One of the largest school districts in the country has presented parents with “;one of the first concrete plans”; for a coming school year. Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia–;which represents 189,000 students, according to The Washington Post–;sent an email to parents outlining two different options for this coming school year. The first option would offer “;virtual”; instruction four days a week. The second option is a two-day-a-week program inside of schools with “;independent study”; promoted for the remaining days of the week.
The first option will obviously be available only to families that have the means of creating a virtual classroom at home or somewhere safe. The latter option is clearly a less safe plan, but it has the benefit of in-person learning, something that everyone would prefer in a non-pandemic world. In the email, Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote that while “;[o]ur first preference, of course, remains 100 percent in-person learning,”; the current public health crisis does not allow for this.
The Trump Administration and conservative pushes to reopen our country faster are throwing our country”;s inequalities and fundamental flaws into stark relief. Schools need to be reopened so that parents can get back to work and our economy can get working. This is the primary reason everyone from the federal government on down to the local government is trying to figure out ways to make this happen. Schools–;for all of the defunding and all of the scam privatization promoted by people like Betsy DeVos–;are essential to providing so many in our society with many things our federal and state governments are unable to provide, like day care and food.
Schools, in actuality, not only provide these basic necessities, they provide education and community and socialization and mentoring. They provide parenting and support where there is none, and they can help parents become better parents to their children. However, that is not why our country is trying to reopen them faster than is probably healthy.
Our lawmakers are working overtime to do what they always do: Provide very few resources and expect teachers and other educators to make magic happen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already told school districts across the country that they better come up with plans that somehow meet certain impossible standards, because there isn”;t any other help coming anybody”;s way. And while school systems are trying to figure out ways to at the very least bridge some of the digital divide–;the inequalities, based predominantly on class and race, of access to broadband and the devices that can harness and use our digital information highways–;the government, especially under the current administration, has done everything possible to make those things impossible to achieve.
Many in the finance world who believe in the privatization of our country”;s services are using this pandemic to privatize more and more of these services. This is a chance for them to pretend that private industry can do a better job than the government. But as we have seen time and time again, unless the government forces private industry to do right by their consumers, they will lie and cheat and steal taxpayer money while underserving consumers over and over and over again.
This also doesn”;t take into account the health and welfare of the adults having to accomplish these goals. With no vaccine on horizon for at least the rest of 2020, many justifiably do not feel that these plans have anything to do with the health and welfare of anyone. They”;re just an attempt at having something called “;a plan.”; Becca Ferrick, president of the Association of Fairfax Professional Educators, tells the Post that there is no real solution, and everyone knows it. “;They are trying to make definite plans in a situation that is completely unpredictable and ever-changing –; like trying to chart a straight course through a hurricane.”;
The harsh reality here is that school years around the world are completely screwed. Some kids will be able to afford and have the personality that works in these conditions. But those students are going to be few and far between. Parents with children that have advantages and do well in a school setting will be able to tell you that their child isn”;t good at Zoom classroom meetings or independent learning. The disaster our country is facing, economically and socially, this coming fall is going to change how we see the world.
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