Yesterday, Bill de Blasio and Richard Carranza unveiled their open the schools in the fall plan.
The plan is perfectly consistent with de Blasio and Carranza's education policies and efforts in general - tone deaf, ineffective, and in this case, unsafe.
I know we were told that part of this came from survey results but we all know that surveys are super easy to fix. I mean, ask any teacher or parent "do you want schools to be open and in person in the Fall?" and everyone will say "yes." Of course, there's the implication that it's safe and I bet that part didn't make it in to the surveys.
I didn't watch the news conference live, but I was told that while principals, parents, and children were mentioned over and over as consulted constituents when forming the plan, somehow teachers never came up. Typical.
The basics of the plan is that students could go all remote or hybrid and under the hybrid model, they'd be in the schools some days and not others.
Does this address health concerns? Doubtful. They're talking about a third to half the students attending at a time. Take a look at any school on opening and closing - it's wall to wall from the school to the subway. It's a mess. Many schools are already split schedule - they have their kids entry and egress staggered into halves or thirds and the beginning and end of days there are STILL wall to wall for blocks not to mention the subway platforms and cars. Even 1/3 isn't going to do it and the more you stagger, the more you lengthen the school days and this affects both staff and families. What good is having a kid go to school so you can work if they don't start until mid day?
Let's assume, although I don't think it's a safe assumption, that you can get the kids to and from school safety. How big are the classrooms? I heard that some Stuy teacher's measured them and they could safely accommodate something like 9 - 12 people. That's in line with what DbD said but what about transfer between classes? Some schools - particularly those in converted spaces have TINY halls or limited stairwells. What about bathrooms? None of this has been addressed.
What about cleaning? Teachers have regularly begged for basic supplies. Schools go without necessities like toilet paper and the Mayor's saying that we'll have sufficient masks and cleaning supplies? Good luck with that!
Even if we have the supplies, will they be used and used correctly and often enough?
What about compliance? For years, schools had a "no hats" policy but rarely are there no hats. Even when the policy works, usually it's a result of teachers continually asking students to remove their hats. How did those cell phone bans work? Do we really believe we can get 100% compliance from students, teachers, and staff? What about the younger grades? We really expect them to comply with adult protocols?????
Even if everything is implemented, will it keep everyone safe? Unlikely. Professional and big time college sports have extreme incentive to "open up", boatloads of money and everyone pulling in the same direction. They test all the time, have all the space they need and can implement whatever protocols they want. Even with all this we keep hearing about new cases in those populations. If they can't do it how can underfunded schools?
With all of this, even if it's safe and even if schools can manage reasonable schedules, students will only be going to school a couple of times a week - will this really help parents? Maybe not. I remember when we had Batya. We were looking for child care for just a couple of days a week. Five days was easy, no days was easy but just a couple - not so much. What about the shifted days? Large schools might need 4 shifts. Kids either start and end super early or super late. Will that help parents who work "regular time" jobs?
Finally, let's get to the education side of things. High school teachers teach five classes a day. Around 34 kids in a class. Given room size restrictions that means we have to split into threes. If one teacher has to deal with this then it's a HUGE increase in work. If kids come to school on different days they'll get different live lessons - for each class teachers will have to make at least one in person lesson and at least one corresponding remote lesson and I'm over simplifying. Since you're now "teaching" 10 or 15 classes instead of 5 I don't see how you can meet with them in person and deliver synchronous remote instruction which means you're only actually interacting with your students once or twice a week and there's no way teachers will be able to actually develop materials, assess students, and maintain meaningful contact unless someone finds a whole lot of hours to the day.
On the other hand, if the teacher just does the in person and another or other teachers do the remote you'll have multiple teachers teaching a single class without any real coordination - this is yet another recipe for disaster.
I get it - we all want to get back to normal. I want to be with my students but I want to be with them safely. I also get that some students are not doing well in isolation and that remote school is both less effective than in person and a hardship all around but when we open it has to make sense both in terms of safety and in terms of education. de Blasio and Carranza's plan is neither.