School is Cool (but Distance Learning Sucks)
This isn't necessarily stupid (though it is, a little), just wrong... I'm positively tired of talking and thinking about it as I said all I had to say long before the Distance Learning Experiment was first implemented last August, so consider this a recap and a conclusion.
Every two months or so since the beginning of the school year some bureaucrat -- whose name I'd absolutely love to learn -- decides that we should reopen schools, and calamity promptly ensues. I am willing to bet money that this person is also a Frump supporter, or at least a republican, because who else would insist so off-hand on sacrificing even more lives to the pandemic other than someone who's either too dumb to understand reality, or privileged enough to not care.
Whatever the case, the same hysteria surrounds the discussions about reopening every single time. The school district sends out an email using the most vague and general language possible to say absolutely nothing. The lack of factual information is paired with obscure reasoning as of why we should even think about going back to school in person, particularly now that the new cases and deaths are at an all time high and rising. As I'm typing this, almost 23 million Americans have gotten sick, more than million and a half in the past week alone, and nearly 400 thousand are dead.
In Monterey County we've had about 35 thousand cases; the 0-17 age group accounts for over 12 percent of those cases, and never mind what is said about the little ones being more resilient to the virus. The numbers are loud and clear, even to someone like myself who is "mathematically dyslexic"-- a total of 45 percent of the people infected are young, and it's no surprise that the majority of all cases are among the Hispanic and Latino community. Locally, we are still very much in the purple zone, the hospitals are operating over capacity, and the Shelter in Place order is firmly in place.
People are not okay. But go ahead, open the schools...
Logic is a scarce resource in a post-truth world, and Covid aside (if that's ever possible), there's never a mention in these emails about any of the other issues plaguing the area. When the wildfires devastated more than 50 homes here in Carmel Valley we came together to help in any way we could, yet I never read anything from the school board/district about how they would alleviate the burden of those who were affected. A bit of reassurance that no one will be left to fall through the cracks? Displaced families could use a leeway -- it's common sense, really -- to focus on getting back on their feet first, and worry about everything else, including school, second.
Graciousness, however, is not what the public school system is known for. In fact, it looks like the entire government administration is in a state of disarray, more so now than ever, and The Greater Good is not a priority (if it has ever been one). The state is scrambling with damage control, and like many things about this pandemic, it is always one step behind the events. If only people would stay put and follow health guidelines while waiting the whole thing out, but no. They pushed for end of lockdown too soon, and demanded to dine out and shop and travel; by the end of last summer it was clear that there will be no flattening of any curve whatsoever and come the winter holidays the spike went off the charts.
Given that California is such a large state, both in size and population, it's safe to say that coordination between different cities and counties was chaotic at best. Orders and policies varied in effectiveness, despite the general presumption that California is liberal hence trusting in science, and so we still ended up with ICU's working at and over capacity, a shortage of hospital beds, and overwhelmed testing sites. Now, there's the issue with vaccine distribution as well. This, understandably, keeps the focus--and the resources--away from the subject of education, and every school district is effectively left to make its own decisions with only state public health officials' and Governor Newsom's orders for a guideline.
With the economy still months from any chance of a recovery, K-shaped or otherwise, local families struggle with loss of employment; mom-and-pop business is virtually killed off, restaurants and wine-tasting rooms--a main Carmel Valley industry--are closed, and of course those who work in essential services are facing increased risk of infection because they simply have to show up in person.
All the talk about "nurturing minds" and "broadening of horizons", about Bobcat spirit and community strength is good and well, but it isn't helping parents who can't afford to stop working so they can support their children through Distance Learning, is it? Parents who can't work remotely, who lack the means to hire help, for whom joining a pod isn't a feasible option, and for single parents of multiple children in particular Distance Learning is hardly a sustainable option. Heck, even wealthy, professional, two-parent families who have privilege struggle.
In order for this model to work, the necessity for parental involvement is enormous--and this includes affinity for, and expertise in, teaching on top of being time-consuming and emotionally draining. Kids do not listen to their parents the way they listen to their teachers and, quite honestly, the way DL is currently set up resembles homeschooling more than it does anything else. Homeschooling, I dare say, is a nightmare and I have neither been cut out for it nor have any desire to even attempt it.
And then there's politics. Not only systemic racism is very much a thing (just because we voted a wannabe-dictator out doesn't mean that all injustice ended with 2020) but now white supremacy is so mainstream that it attempted a coup against the very heart of American democracy. The fact that BIPOC are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, by the failing economy, and by the political climate was never taken into consideration when Distance Learning was being designed. The emotional and psychological burden alone is so great in minority communities that the very suggestion of treating school like "business as usual" is preposterous and insulting.
It's an impossible conundrum every way you look at it. Distance Learning was designed to be the only alternative to regular learning in the overly-complex situation we are in, made possible by utilizing technology and necessitated by the law: school is not optional. Even to consider a null school year would mean admitting that things are bad. And yet, carrying on requires adaptation and flexibility. Working from home, studying from home, doing everything (or most things) in quarantine is possible, but different.
Somehow, the CUSD doesn't seem to have gotten the memo... or is having trouble with the concept of the word "different" because, in my humble opinion, it has failed to acknowledge major challenges families and parents struggle with, which is in turn crucial to the very success of the DL model. The inconvenient truth is that, in its current form, this model is fundamentally flawed.
Here's a plot twist: DL is still the only safe and realistic option.
It would literally be fatal to reopen anytime before there's a decrease in cases and a widely available vaccine.
But that one person (or a small group of local people) continues to insist! Every month or so, like clockwork. That damn email appears in my inbox and I want to high-five whoever wrote it, in the face, with a chair. How more absurd local politics can get?! Let's see:
More people are dead now than they were when the schools were first closed.
There was a survey sent out, TWICE, which we filled out both times saying that we do want to go back in person--when it is safe. If I remember correctly, about 70 or more percent of parents answered the same way. The results were disclosed one day, and the next it was announced that the board is going ahead with the Hybrid scheme anyway.
Forget why or
wth is wrong with you people why now. The real question is how. I dare you to try and get an answer from the principal, the school board or the district. NOBODY KNOWS. They want to reopen, but they can't guarantee anyone's safety, explain the workings of the model in detail, or even promise that the children will keep their teachers. So, we take DL and throw it in the trash, along with the relative consistency so much needed by our kids, and all the work done by kids and teachers alike to create rapport and build relationships goes out the window.
DL might have been an experiment, but Hybrid is a complete and total pipe dream that hasn't been attempted before, let alone thought through.
In theory, the idea for reopening (or going Hybrid) is supposed to appeal to disadvantaged groups: schools traditionally provide childcare as well as lunches and educational supplies, and that is a resource worth signing a waiver for. In reality it would be like signing a blank check... We are all desperate for normalcy, and we need help. Most working parents truly don't have a choice. Should the schools reopen, they will send their kids back, safe or not. That doesn't sit right with me. It's morally ambiguous and possibly illegal.
So, what's the solution? I called it before, and I will say it again. Reopening is a moot point, and discussing it is a waste of time and energy. It just won't happen.
DL is imperfect and in dire need of revision in order to meet the needs of the majority of families, and to make it possible for parents, children and teachers to navigate without burning out, dropping out, or failing entirely, which would cause the entire system to collapse.