"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, July 27, 2020

What could possibly go wrong?

School is ready to start and the education world is focused on what classes will look like.

The decision to open schools is difficult for several reasons.
  • Kids need to be in school. Online classes don't reach all students. Some haven't got the hardware. Some haven't got sufficient internet access. Some can't focus on a screen. Some have needs that can't be met without in-person classrooms. Some are too young to stay home alone and have parents who need to go to work.
  • But in-person education can be dangerous right now. Some students are at-risk for the virus because of immune system issues or other pre-existing conditions. Some have elderly parents and grandparents in their homes; If they bring home COVID-19 it could be fatal to family members. Schools don't exist in a vacuum. Teachers and other staff members might be susceptible to COVID-19.
  • In-person education will be more expensive and states have less money to work with. Who will pay for extra cleaning supplies? Who will pay for personal protective equipment for teachers, staff, and students? Will schools need additional buses to transport students while keeping them distant from each other? Where will substitutes come from if and when teachers need time off?
Schools will need to balance the relative safety of students staying home with the disadvantages of learning online. They'll have to balance the benefits of in-person attendance with the danger to the students and the adults in their lives. Most schools in my part of Indiana are combining at-home learning with in-person instruction. That means that kids will be home, disrupting work schedules, and also at school, requiring safety while in class.
  • Politicians say schools must open. Kids are less susceptible to the virus so it's safe to open schools. Most importantly, kids need to be in school so parents can go back to work.
  • Pediatricians say that kids need to be at school, when it's safe, for social and developmental health.
  • Teachers say schools should open only when it's safe for the children and adults who work there.
No matter what happens someone will be unhappy. It is a no-win situation.

Schools are making plans based on all these confusing issues and with little or contradictory advice from the federal, state, and local governments.

Kids in school in masks: what could possibly go wrong?

From the National Center for Science Education. Prepare your child for in-person education.
...I’m just imagining what it’s going to be like for millions of parents who will have to persuade their kids to wear masks to school—and hope that they keep them on all day...

Let’s face it. Young kids are a challenge because they might be frightened or easily distracted, but middle and high schoolers are a bigger challenge because they bring attitude to the game.

Helping Your Kids Stay Focused on School During the Coronavirus Pandemic

From Johns Hopkins Medicine. Prepare for at-home learning.
For families navigating the challenges of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) era, it can seem a bit like a play in three acts — only in this case, all the acts are happening at once. You are a parent, you are a teacher and you are a professional — all at the same time.

Understandably, things don’t always go smoothly. The novelty of having school at home may be wearing a bit thin. So, how do we keep our kids academically engaged — and happy about it?

What could possibly go wrong?

Return to School During COVID-19

Note that pediatricians also want children to return to school and stay safe. Here are suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatricians and HealthyChildren.org.

As you read through these imagine trying to follow them with young children...ages 5, 6 and younger (sit at desks, wash hands), imagine how much extra money it would cost (extra cleaning supplies and staff), imagine the extra time it would take out of the school day (washing hands, cleaning, moving outdoors), and imagine teachers trying to monitor distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, bathroom trips, the usual disruptive students, interruptions, etc. and still find time and energy to teach! Imagine teachers trying to monitor everything during a fire-drill or an active shooter drill.

What could possibly go wrong?
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces
  • Wash hands
  • Keep desks 3-6 feet apart
  • Have fewer students and staff in the classroom
  • Have the teachers move from class to class, not the students
  • Have students eat lunch at their desks
  • Schools should use outdoor spaces when possible
  • Older students and staff should wear masks
  • Be prepared to go to online instruction if (when?) the virus surges

Please Don’t Quit Your Job to Home-School Your Kid

Bloomberg News reminds us that among the main purposes of public education in America are providing free childcare and feeding children. This is why politicians are insistent that schools reopen. This is why teachers and school staff are concerned with a safe school environment.
Individual families have individual decisions to make. But quitting work to home school is more expensive than you might think. It would be much, much better if we could pool our national resources to open schools safely. With summer ending soon, it should be a top item in the next round of government spending. Because schools do a lot more than teach. They provide one or two meals a day during the school year. They offer after-school programs, dental clinics and more. And the free childcare they offer is what unleashes the productive forces of parents.

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