Our inability to solve or even avoid devastating problems is now immediate, local and clear.
By Siva Vaidhyanathan
The Guardian (7/13/20)
The public school district in Charlottesville, Virginia, has proposed a model for schooling this fall that resembles what most districts are trying to do. Because state health officials recommend putting three to six feet between students, and because classrooms were already crowded and schools over-enrolled, the district leadership has decided to alternate attendance. Half the student population will attend Mondays and Wednesdays. The other half will attend Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will be for teacher preparation and deep cleaning.
As a working parent of a school-age child, the prospect of my child attending school for two days a week, and staying home alone to do school work (or not) the three days a week, is frustrating. I have the means, flexibility and job security to cope with it. My kid will be able to get lunch every day. She has good wifi and multiple computers at home. But she would still have to write off an entire year of high school as a wasted opportunity. The course quality will be lousy and she’ll have minimal social engagement. No club meetings. No homecoming. No “Friday night lights”. It’s heartbreaking. But because we have the resources, she will be fine in the long run.
There is nothing Americans can do to save public education right now. We had a window about three months ago. We saw this coming. Teachers all saw this coming. There was no federal help, no national leadership.
It will be even harder for other people. Consider my neighbor. She’s a single parent with three school-aged children in three different schools. She works for an hourly wage as a food-service contract worker at the local university. She was furloughed in March when the university shut down. She hopes to work full-time this fall, but with most university classes moved online, there is no guarantee that she’ll get the hours she needs to pay her bills.
So she might have to pick up another hourly job as well – if any exist during the looming economic crash in this college town. Her kids don’t have the advantages that mine has. Under Covid-19 things will be even tougher for them than the general injustices of this country have already put on them.
Then consider my brother-in-law, a public school teacher married to my sister, who is immuno-suppressed after intensive cancer treatment. He looks at classroom plans for the fall and sees almost nothing to protect him from the aerosol spread of the virus. Once winter comes, air will recirculate among closed classrooms. Schoolchildren are hard to manage in normal times, and they cough on whatever is close. Given that many more children will be facing crises at home as parents and grandparents lose their jobs or their health or both …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thcommonercall.org )