricular leadership (coach sports teams – especially at the junior levels; coach debating teams, run lunchtime/afterschool maths and homework clubs, lead social and outreach programmes, etc.)
Here in Ontario the government just gave up – they couldn’t keep up with testing, so no more testing. They are following the CDC 5 day rule. And schools are opening 2 days late – not sure what the 2 days are supposed to accomplish exactly although they say to give teachers time to get N95s.
It’s a weird feeling, as Quebec is shutting down with very similar numbers. I guess we are the control group!
My youngest has his second shot scheduled for Wednesday (2 weeks ahead of public health recommendations which here is an 8 week interval.) We might just keep him home for a few days to at least give his immune system a chance. With three 70+ people in our sphere, one in my home, one with diabetes and two with a history of stroke/aneurysm, I am feeling it as their risks are still relatively high to need hospital support, but honestly, the vaccines are really, really good.
Once my youngest is within a week or two of that second shot he’ll be back in person. The difference in his learning this year is astonishing. We have time (and means) to catch him up so I haven’t been too worried but I definitely am pro “protect the schools” where we can. Not sure this was the right point in the pandemic though – a two week closure to let the wave pass/vaccinate and boost more people, followed by a two week extension into July would have suited my views better. We’ve had 4 workplace exposures now, and no reported (informally, as contact tracing literally told one of our parents ‘oh, that place notifies people and is really good so we’re not going to be doing the work to contact them’) transmission – again I chalk this up mostly to vaccines, and a little bit (since we have a lot of kids) to masking and just sheer dumb luck.
We’ve had staffing issues and I know the schools will as well, as will the hospitals.
I’ve lost a daughter to hospital capacity issues (among other errors – OR wasn’t available at the critical point because L&D was unusually full) and it never is someone telling you that they didn’t have the right staff or the OR capacity, it’s always “wow, that was an anomalous event! we don’t know why your daughter’s heart gave out like that!” So if any of us needs a hospital, I will be at their side screaming, I guess? That’s my personal issue. I do believe the wave will pass fairly swiftly and it’s just whether you have the bad luck to need something during that time.
Overall though, I myself have had trouble booking an overdue set of tests for what was a “watch and see” breast situation, and can’t imagine the other fallout that is coming. I think there’s a lot of recovery ahead. Our reading group at my work is making big strides with the kids though, that’s a bright light.
Jenn said, “Here in Ontario the government just gave up – they couldn’t keep up with testing, so no more testing. They are following the CDC 5 day rule.”
Gee whiz, I hope we’re right!
“That’s my personal issue. I do believe the wave will pass fairly swiftly and it’s just whether you have the bad luck to need something during that time.”
There are parts of the US where a big portion of the pressure on hospitals is–I kid you not–people demanding tests in ER.
There have been statements (by Fauci and Paul Offit) saying that a lot of kid COVID hospitalizations have been incidental COVID–the kid was there for something else. A Miami area hospital system was tweeting that over half of their COVID patients were incidental infections.
We’ll know a lot more in a week or two or three, but so far, there is reason to be optimistic about hospitals, especially since Omicron hospitalizations seem to be shorter.
I’m personally thrilled by the reports saying that Omicron seems to attack the lungs a lot less. And just in the nick of time, too:
Wow, what a URL.
Jenn said: “Overall though, I myself have had trouble booking an overdue set of tests for what was a “watch and see” breast situation, and can’t imagine the other fallout that is coming. I think there’s a lot of recovery ahead. ”
Seriously hope that everything goes well for you with this.
Here in NZ we are suffering from exactly this scenario. Even though there has been relatively little Covid here – and nothing like the pressure on the hospital system that the US, UK and Europe have experienced; we have seen that routine testing has basically dropped off the radar – and is now running 18-months to 2 years behind.
Specialist nurses running things like breast screening, lab technicians doing diagnostic tests, and medical professionals – have all been drafted to cover for overworked/sick colleagues on the front lines of Covid treatment, or put through intensive backup training courses to staff ICU beds. In addition, during the extensive lockdowns we’ve had in NZ – there has been no routine testing allowed (only emergency medical care).
Given that there are over 100 women a year whose lives are saved through routine breast screening identifying a cancer before it’s too late to treat – there *will* be deaths directly attributable to lack of screening.
There is no plan to deal with this backlog of testing. The government seems to be thinking that if it pretends it’s not there, then there won’t be a problem.
In the same way that routine free dental treatment for school kids (legally mandated yearly checks, and more frequent treatment if required) – has completely ceased. I know that dental is high risk (right up close to potentially breathing in Covid) – but there has been no attempt to re-schedule, or extend the ‘free’ period. The government is perfectly happy to just have these kids age out, untreated.
There’s a parallel with the school system – there will be a tranche of kids who have now aged out of free school – and the government will be perfectly happy to see them go. Not because they don’t care (though I think that most government agencies don’t – kids don’t vote) – but because it’s just too hard to change the bureaucratic inertia around the school system.
Is Australia flipping out?
Mortality looks OK, though.
No one seems to be panicking yet. High case numbers (triple). But, as you said, pretty much flat-line death rate. Increased hospitalization – but a big chunk of that is people being hospitalized for something else, and then being scanned and found to be having (asymptomatic or very mildly symptomatic) Covid.
It seems to be predominantly Omicron – which means that they were expecting the case numbers to balloon. I’m saying ‘seems to be’ since I don’t think they’re testing all positive cases – but the infection profile numbers look like Omicron. I suspect there’s a lot of under-reporting – no one with mild (or no) symptoms is likely to get a test – just self-isolate for 5 days.
All states, except Western Australia, have moved into a ‘live with Covid’ phase (no more lockdowns); so again, increased numbers were to be expected.
The big population states (NSW & Victoria) are leading the infection tables – which is to be expected – the 2 really big cities – Sydney & Melbourne are there – though rural areas of those states are pretty much at background levels. Weather is very hot there, now (coming into the hottest part of summer), so lots of air-con in malls, private homes (and just about everywhere in the urban areas) – so Covid spread via re-circulated air is more likely. It’s also socializing, BBQ season in suburban areas (‘throw another kilo of sausages on the barbie, my best mate’s friend’s cousin has just turned up’ – style of thing!). Rural areas are much less likely to have air-con – and large gatherings of people at this time of year.
Western Australia is really interesting. They have a hard border with the rest of Australia – and have since Covid spread – so you have to quarantine to get into Australia, and then quarantine again to get to WA. They’ve *always* had a bio-security border with the rest of Oz – many agricultural pests aren’t (yet) established there, and they don’t want them.
They can do this – since most of the state is arid outback and there’s a ruddy great desert between them and the rest of Australia (all those straight lines on the map are across desert – so really notional borders). People only really live in significant numbers right at the bottom tip – near Perth (and the Margaret River wine region — reaqlly good wine, BTW, mmmmm)
NZ is watching Oz with interest – as they’re the only comparable country which made a sustained effort (successful in some states) to eliminate Covid, and have switched to living with Covid a little ahead of us. Very interesting to see the Omicron effect in a more ‘virgin’ population (God forgive me, if my Aussie friends heard me calling them virgins!)
Funny story about Ted Cruz tweeting accidentally at @WA government complaining about “blue state Democrats”. He thought the account was Washington State, not Western Australia, in spite of the kangaroos.
It’s interesting to hear the WA context (and reminds me of setting the Australian accent on our GPS and having all WA 520 referred to as Western Australia 520.
Ted Cruz mocking https://www.thedailybeast.com/ted-cruzs-attack-on-power-drunk-dems-fails-spectacularly
Ha! Does remind me of the time when someone from Texas told my Dad (who was in the States on business) that the Sydney harbour bridge connected Australia and New Zealand (pretty big bridge to cross 2,000 K of ocean)
And, sadly, reinforces the sterotype that Americans are insular (present company excepted!)
“I suspect there’s a lot of under-reporting – no one with mild (or no) symptoms is likely to get a test – just self-isolate for 5 days.”
Yeah, especially over the Christmas/New Years holidays, when it’s much easier to do so and there’s less reason to establish a diagnosis for official reasons (school or work excuse).
“NZ is watching Oz with interest – as they’re the only comparable country which made a sustained effort (successful in some states) to eliminate Covid, and have switched to living with Covid a little ahead of us.”
I’m really curious how China is going to get through the Olympics, which start in one month. Japan really blew up this summer. Theoretically, China is highly vaccinated, but a) the Chinese vaccines aren’t very good and b) Omicron would be likely to break through even if they were good.
Here’s an easy flow chart for figuring out if you have COVID if you live in NYC, Miami, Ontario, or DC:
Remember when we were supposed to get a Delta-updated booster for fall 2021? Good times!
hah, funny! a bridge between Australia & New Zealand. At least they didn’t think they could drive to Japan from Australia.
But, let’s not tar all Americans with Ted Cruz (or even Ted Cruz, who was a rapid tweeting — or his office — and potentially does know about Western Australia and WA state, and kangaroos in one of them but not the other). My kiddo bounced around stage to to “Going around Australia on Highway No 1”: https://youtu.be/2tmHjO9D_RU when she was six.
bj wrote, “hah, funny! a bridge between Australia & New Zealand. At least they didn’t think they could drive to Japan from Australia.”
This reminds me of all the conversations I’ve had over the years explaining that while, yes, Seattle is on the water, no, the fact that my family lives 4 hours west of Seattle does not mean that they live iunderwater in the Pacific.
A lot of people somehow get it into their heads that Seattle is on the actual Pacific coast.
bj said: “hah, funny! a bridge between Australia & New Zealand. At least they didn’t think they could drive to Japan from Australia.”
I *suspect* that it was a case of conflating 2 relatively well known bridges: Sydney Harbour Bridge and Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Dad was very tempted to reply with “Texas? That’s part of Mexico, isn’t it?”
But, in the interests of international relations, refrained 😉
We do joke about insular Americans (though, we do realize #notallamericans) – but have to say that the Lord of the Rings has definitely put NZ on the map for a lot more of them.
We can’t blame you guys for perceiving us as a tiny Pacific atoll – since we have a self-perception as a small country a long way from anywhere – though in land area we’re around the size of Colorado & in population around the same size as Norway or Ireland…. (so, No, I can’t see Hobbiton from where I live)
And, yeah, we do have to work on not perceiving the US as monolithic – and reflective of a combination of international headlines and the output of the Hollywood studios. Differences between residents of Maine and Texas could well be greater than those between Norway and Sweden.
The insight to the “islanding” of Western Australia was interesting — our vast empty spaces aren’t islanded, in general. There is botanical borders between Hawaii & the mainland (bags are inspected for vegetation on leaving, though self reported on entry) and there’s a mussel border check of boats on the I-90 between ID & WA.
But, Western Australia has a population of 2.3 million! with only 9 COVID deaths!. Wow. I really did not know how big Perth was in population.
bj said “The insight to the “islanding” of Western Australia was interesting — our vast empty spaces aren’t islanded, in general. There is botanical borders between Hawaii & the mainland (bags are inspected for vegetation on leaving, though self reported on entry) and there’s a mussel border check of boats on the I-90 between ID & WA.
But, Western Australia has a population of 2.3 million! with only 9 COVID deaths!. Wow. I really did not know how big Perth was in population.”
Yeah – I didn’t really realize how big Perth was in pop until I looked it up. Almost all of the state population (as in 80% in Perth itself, and and another 12% in the surrounding area) live there.
The rest are scattered in tiny towns (around 2K pop) across huge areas.
This situation (1 or 2 huge cities, rest of the State tiny towns) is endemic in Oz – and causes quite a lot of political issues (such a divide between the needs of the big cities, and the needs of the little towns).
The Australian deserts are *really* desert. There ‘are’ roads, and they’re used for interstate trucking, but it’s really hot and dry and a very long way between pit stops. So if you have a bio-security border on the main road, you can’t easily get around it (and the locals are pretty invested in *not* having people evade the border). Casual tourism is mostly via plane (though there’s (pre-Covid) a thriving campervan industry for the long-haul tourists for whom it’s the journey not the destination)
And WA is like NZ for bio-security. You do *not* want to forget an apple in your carry-on bag (you will be stopped, (sniffer dogs, and other technology), and your baggage searched, and have a note on your immigration record. If you deliberately try to sneak stuff through – that isn’t likely to have been just forgotten (e.g. jars of honey, or packs of dried beef or fish or – heaven help us, plant cuttings or seeds!) – then you’ll almost certainly get a swinging fine AND be on the automatic full-search list for ever after.
Just declare what you’ve brought, they’ll go through it and decide what is OK, and what is confiscated and destroyed (no charge). I routinely do this when coming back to NZ for anything consumable bought overseas – better safe than sorry.
IIRC most Australian states have bio-security borders – but the WA ones are the toughest.
Amy P said
“I’m really curious how China is going to get through the Olympics, which start in one month. Japan really blew up this summer. Theoretically, China is highly vaccinated, but a) the Chinese vaccines aren’t very good and b) Omicron would be likely to break through even if they were good.”
China has recently put one of the major cities Xi’an (13 million) into a really harsh lockdown – not even allowed out to shop for food – Govt will deliver (ha!)
They are apparently pretty much ring-fencing Beijing (I’m assuming in an attempt to protect the Olympics.
Also Chinese New Year is the 1st of February – and there are typically mass movements throughout China as families travel home (bigger than Thanksgiving in the US).
Ann wrote, “Also Chinese New Year is the 1st of February – and there are typically mass movements throughout China as families travel home (bigger than Thanksgiving in the US).”
Oooh, I forgot about that.
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