This morning, we had an emergency meeting of our school’s Career and Technology Education (CTE) department. We were told that no decision has been made about whether Patterson will be one of the twenty-five schools bringing in small groups of students for in-person learning next month. But that we were being considered for such, and that our CTE department might be involved in bringing students back for hands-on career-preparatory projects and lessons. We were asked to email our principal with our willingness to return in-person.
Here is my response:
My answer at this time is no. At this time, I have not been provided adequate information to make an affirmative decision to return to in-person teaching. This is due to health concerns not just for faculty and staff of Patterson High School, but also due to health concerns for our students and their families.
Some things that might make me reconsider my answer include:
- Details on scheduling.
- Since time spent interacting in an enclosed space affects the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, further information on numbers of students and how long they will be in our room may affect my thoughts on this issue.
- Also, expectations for teaching students online at the same time I am teaching students in my classroom will make my job several times more difficult (as the teaching style and format for online is different than how I would teach in-person). So an idea like using lab Wednesdays for hands-on (with no online component that day) while teaching virtually the other days of the week could help.
- Finally, adequate planning time built into the schedule to handle the extra work expected has not been provided to most teachers so far in this school year. And now, with juggling Some consideration to that would be helpful.
- If we are following a traditional schedule, how will class changes occur to avoid overcrowding in the hallways? How will lunch be handled?
- Details on numbers of students.
- Will it be half our students at a time (A-day/B-day)? Can we bring in targeted groups who need the most help, or who are working on a hands-on project?
- If we do have flexibility on numbers of students and which ones, this ties back into the schedule, as working with one small group for a longer period of time could be beneficial in terms of completing a project in a day. And then a different group the next time.
- Details on administrative support.
- What are the protocols and consequences if a student refuses to keep their mask on?
- What are the student entry and screening procedures, especially now that we have lost some staff?
- What are the daily cleaning expectations of custodial staff, teachers, and/or students (including in between class changes each day)?
- When a school community member (student or staff) becomes sick with COVID-19, what is the plan for notifying the community? What is the plan for contact tracing and quarantine?
I think these details are of top importance, not secondary to a decision to return. Which is why my answer at this time is a no.
Yes, our students are the most at-risk for being left behind with online learning. We as teachers are currently working our butts off to minimize the chances for them being left behind, including by distributing supplies, making calls home, acting as tech support, and more. But we do realize, even with all our efforts, they are not being as fully engaged as with in-person school.
But they (and their families) are also the most at risk for catching COVID, and more-severe cases of the disease if/when they do catch it. As you know, COVID-19 incidence has been tied to both poverty and race in this country, as well as local information like 21224 as a hotspot.
Sometimes I hear people, like Dr. Santelises, citing equity in calls for a return to in-person school, and sometimes the implication seems to be that those of us who are reluctant to do so or who cite concerns are working against equity and don’t care about our kids. This is unfair. They are addressing the first point above (that they are missing out on learning), but I don’t hear them address the second point which is also about equity: that our kids and their families will be hit harder by COVID-19 than their peers in other counties. I think that, for our students, as well as for the health of school faculty and staff, it is important to ensure all details of safety precautions BEFORE a request to return.