Schools, Work, Politics: Things are Heating Up

I just ate nine Pringles and a banana for breakfast. Breakfast of champions. Lots going on here. I have my running gear on, but it might not happen, because it’s going to be a drama filled day. I’m going to be glued to the computer all day.

The pressure pot is about to explode. For 14 months, the country has been in a semi-coma. To prevent an India-type situation, schools, businesses, and government services closed down to lessen the spread of COVID until a vaccine could be developed.

The good news is that we have a good vaccine. There are plenty of vaccines for everyone in this country. In a month, everybody who wants a shot will have gotten them. The bad new is that not enough people want a vaccine.

Only 37% of NJ residents are fully vaccinated, yet the demand for vaccines has dropped off. They’re closing vaccine centers, because no one is showing up, including in places that served hard hit cities like Newark. This is not Trump county. There’s no way we’re going to get to herd immunity, so we’ll be dealing with COVID for a long time.

Parents of kids have hit the ceiling what they can handle. Schools around here are still not open full time. In places like New York City, they’re barely open. A couple of cities in New Jersey never opened. Parents have organized on twitter and bombard me with forwarded articles and information. I can’t read everything.

I walked outside yesterday to get a breath of fresh air after sitting in a three-day webinar for education journalists. My neighbor, a former accountant with three young children is trying to keep them entertained in the afternoon. The kids see me “HI MISS LAURA!” and come running over to check out Steve’s garden.

I told her that I thought that our town is trying to manage expectations about a full reopening in September and she rolled her eyes. She said that her husband is ready to lose it now. If they don’t open, she doesn’t know what will happen.

This education webinar is the national conference for education journalists. It’s a big deal. It usually happens in a hotel with finger foods and business attire, but for the past couple of years, I’ve watched it in my home office. When I figured out there were no cameras on attendees, I didn’t even put my contacts in.

I’ve been watching panels of experts — think tanks, like Brookings, academic researchers, political activists, and school leaders — talk about the hot topics of the moment to increase the knowledge of writers and reporters. It’s professional development. Michael Cardona, the Secretary of Education, spoke at the opening plenary session on Monday. I’m going to watch Randi Weingarten, the president of the UFT, at 11:00. I have already written out my question.

Big themes? Learning loss. An academic researcher on a panel on disabled kids spoke about how school closures have been particularly tough on these kids. Talking about learning loss for this group, she said “the projections are grim.” Over the past two days there was lots of discussion about activist parents and plans going forward. Everybody wants summer school.

But schools don’t want to summer school. My kid was supposed to start a new school-run program for older kids, who aren’t ready for school or work. The program was sold to me as one that would be a full day. They have now scaled back on both the scope of the program and the hours of the day. It will end at 12:30.

Ian will have nothing to do between 12:30-10:00 in July. In August, he will have nothing to do all day. He’s too old for camp, can’t work, doesn’t have friends, and can’t even take classes at the community college. (In order to be qualified for this special school program, he can’t officially get a high school diploma. The community college only allows high school students to take three classes.)

As I surfed through garbage on Twitter on my iPhone this morning, Steve turned to me and said grimly, “Goldman is going back.”

The New York Times reports that Goldman Sachs is calling its workers back to the office by June. JP Morgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, said they’re going to back, too.

“We want people back at work, and my view is that sometime in September, October it will look just like it did before,” Mr. Dimon said. “And yes, the commute, you know, yes, people don’t like commuting, but so what.”

I knew this was going to happen. All this talk about remote work was the future was just bullshit. They never downsized the offices in New York City. If remote work was really going to be permanent, they would have reduced the office footprint. They never did. The executives want people back in a desk where they can watch them all day.

Now, what does this mean for us? Steve will go back soon. Maybe a few months later in the year, because he works for a Canadian bank, but he’ll go back. And then every other business will follow soon. It’s going to be a domino effect. No company will want to appear to be less professional than their competition.

But workers are still watching their kids! Especially in our area. So, what’s going to happen if offices force workers back, but schools still refuse to open?! I don’t know, but Randi Weingarten will be in a panel at 11:00, so I’m going ask her.

The tide is turning on schools and states. When the New York Times writes pieces about the lost generation of kids, who were totally hosed by school shutdowns, you have lost the lefties. And people have lost faith in the CDC. In hindsight, a lot of their regulations like the 6 feet things were overkill. Liberals are mocking other liberals for COVID overkill.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I’m fascinated by the fight.