On planning and the lack thereof

A week ago, my school district was telling all of us that we were back to in-person learning on the day school starts. There have been a couple of School Board meetings since then and hundreds of teachers (myself included) have been burning up the internet sending irate emails, and now the plan appears to be that we’re starting with e-learning, but only for two weeks, and then phasing everyone back into the building in early September, except that at least three Board members appear to believe that we need to lose the entire first nine weeks, the plan hasn’t been voted on, and they do not have remotely enough time to hire the people that they are going to need to make any existing plan beyond “keep everyone home” work.

I made this specific point at one of the board meetings, actually; every plan that does not involve keeping us all home requires hiring more people, or if it doesn’t require that immediately, it will start requiring that the very second people start getting sick. We are not at full staffing as a district right now and in the last twelve years we never have been. There is a board vote scheduled on August 3rd, but remember, school supposedly starts on August 12. There is not enough time in nine days to do anything.

The superintendent has sent out three or four separate surveys trying to figure out who both wants to and/or has a medical need to be home beyond “I don’t want to die.” Each time they’ve had to pull the survey because of health privacy violations. They’ve made no decisions about who might be home to teach the kids whose parents don’t want them to enter the buildings and as of right now they don’t have time to, because every teacher that gets pulled out of a classroom means they need to put another body in that room.

(I was very pleased to discover that both obesity and high blood pressure put me in high-risk status for Covid, and no, that’s not a typo; I was pleased. I do not want to return to classroom teaching right now, and it’s nice that for once being a giant fat man is working for me and not against me.)

In addition, the county health department … person— I don’t know if he’s a chairman or what the hell his title is, but one way or another he was at one of the board meetings too. He stated in front of Jesus and everybody that he thinks the county needs to be at or below fifteen new infections a day before he’s comfortable reopening schools. We are currently at about three times that many, and I don’t see that number falling into safe range anytime in August at all, much less September.

A number of things have been clear to me for a while, and at this point I’m basically just waiting for everyone else to face up to reality and make the necessary intelligent decisions: we are not going back to school for at least nine weeks and I suspect we are probably done for 2020. Sports– professional, high school, college, whatever– are not coming back this year. They may have started some practices, but the seasons are going to get cut very, very short if they even get started at all. This has only gotten worse since March, and it’s not getting better until the current US government is mostly replaced, so we’re looking at probably February before we can see any any chance of actual useful positive movement, and if the Republicans aren’t voted out of office in every imaginable capacity in November and then probably forced out of certain government buildings in Washington at gunpoint on January 20 we are dead. I’m not ready to say we’re going to lose the entire school year yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if it happened. Not one tiny bit.

None of this had to be this way, but … y’know. Emails.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.