Opening the schools, Plan B

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This should really be Plan A but no school district is going to adopt this plan until after just the right cute little kid or beloved teacher dies of Covid-19 on a news day with few other distractions. This plan pertains to High Schools only. Perhaps later we can extend a version of this to other grades.

Here’s the plan.

1) Admit there is a deadly pandemic and that we need to not feed the virus. Also recognize that a realistic estimate of when a vaccine starts to be available is during the school year after the upcoming one, and that it will take a year or so to fully deploy it in the US. The plan for starting school should not be, as it is now, “we’ll do this for the first week then… who knows?” The plan should be one that will flexible but outlined for a two or three year time range, because that is the time range over which this pandemic is going to play out.

2) Change the requirements for graduating from high school. Henceforth, students must meet the core* class requirements, and do not need to meet total credit requirements. All students who have met these requirements are graduated instantly. That would instantly reduce the number of students in the schools by a few percent.

4) Add one year to the high school plan. Call it “Covid-Extention-Year.” (Why? See below.)

3) Identify (mainly) Seniors and Juniors who have only a few core class requirements to finish. Spread those required classes over the next two years (some Seniors will thus be extending their school time into CEY). Many students in most schools will in this manner only have one class at a time, at most, with many semesters/quarters not having to attend school at all.

4) Restrict all other teaching to core requirements only. So, no electives. All teachers are switched to core requirements, all students are taking core requirements.

Suddenly, 3-4% of students would be gone. Within one semester, another 10-15% of students would be graduated, while another 20% of students would be committed to attending school for only one or two classes over about a year and a half. These first four changes simply thin out the herd gracefully and without killing anyone, as opposed to the current approach, which will thin out the herd the hard way.

5) Do as much distance learning as possible, but if classes are required…

6) Revise the one room schoolhouse model.

  • Students stay in one room.
  • Passing time and bathroom access is set up to minimize hallway contact.
  • Teachers move from room to room (teaching core classes only) and wear hazmat
  • Very few students in each room so when an infection pops up the total number of students removed from school is small. They can come back in a few weeks.
  • Since teachers are suited up they do not have to be quarantined when a student in their room tests positive.

It is essential to keep the teaching staff intact. There will be more needed than usual because several will be out sick for more time than usual. Classes, both distant and in person, should have smaller class size (for most classes, some distant learning classes may not need that). The one room schoolhouse method not only reduces infection, but serves another goal: Relationship building will be easier and more solid in mostly distance learning settings.

*Many schools use the term “core” to refer to a specific subset of academics. What I mean here is different, and includes more. Think of it this way: Look at a set of class records for a sample of seniors. Consider the total number of classes, and the types of classes, that make those students viable HS graduates, and cut out everything else. In other words, pare down. Most students manage to get what we think of as a full on high school degree with a few classes extra. Some students do everything in three years, and earn a year of college. This does not mean removing art or music. It means paring down the individual student’s total work, and probably, the full range of options.

By reducing the number of students and keeping the number of teachers the same, and simplifying the offerings, it is easier to have smaller one-room learning units. While distance learning is ongoing the one-room learning units are not necessary, but they are ready to go when the students and teachers are called back into the classroom. This might be after a vaccine is available, but is still being deployed, and the virus is in smaller numbers but still a threat, which one might estimate to be some time during the 2021-2022 school year.

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5 thoughts on “Opening the schools, Plan B

  1. Not bad. I would also get rid of gym and all sports until after COVID-19. Although that could be considered in your only core requirements already. I really like the one classroom idea to keep the kids in a group and isolate the groups from each other. Makes sense. Not sure about the hazmat, as that would be pretty uncomfortable for the entire day – but I get the idea behind it. Maybe just a mask and faceshield would work.

  2. Many non-core classes in districts here are already planned to be shit-canned, although not for purely safety reasons: huge budget cuts are here, and MI schools were not back to pre-2008 funding levels yet.

    Local districts are putting out plans: some are going back in-seat, some are offering up to three options, with different sets for k-5 and 6-12. Our district has one of the most confusing sets of options, and they extend through the end of September then will be reassessed.

    Some of the ideas here are good, but too late to be implemented I’m afraid. The one question I have is this: our district has a fair percentage of rural students, and many smaller districts here in SW Mi are mostly rural, with high dependency on bus transportation. If social distancing inside school buildings is a nightmare, how would you describe it on buses?

  3. Folks have been focused on the kids dying, but with the strong differential in mortality based on age, it looks like COVID-19 will make more children into orphans than the number of children it kills.

    20-, 30-, 40-, 50-somethings have a much higher chance of death than the kids, especially if you use the super-low mortality numbers that the Plan A folks push. With their near-zero numbers, my 50-something self could have a 500x larger risk of death than my kids, and I normally catch every bug my kids bring home from school.

  4. The psychological impact of seeing teachers in hazmat suits will do more damage to high schoolers than COVID-19.
    The fear is getting out of hand. Kids are very low risk, particularly elementary and middle school.
    Strangely, where I am, majority of parents voted against sending their kids back to school, but parents of high schoolers voted in favor, the exact opposite of the risk.

    My expectation is that some parents are just going to go to work and leave kids to themselves for the day.

    1. Re MikeN “The fear is getting out of hand. Kids are very low risk, particularly elementary and middle school.

      Fear getting out of hand? Low risk? If an out-of-control pandemic is not worthy of fear and great caution, what would be? Zombie apocalypse?

      Item > Some recently opened schools in a number of states have already had to close because of Covid-19 found among the students and/or staff.
      Item > We now know that younger school-age children have larger amounts of virus in their nasal passages than adults and we know know that older school-age children have the same ability to transmit the virus as adults.

      Considring the above, if your intent is to facilitate orphaning large numbers of school-age children along with killing some of them, you couldn’t do better than to send them to school.

      And keep in mind also that, contrary to babbling of the sociopathic Impeached President, children are definitely not immune to Covid-19 and we already have dead children of a variety of ages.

      Item > Furthermore, it seems likely that school-age children will be prone to the same kinds of lingering damage already seen in adults. So whole lives may be blighted by early return to school.

      Item > And just to make opening schools and other “opening” even more hazardous, U. S. testing lately has been decreasing rather than increasing and rapid-results-testing is still only a dream for the vast majority of us.

      Fear is the only intelligent response to what is going on now in the Trump-crippled U. S. and fantasy-sourced Pollyanna-ism will just exacerbate an already dire situation.

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