Monday, July 06, 2020

My district's initial plan for 2020-21

My district plans to offer high school students three options as the 2020-21 academic year begins. 

1. On-site, face-to-face instruction (details TBD; may or may not involve physical distancing and a hybrid structure)
2. Distance Learning
3. Independent Study (K-8 students can also be homeschooled)

I sent this to my science department colleagues today:

As we consider returning to face-to-face, physically distanced instruction, let’s consider what has/hasn’t changed since the March 13 shutdown. Or things just worthy of consideration, period.

• There is no vaccine. The most optimistic estimates put vaccine implementation at late 2021. As in ... no vaccine throughout the entire 2020-21 school year. Seems cruel just to think about it, but not thinking about it may lead to poor decision-making.
• Predictions are difficult, especially when the future's involved. Experts seem to be convinced that a second wave will build in the fall. That presumes the first wave will subside prior to the fall. The first wave continues to escalate as of this writing.
• Therapeutics? Remdesivir (for those who can get it) may reduce hospitalization time by four days for those who pull through. That's not really much of a therapeutic. 
• We know transmission likelihood is increased when people congregate indoors.
• No school’s HVAC system was designed / can be easily modified to minimize virus transmission. Our HVAC doesn’t have HEPA filtration. I'd be surprised if we have any filtration at all. Some of us can endeavor to maintain a flow of fresh air by opening doors and window vents, but that’s case by case, and involves air temperatures that may not be conducive to learning, and it subject to day to day meteorological conditions. 
• What do we think about teenager discipline regarding mask-wearing and physical distancing? Every day they are on campus? Every period and during passing periods? Every student? 
• What do we think the consequences will be for students who violate safety protocols?
• The virus remains active in the region. People are infected with it every day. People die from it every day. Sacramento county is on the state’s watch list due its troubling C19 stats. We are in a viral hot spot.
• Parents are tired of providing daycare. They want their kids out of their house. They need day care to get back to their jobs. This factor seems to be trumping all other facts. 

Digging deeper into the ponderables and the realm of speculation ... and logistics that will eventually have concrete answers even if we don't know what they are now...

• Which students are most likely to be sent back to Face-to-Face schooling? And which ones will be kept away from school in Distance Learning? A purely academic / speculative question, but worth thinking about. 
• Will students in Distance Learning be able to maintain the course selections they made in the spring? I have a small AP Physics 2 class. What if half of them want F2F and half want DL? 
• If the DL requests reduce the F2F numbers on campus, will the district really maintain all the sections that were mapped out into the master schedule in the spring?
• Who has our best interests in mind is we navigate into the unknown: elected officials (or their health directors), the district, the union, who? I believe we are on our own here—even more than usual. And we know full well that policy-makers don't always make decisions based on science. 

The science seems clear on the virus: closing down suppresses infection rates and reopening leads to spikes. The virus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets and aerosols emitted when doing things like speaking. Enclosed spaces are conducive to transmission.

But human nature compels us to think we can get away with reopening if we simply engage in what seems like common-sense, general public health precautions: hand-washing, temperature checks, ask people maintain distance, don masks, and dole out copious squirts of hand sanitizer. 

The first schools to open will be the canaries in the coal mine. SJSUD is intent on being an early-opening district in a viral hot spot. 

Who sees this going well? In such a way that we magically dodge the well-established realities of viral transmission? If anyone has a case study to point to, kindly send me a link. 

I find it hard to disagree with this opinion/analysis:

[Parent surveys reportedly include a considerable bloc of advocates for students attending five days/week with no physical distancing or mask requirements: pre-COVID practices.]

We have until July 10 to request a voluntary transfer to Distance Learning for 2020-21. The details would be a post of its own. Not all requests will be honored. 

UPDATE: Concerns about aerosol transmission is emerging. If you want to keep up with the aerosol/virus science, follow Dr. Linsey Marr, Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech on Twitter. She's also a Rio Americano PhyzMaster (1991). I am as proud as can be when I think of the work she's doing and I might "squee!" a little bit when she pops up in news articles and media interviews. I am nothing but confident of her abilities, and she's handling the attention with characteristic aplomb. But I regret the circumstances that have thrust her into the spotlight.

So, what is your district doing and what is your thinking about it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This seems germane.