Home > Uncategorized > We Need a NATIONAL Declaration that ALL Schooling Will Be Remote and Grant Exceptions Based on Local Conditions

We Need a NATIONAL Declaration that ALL Schooling Will Be Remote and Grant Exceptions Based on Local Conditions

August 2, 2020

Now that the pandemic has ebbed and flowed for months, four things are clear:

  1. COVID 19 does not care what state you live in or what town you live in or who you voted for, given the chance, it will spread. If Maine has a low incidence rate it does not mean that a town within Maine is immune from the disease emerging and spreading rapidly and, if it does, the entire State could eventually get it.
  2. There is no “settled science” on the cause of the disease. By that I mean we lack a vaccine to prevent it, we do not know its long term impact, we do not know the best treatment for it, and there are no proven “best practices” for re-gathering groups of individuals in a way that can prevent its spread.
  3. Social distancing and wearing masks limits the spread of the disease
  4. Those with underlying conditions and those who are elderly are at a higher risk of dying from the disease.

As I noted in a post yesterday, with all of these agreed upon realities, re-opening school in September to satisfy a sense that “things are returning to normal” seems foolhardy. The notion of reopening reflects the hopes of teachers, parents, students, and businesses that after a lockdown things WOULD return to “normal” and life and the economy would pick up where they left off in early March.

But those hopes are colliding with reality and the reality is that we lacked the NATIONAL discipline and NATIONAL faith in science needed to sustain the lockdown long enough to be able to return to “normal”. Instead of accepting the four facts listed above, our NATIONAL leaders politicized the disease, took advantage of the unsettled science to assert that ALL facts were suspect— including the need for social distancing and wearing masks– and seemed willing to accept some deaths because “x” thousand people die of the flu each year and “y” people die in car crashes.

MAYBE now that we’ve witnessed waves of COVID in Red States, we understand (I hope) that the scientific method is premised on trial and error, we understand that while social distancing and masks are not failsafe but ARE a necessary means of prevention, and that the needless deaths of ANYONE are unacceptable… MAYBE now is the time for a reset.

Here is the reset I propose, which, I realize, is predicated on the assumption of a functional Congress, a clear-eyed President, and competent US Department of Education and State education departments:

  • The President and Congress declare that all teaching will be remote through the end of this calendar year and X billion dollars will be allocated to states on a per-student basis to facilitate the rapid availability of internet access for students and improvements to air circulation in schools.
  • States will create standards for the use of school facilities to provide child care, social services, and instructional spaces for parents and children who need them. Those standards will be subject to approval by the USDOE.
  • A team of epidemiologists and school leaders will develop a set of school re-opening standards that will be adopted by Congress and put into effect no earlier than January 2021.

This broad outline assumes that COVID 19 will behave like the Spanish flu: a second wave will overtake the country in Fall when temperatures decline and people will be forced to spend more time indoors. When that happens there will be no need to waste time and energy on decisions about whether to close schools or not: that decision will already be rendered.

The outline also assumes that teachers and students will become more adept remote learning and, as a result, will be able to begin the design of a new model for schooling like the one I described in the outline I presented to the Vermont State Board in July. Time spent designing a new model for the post-pandemic schools using technology as the backbone would be better than spending time trying to figure out how to replicate the factory model using computer assisted instruction.

Finally, the outline assumes that epidemiologists will gain a better understanding of this disease in the months ahead and help design a way for larger gatherings to occur.

It IS possible that the pandemic may be creating a circumstance where it is possible to not only salvage public education but to strengthen it and make it more equitable. It is also possible that those who want to privatize schools will see this as an opportunity to savage public education and create a system that undercuts equity and opportunity. The next few months will decide.

 

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