It’s week two online, 4 days a week. The online system has been hacked with ransomware. There is obviously a need for a better plan. So here is mine.The School Board is obviously most concerned about liability (as is anyone in the litigious USA.) Rather than risk, they take the safe way out (that EVERYONE is doing) so they have a basis for liability defense. They are also being pressured by the Teacher’s Union – who is also concerned about liability – should a teacher get sick. There seems to be no basis for how many teachers get sick and die each year from their own complications surrounded by students. The reality is very few students are sick in Fairfax County, and if they do get sick they are statistically likely to fully recover. This is my plan for someone who wants kids back in school.My Back to School Plan for 2nd Quarter is as follows:
1. Outsource online training for full-time online. Use k12.com or another certified education service who does online training correctly and doesn’t require 1 day a week to set this up each week. Those people who don’t want their children in school – which is their privilege – rather than forcing them to homeschool or have parents take up the slack – use a certified provider. If the teachers want to quit and work for k12.com or whoever, that is their right. At this point parents were not signing up to get specific teachers online, they want to keep their kids and families safe. Give them a better completely online option and free up teaching resources for in the schools.
2. Use the schools for students. Public schools are paid for by taxpayers. They are to be used for students to be educated. Not for PAID daycare by people looking for an option so they can work. Roughly 50% of students wanted to go back to most schools. This should be accommodated by spacing out students, using auditoriums, cafeterias, gyms, and keeping them in certain classrooms longer. Cleaning more. (this should have been done anyway?) Plan on how to make it easier for students to be able to learn with masks (or better yet face shields – where people can see what students are saying.) Get the bus routes, parent/carpool drop offs, driving students sorted – whatever to get students back in the classroom.
3. Use remote teachers! Roughly 48% of teachers wanted to return to schools. Let them – protect them with shields/masks, gloves, plexiglass desk surrounds, broadcast these classes online with in-school teachers. For those that are concerned about their health and safety have screens in each classroom (which many already have) broadcast to a class of students, and access via their laptops, to teachers at home. Then the students can stay put and teachers move from screen to screen. Easy enough for a student if they do get sick to access from home while quarantined.
4. Expand the class sizes for online teaching. School size mandates are for in-classroom learning. Enough mandates – such as standardized testing have gone out the window, why not this one? If classes are provided online why can’t one teacher be teaching two classes of students on the same subject? Or why can’t 2-3 teachers trade-off? They do this for gym. They have multiple teachers teaching the same topics at the same time in High Schools – why not consolidate? Consider the college models with 100 kids in a 101basic class (English, Math, etc), supported by teaching assistants, additional supplemental office hours. If the issue is available teaching staff – determine a better way to allocate teaching resources.
5. Hire Health/Classroom Monitors. There are plenty of people out-of-work who would be happy to “suit up” to monitor classrooms/students/hallways and health. These do not need to be teachers. They are doing this for the “in school” daycare options. Again it makes no sense that the schools are safe enough for these kids and monitors, but not regular students and teachers. This should not be a “for-profit” way of using school buildings.
6. Rapid covid test the students! – California is now planning to test ALL students. Fairfax should test ours anyway!! We need to see where we are starting from, limit any unknown exposure, then track to see how it might get worse rather than just guessing. Do this each month or quarter – chart it/track it. I don’t care how often students are tested, if it gets the kids back in school. Test for antibodies – many may have been sick and not even know. And be ready to immunize students first when a vaccine is available
.7. Let the sports, clubs, and events commence. One of the biggest reasons students want to be back in school is to be social. It is also one of the best lessons students can learn for preparation for becoming decent adults. Space them out. Test them to enter. I am sure you would be surprised how many people are willing to sign liability waivers to participate. I mean fine if you want to assign a special sport event for homecoming and delay football. But golf in the winter? Figure out options that make sense. Wear masks/shields. Video the events live in the parking lots. Don’t have food or drink where people need to take off their masks. The kids will have fun and enjoy themselves just seeing each other. While we don’t allow our students the same options as other schools, our kids are losing out on their childhood.
8. Figure out the metrics for safe functioning. There have been 8 multisystem inflammatory syndromes in children in all of Farifax county, and all have recovered. Our numbers of new cases now per 100,000 is at 6.4, and deaths .1% for ALL populations.The majority are over 65. How much better do these numbers need to get? Not to mention that there will start to be overlap with symptoms for the common cold and regular flu, which need to be recognized sooner rather than later, to reduce any knee jerk reaction later on that will scrap the entire school year. Dr. Fauci recommends evaluation on a LOCAL basis. Have a quarantine protocol in place for kids who test sick (since most will have light to no symptoms). But at least let us know what the rules are!
9. Waive all liability! I for one would be happy to take on the responsibility for tracking my own student’s health, and not holding the school system liable. Frankly, I am much more concerned now with the potential impact of diminished college applications/acceptance, loss of education, loss of future earnings based on this dysfunctional system, these are the issues that I would be more likely to hold the school board accountable for. This is not what I signed up for when I moved to Fairfax County specifically for the school system.
10. Ask the parents/students. For all the surveys, we were never given the option to provide real input for a fully in-school option that was ever considered. For the school board or teachers this might just be one year in their careers. For students this is 1/12th of their Fairfax Country Public School experience that can affect them significantly more for their futures.So here is my suggestion, but there needs to be changes sooner rather than a “wait and see” attitude. I am sure people have even better ideas to make this option possible. This is a non-political stance for what I think it the best option for the students/parents to get the kids back in school. The teachers have their own options and the union to lobby for them.
Concerned Mother of a FCPS student.