School In-person Classes Must Be Based on Individual Choices

School In-person Classes Must Be Based on Individual Choices

The carefully laid plans of states and school districts are being waylaid by Presidential and Department of Education political wishdom, which hopefully, will be blocked in the courts.  The Congress decides appropriations, not the President in the losing days of a political campaign.  The plans have to be adaptable to the circumstances in each school district.  Yet, beyond that, they have to include individual choice for each parent considering each child, for each teacher, and for each school staff. 

Each participant has their own and their children’s personal health situation to consider.  They have to consider what is happening in their particular class, day by day, in their school, and in their community.  Even their mental attitudes and stress have to be considered, in choosing between home and in-person classes.

Considering the finances, school funding is down around 20%.  The expanded classrooms with say half the students cost money to outfit, as well as more spacious school busing, more frequent cleaning, personal protective equipment, and adding more classroom space.

Halving the size of classes in a split class situation with students attending only every other day or two days a week only allows you to increase student to student distances by the square root of two, or a factor of 1.4.  A previous three foot separation is now increased to 4.25 feet.  The other problem with this scheme is that if you have an asymptomatic infected student, they are still interacting with their teacher and student cohorts two days a week instead of five, and can still infect them.

Using auditoriums and gymnasiums for more space can work two ways.  In one you teach a lot of students a single class, with a lot of space between them.  Then it is up to the other teachers to give them some individual attention time.   The other way is to partition say a gymnasium, but you still have to worry about the noise pollution with multiple classes going on at the same time.

The problem with outdoor spaces is well known from the TV series Game of Thrones:  Winter’s Coming.  Not to mention summer and fall heat waves, rain, wind, high humidity, ambient noise, poor acoustics, small and distant whiteboards, flapping tents, etc.

With hybrid school-home teaching more money has to be allocated to giving poorer students computer equipment, and internet access.  Some cable and phone companies are giving students free internet access.

Here is a link to the new John Hopkins University “eSchool+ Initiative” of Tools and Resources for K-12 Schools reopening.

I think that the decisions by Trump and his subservient Republican governors to insist on 100% in-person fall classes, is not only to allow parents back to work full time.  I think there might also be some polling that that could be a positive issue for them in the fall election.  It is hopeful at best that the second wave will be over by then, and not followed by another fall flu and school restart wave.  Masks, of course, should be compulsory for returning students.  When Trump wore a mask today for the first time, touring Walter Reed Hospital, it was an N95 mask to protect him from getting infected, not just to stop him from infecting others, like we all do with our lesser masks.  By the fall, everybody should have an effective protective mask.  It’s too bad that even today, Trump still only marginized mask wearing to certain very particular circumstances.  Again, he had to make the Coronavirus battle all about himself.  He is so busy fighting the Coronavirus that he only had time for his 276th golf game as President yesterday.  By insisting that the CDC relax its school reopening guidelines, which they didn’t, Trump cast shade upon them to his followers, who are still 78% of Republicans.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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