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Sunday, May 31, 2020

10 reasons schools should remain closed during the pandemic,

From the Covid 19 News and Information Blog

The following letter, written by a teacher and parent to the superintendent and school board members of his son's school district, clearly and articulately explains how dangerous it would be to reopen the schools in the fall and makes a compelling case both for keeping them closed during the pandemic and increasing funding.

Dear Superintendent and School Board Members,

I am a father of a middle school student and a teacher of high school Biology. Before I was a teacher, I was a scientist at the University of California San Francisco, in the Infectious Diseases Department. For more than a decade I have been teaching my students about Pandemic Preparedness as part of my unit on Human Body Systems and the Immune System. As a result of this curriculum, several of my students expressed to me that they felt less scared and anxious during the Shelter-in-Place (SIP) because they had a better scientific understanding of what was happening and how we could protect ourselves.

Please read carefully each of the arguments I lay out below. Any one of them, alone, should be sufficient justification to keep the schools physically closed and continue Distance Learning (DL) for the 2020-2021 school year. Contrary to the all the hype and propaganda we are hearing about “safety” and returning to normal, there is no truly safe way to return to school or work while a pandemic is happening.

1The most significant reason to continue DL is to help prevent this tragedy from becoming much worse. The pandemic is not going to end any time soon. The only way to slow it down or contain it is with continued SIP/DL, combined with universal weekly testing, PLUS contact tracing and quarantining. Anything short of this, we will see surges, like in NY, Italy and Spain, where people died because there weren’t enough ICU beds, ventilators or even sufficient doctors and nurses. Unfortunately, we are not seeing these requirements met anywhere in the U.S., including the Bay Area, and we are unlikely to by August.

·        recent study by researchers at the University of Washington predicted there could be 1.2 million U.S. deaths by the end of the year, even if states continued to SIP.
·        Without mitigation, this could easily surpass the death and economic devastation of the Spanish Flu, or even the Black Death. Consider that without mitigation, the CDC and WHO predict 60-70% of all humans will catch this disease (that’s 196-230 million Americans). At a 3.8% mortality rate, that would be 7.6 million U.S. deaths, more than 10 times that of the Spanish flu, and more than 200 million deaths worldwide.
·        Even if only half that number got sick or died, this would still disrupt the production and distribution of food and other basic services because of the lack of sufficient healthy workers, and could result in famine, even here in the U.S. The UN has already warned of multiple famines of biblical proportion in the poorest war-torn nations. What we’re experiencing now would seem like a cakewalk in comparison.
·        Therefore, keeping the schools closed not only protects students, staff and their families, it protects the entire community and helps prevent this pandemic from spiraling into a cataclysm.
  •         One of the most effective ways to slow down a pandemic is by shutting schools.

·        Indoor environments are the riskiest places to be during a pandemic.
·        The infection rate indoors is 19 times higher than it is outdoors.
·        The longer you spend indoors with people outside your immediate family, the greater the exposure to their germs and the greater your chances of becoming infected. This is true for our students and even more so for our teachers, who will be expected to spend hours inside a potentially infectious room.
·        This study shows a 40-60% reduction in infections when schools are closed.
·        And this one, by pandemic expert Dr. Howard Merkel, shows that closing schools early and keeping them closed is one of the best ways to curtail a pandemic.
·        In contrast, if we do reopen the schools in August, we will almost certainly have to close them again well before December, when the 2nd wave hits concurrently with flu season. This would be far more disruptive than simply starting with DL and continuing with it for the duration of the year. As you may have read, they had to close down schools in France only one week after reopening them because of a surge of new infections.

3.      It is NOT true that kids don’t get this disease.
·        Studies show a similar infection rate among kids and adults.
·        Thus, even if the kids die at a lower rate, they can still spread it to their older teachers and family members who are at greater risk of severe complications and death.
·        Furthermore, young people are still getting acutely ill in significant numbers. 20% of U.S. hospitalizations for Covid-19 have been in people under the age of 44.
·        And what about the rare, but frightening Kawasaki-like syndrome? How many kids have to come down with that before a lawsuit bankrupts the school district?

4.      Clearly, in-person learning is better than DL. Children benefit from the social interactions with their peers and the one-on-one personal attention from their teachers. However, the way in-person learning will have to be implemented during the pandemic will undermine many of those benefits. Consider that the main route of transmission is droplets and aerosols that fly out of people’s mouths and noses when coughing, sneezing, talking, singing and breathing heavily. All of these activities increase the volume, velocity and distance infectious materials travel in the environment.
·        Therefore, we’d have to cancel band and orchestra (where students are blowing heavily into instruments); choir (where students are expelling virions with every syllable sung—remember the choir outbreak in Washington State?); athletics (where students are panting heavily with exertion and are in close contact with teammates and competitors)
·        However, even sitting still at a desk will be risky, (less so if it is done in silence), because speaking increases the release of potentially infectious droplets 10-fold. Only 5 minutes of face to face speaking would be enough to infect someone nearby.
·        Students will NOT be able to collaborate face to face at tables or lab benches without violating the 6-foot rule.
·        Likewise, teachers will not be able to kneel beside students’ desks to assist them. K-5 teachers will not be able to hug students who are distraught or hurt
·        Many of the social activities that create and sustain healthy school cultures and children’s relationships will not be possible with social distancing (e.g., most sports, band, choir, assemblies, dances, eating together at lunch, giving each other hugs and high-fives).
·        And where will the extra staff come from to police students to make sure these things aren’t happening outside the classroom, when we are faced with enormous budget cuts?

5.      Not all social interactions that happen at school are necessarily healthy and positive.
·        Here is an interesting editorial by a teen from NY who loved having her school close and doing DL at home because it allowed her to work at her own pace, at her own hours, and avoid some of the fraught and disruptive interactions that can happen at schools.
·        In my own experience this year, I had at least a half-dozen students who had D’s or F’s prior to March 16 because of absences and failure to make up the assignments. Yet during the SIP, they completed every single assignment and even went back and made up work from earlier in the semester and are now passing. Upon chatting with them, many had similar experiences to the NY teen who wrote the editorial.

6.      There are intractable logistical problems with Blended-Learning models where students attend class 2 days a week, with social distancing, and then continue doing DL at home the remaining 3 days a week
·        The CDC guidelines for reopening schools state that each cohort of students should remain in the same room with the same teacher all day to reduce social mixing, not switch rooms, like secondary schools traditionally do.
·        The CDC says no devices, tools or equipment should be shared, which means 1 chromebook per student (not class sets).
·        The CDC says students should eat in their classrooms and not congregate in hallways, cafeterias and yards. Will we hire more security to ensure students aren’t congregating?
·        Many districts’ proposals for blended learning suggest that custodians will disinfect rooms in between classes, but this is not feasible without hiring a lot more custodians. And with the severe budget cuts all districts face due to tax revenues lost because of the pandemic, this is highly unlikely, as they are doing much more firing than hiring
·        If student arrivals and departures are staggered to reduce social mixing, it could add significant time to the school day and seriously delay when classes can actually start.
·        48% of all teachers have their own children living at home with them. If all schools move to a blended learning model, what happens to those of us with younger children who have to stay home 2-3 days per week for their own schools’ DL? Will those teachers have to get substitutes and lose 60% of their income? Or will they have to hire babysitters? Clearly, the simplest solution is for all districts to continue with DL for the entire school year.

7.      Most back-to-work models include some form of screening at the beginning of the work day. While this was quite effective for SARS, where infectiousness coincided with the onset of symptoms, like fevers, it is virtually useless with Covid-19, where 44% of infections are caused by people who are asymptomatic. It also could give a false sense of security that could lead many people to engage in riskier behaviors and not respect the social distancing and hygiene rules. Also, the CDC recommends creating an isolation room for any suspected cases and a Covid-19 point person at each site who follows and reports on community trends to staff and the authorities. Where will the funding and humans come from for this, particularly if districts are cutting staff and struggling with budget shortfalls?

·        Nearly 30% of all teachers are older than 50, which is a much higher risk group than those under the age of 50.
·        Because of the enclosed indoor work environment, and the significantly higher rate of social contacts compared with other adults, teachers are at much greater risk of contracting the disease.
·        The virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, which means that teachers, who must be in their classrooms all day, will have much greater exposure to any germs.
·        The CDC says that anyone with an underlying health condition should be allowed to self-identify and be allowed to telework (or continue teaching DL). It would be much easier to implement this if the entire district did DL from the start.
·        Will there be enough substitutes to cover this many sick teachers?

9.      The pandemic and the SIP are stressful to everyone, students, teachers, and their families. Right now, everyone needs more free time, not less, in order to manage the increased challenges, stress and time demands of the pandemic, like waiting in long lines to shop, sanitizing homes, spending extra time with children and family members to help calm and soothe them.
·        Reconfiguring in-person curriculum and classroom structure to accommodate social distancing could double teachers’ workload. However, teachers will be expected not only reconfigure what they do in the classroom, they will also have to create and assess DL lessons, potentially tripling their workload.
·        Considering that most teachers were already working far more than their contractual hours prior to the pandemic (most teachers come in early, stay late, and/or work weekends and holidays), where will all this extra time come from?
·        Rather than providing teachers with more time to take care of their families and their own mental health, the Blended Model could cause an epidemic of fatigue, stress, depression and even absenteeism among teaching staff.

10.   One final note: Continuing with DL for the entire 2020-2021 school year could save districts a lot of revenue when they are already facing severe budget shortfalls. By keeping schools closed, there would be much lower energy bills; less maintenance costs; and quite likely fewer teachers and staff on the payroll.

In a pandemic, no one is safe unless we are all safe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Jason Fischer and the mockbuster (draft)

Do you know what a  knockbuster is?  You probably do.
mockbuster (also known as knockbuster or a drafting opportunity[1]) is a movie created with the intention of exploiting the publicity of another major motion picture with a similar title or subject. Mockbusters are often made with a low budget and quick production to maximize profit. Unlike films that are produced to capitalize on the popularity of a recent release by adopting similar genre or storytelling elements, mockbusters are generally produced concurrently with upcoming films, and released direct-to-video at the same time the real film reaches theaters or video outlets. A mockbuster may be similar enough in title, packaging, etc. in hopes that consumers confuse it with the actual film it mimics, but their producers maintain that they are simply offering additional products for consumers who want to watch additional films in the same subgenres.[2]

Here is an example of one.

They are nothing but cheap knocks offs created to make a quick buck. Well friends, where I can't say for sure, it looks to me like Jason Fischer may be following suit.

His campaign manager recently launched a super pac.

Unfortunately there is not a ton of information about why it exists available. Though Duval already has a super pac for our students.

That PAC is to support Duval's schools, something Fischer has never done and it is called  Duval Citizens for Better Schools.

Okay it is true the titles are super similar but they seem similar enough.

Now is Fischer's treasurer trying to wrangle in a few extra bucks, like the makers of Frozen Land did? I don't know but he seems to have a history for these kind of things.

Jason Fischer isn't above deceiving people, see when he let people believe he was in the Navy or the whole elected super debacle, so him trying to make some money off of people looking to support our schools would not surprise me. I guess the bottom line is we will be a lot better when he is in our rear view and we should all support his opponent Ben Marcus. We need a decent person representing us, not a self serving grifter like Fischer.

Monday, May 25, 2020

President Trump says it is time for teachers to risk their lives. (draft)

It's amazing how the man with the most access to information is so chronically ignorant.

Today ironically as most school years are rushing to an end, Trump said it is time for schools to open.

Trump has never shown the first bit of regard for teachers or students but this is beyond the pale. See Betsy Devos who gleefully admitted she wanted to use the pandemic to push her religious school agenda. The long and short of it is this billionaire with double digit yachts whats the public to pay for more kids to go to religious private schools.

The president is saying schools should open just as they will face massive budget cuts. He has also said he doesn't want to bail out cities and states, i.e. schools just as they will need more resources than ever before. He doesn't have to say he doesn't care about the safety of schools and children, something we know is true, if his actions result in them being less safe.

I have no doubt that school will start again in the fall in some fashion though some of  the CDC's guidance makes me think they were home schooled because many will not just work.

That being said, distance learning has not worked as well as we hoped for our non motivated or for a lot of our low socioeconomically challenged students. No disrespect to them and their families meant just an acknowledgment that the obstacles are great and something will have to happen.

I guess the bottom line is we have a president with access to frequent testing and top of the line health care telling teachers with neither it's time for you to risk their lives. He's not looking to help or offering solutions, or you know doing anything presidential.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Suddenly we care about poor kids? For pity's sake.

There is no doubt that economically disadvantaged children have suffered disproportionately more during the pandemic. Kids that already struggle to keep up with learning gains are undoubtedly falling behind. Those critical of public education point to this as a failure of public education. Suddenly they care about poor kids? Friends public ed has been sounding that alarm for years.
Something that has been ignored by policy makers since there were policy makers and children is children that live in poverty don’t do as well as a group as those that don’t. It’s not a secret, everyone knows it, just most of those with the ability to do something about it ignore it.

Now people like Bill Gates, Jeb Bush and the Cato Foundation are using the pandemic driven worsening of the education gap as evidence that public school wasn’t working and nothing could be farther from the truth.

Jeb Bush looking to exploit a tragedy says it is time to embrace distance learning, and this despite the fact those he says he wants to save the most are arguably suffering the most because of it.

The Cato institute which normally hates the government unless it wants something is pushing for education savings accounts or vouchers, you know because parents don’t have enough going on right now.

Bill Gates despite failure after educational failure is being recruited to reimagine public ed. Common core, small learning communities, punitive teacher evaluations, all failures but since he is rich he gets yet another bite at the apple.

It is sickening.

What do all of these and so many more have in common? They blame public education for the failures of society. They say its public ed’s fault that they can’t completely eradicate the debilitating effects of poverty and even though in their critiques they might not be specifically blaming teachers that is without a doubt the subtext.

Me I get down on my knees and thank the heavens for teachers, especially the teachers of our children in poverty because I know without a doubt their kids would be much worse off.
Society cares about poor kids? Since when.

It is not public ed, it is not teachers that are failing children. It is society failing them. The society that ignores evidence, wants things done on the cheap and listens to those looking to profit or those who do not know what they are talking about.   

For decades we have ignored the plight of poor children, when we as a society knew better so let’s not pretend for one second these reimagining efforts are for kids, they aren’t. They are for bank accounts.

Never Waste A Crisis -

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Jeb Bush wants to use the pandemic to dismantle public ed.

Jeb Bush is the villain of the story. A man raised in privilege who sent his children to expensive and exclusive private schools. He has an almost religious like fervor against public education and teachers. Though that being said he isn't opposed to his family and backers making a buck. Jeb Bush views the pandemic as a nation wide hurricane Katrina and using faulty thinking and absolutely no data, he is bound and determined to use it to put a stake in the heart of public education and the teachers who work in them.

From the Washington Post,

In the face of a viral pandemic that has closed schools nationwide, one might expect that all school districts would rush to provide distance-learning opportunities to students. But that’s not what has happened.

Um, why would school districts rush to embrace distance learning? If anything the pandemic has proved it doesn't work for many and not as well for most.
In Oregon, unions pressured school officials to block transfers of students into public charter schools that use virtual classrooms; Michigan’s state superintendent denied credit for online learning, citing state law requiring in-person attendance. Other school districts have capped online learning or denied it altogether, citing “equity” issues. In effect, school leaders are saying: If we can’t provide online instruction for all students, we won’t provide it for any.

He is only two paragraphs in when he blames unions and ignores the inequalities that distance learning creates. 

The digital divide is real. Only two-thirds of rural homes have broadband; low-income families typically lack access to Internet-enabled devices beyond smartphones.

The digital divide is real but how is that public education's fault?

But stopping distance learning over equity concerns is a false choice. Many school districtsstate leaders and others have figured out how to keep instruction going. Some opened access to virtual schools. Some, supported by private donations, have given laptops and tablets to students who need them. Others have made do by printing reams of classroom materials.

Ugh, as usual these cads use a kernel of truth in their cob of lies. How many districts have quit virtual learning because of the problems it creates? A few. How many haven't, the vast majority. Bush is the man behind the curtain asking you to ignore your eyes and ears and facts.  

It’s time to learn the lessons from these heroic efforts and plan for a future in which public education can continue without access to classrooms — not just because of a pandemic but because that’s the future of learning. 

Is it the future of learning, kids alone in their houses logged in to computers? Social interaction gone. To me that sounds like a nightmare. Also where did Bush get his degree in education or child psychology? Oh wait he has neither.

There was more, a lot more, I would encourage you to read it just to see what we are up against,

This has been hard. Hard on students, teachers, families and communities, and Bush would have us double down on what hasn't been working for many and what hasn't been working as well for most.

Instead of investing in public ed or thanking them for all they have done, Bush wants us to dissolve it. Bush is the villain of the story. 

Jeb Bush: 'People need to work longer hours' - POLITICO