Monday Morning Thoughts: School District Did What They Had To, This Should Not Be on Teachers, It’s On Us

When the school district made their decision last week to not re-open physical schools I was relieved.  Believe me—I know that distance learning is suboptimal and it will hurt my kids in the short term and potentially in the long term.  And I fully understand that wealthy parents will be able to hire private tutors and the achievement gap is going to go up.

Those are all issues that we are going to have to face, probably sooner rather than later.  We may yet have to revisit them very soon.  There were conflicting reports on the potential for vaccinations, with the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that vaccinations may not produce long-term immunity from COVID, while other reports question the basis of those conclusions.

A lot of my views on schools re-opening right now are based on the premise that we can have a vaccine roll out to stem the rise of COVID by the winter.  If that proves optimistic, we will have to revisit how to approach… the world.

In the meantime, I am growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of political leadership.  There are studies showing that masks and social distancing could largely end the pandemic quickly, and I even do my own demonstration here on the effectiveness of masks—but the White House, especially the President, is focused on anything but COVID right now (as an advisor to Texas Governor Greg Abbott put it, “The president got bored with it”), even as members of his party in states impacted by the outbreak are breaking ranks finally.

The New York Times yesterday quoted Senate Leader Mitch McConnell saying that mask-wearing is extremely important, and urging Americans to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The straight talk here that everyone needs to understand is: This is not going away until we get a vaccine,” Senator McConnell said last week.

But 30 percent of Americans simply don’t believe it.

That’s where we are.  The numbers are surging.  And schools are not going to re-open.

Stop blaming the teachers for this.  Even if DJUSD disagreed, the governor ordered the shutdown.

“Learning is non-negotiable,” said Governor Newsom. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open – and when it must close – but learning should never stop. Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”

Any county that does not meet the state’s benchmarks is put on the County Monitoring List. They currently use six indicators to track the level of COVID-19 infection—these include the number of new infections per 100,000 residents, the test positivity rate, and the change in hospitalization rate, among others.

Yolo County, which passed 1000 cases last week after being at 255 in mid-June, is on that list.

Schools located in counties that are on the Monitoring List must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days.

Schools in counties that have not been on the Monitoring List for the prior 14 days may begin in-person instruction, following public health guidelines.

On Friday, Dr. Mary Ann Limbos, Acting Public Health Officer for Yolo County, joined the board meeting.

She explained, “When districts are deciding how to safely re-open schools this fall, a paramount consideration is what’s happening with disease transmission in the surrounding community. Over the past few weeks, Yolo County has seen increasing case rates and transmission of COVID-19 and we are on the State of California’s County Monitoring List because of our concerning metrics.

“We want students, teachers, and school staff to have a safe return to school,” Limbos said.  “The current pandemic doesn’t support the safe re-opening of schools with in-person instruction at this time.”

Board members also expressed concerns about the current health situation.

Board President Joe DiNunzio encouraged staff to provide specifics for how Distance Learning in the 2020-21 school year will meet both the academic and the social and emotional needs of all students, and especially of those who may be furthest from opportunity.

“As we consider how we educate our students in this current environment, we need to provide special care and attention to individual needs of students and families, especially to ensure we are doing everything we can to provide equitable access to education,” DiNunzio said.

As a parent of an eight and ten year old, I understand the frustration.  I understand the difficulty of trying to work from home with small children to monitor.  I understand as well the difficulty of those parents who have to work and their children are now home.

But what can we do?  The public—large enough segments of it—have behaved irresponsibly and have not done their civic obligation to bring this under control.  The federal response is an abject failure.

As Bob Dunning put it in his weekend column: “The governor has spoken and pretty much affirmed what the Davis Joint Unified School District was going to do anyway. We can only hope that people will get serious about following the guidelines and that our kids will all be back in school soon.”

The reality—we need to do more.  All of us.  The U.S. perhaps alone among the major industrial nations has failed to curb the spread of COVID—that’s definitely on the government but it is also on many of us.

We can’t complain about schools and businesses closing if we are the ones acting irresponsibly.  It is hurting the economy, it is hurting business, and it is hurting our kids.  At some point, the damage could be irreparable.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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51 Comments

  1. Bill Marshall

    When the school district made their decision last week to not re-open physical schools I was relieved.

    Why?  You have already declared your choice to keep yours out of ‘physical school’… and I have also said I respect that choice…

    Are you relieved that everyone else have no choice?

    Meant as an honest question… I don’t understand why, when you have already made a choice, you are “relieved” that others have to conform to your choice.  Having NO choice…

      1. Bill Marshall

        To be clear, Keith, I don’t know what decision I’d make in the ‘here and now’… many years when spouse and I were working, while kids were in school… so, I honor David/Cecelia’s choices… something about walking in another person’s shoes…

        But I tend to regale against folk telling me what is “right” for me, mine, when I am informed and cognizant… and extend that thought to others who are informed, cognizant…

        Given where the “hot spots” have occurred, seems like schools, with prudent precautions/protocols, are very low on the list… am not convinced full closures are “the answer”… the science does not back that up.

        But ‘it is what it is’… I just don’t like “preachers” saying/implying I have to ‘celebrate’ it…

        1. Alan Miller

          Given where the “hot spots” have occurred, seems like schools, with prudent precautions/protocols, are very low on the list…

          Where we are with stats are a shot of where we were two weeks ago, and cases are ‘sploding — check the chart.  School starts in six weeks.  Kids don’t distance – hell, most adults suck at it.  Do the math — the two weeks ago math.

    1. Alan Miller

      Are you relieved that everyone else have no choice?

      Not having children gather en masse helps prevent spread, to many people.  How do you not see that the American ideals of  ‘choice’ and independence that you hold so dear — as do I — does not apply in a pandemic?

      1. Alan Miller

        Should they also have the ‘choice’ to go to a basketball game?  After all, the only persons who may be infected are those that choose to go . . . oh, and those that they end up infecting, and those that they end up infecting , and so on, and so on and so on.

        ‘merca!  Land of the selfish!  And home of the . . . . . .

  2. Bill Marshall

    Also,  by the title of the article… are you saying teachers should get same (or enhanced, per recent measure that you too early opined was ‘defeated’) salary and benefits no matter how much effort they put into ‘distance learning’?

    Where is the monitoring, ‘transparency’ as to what efforts teachers put in? Will they be earning their salary/benefits, or just a ‘subsidy’? Charity?

    1. Keith Olsen

      Another good point.  I feel that since California teachers are receiving full pay they should have to put in a full day of work.  That would involve working from the school at their normal hours and Zooming from their classrooms.  It would make it more normal for the students and the teachers would be available for questions from both the students and parents in real time.  Also the teachers would have their needed materials and equipment right at hand.  I know of several parents who feel this is a good idea.

      1. David Greenwald

        My understanding is that most teachers doing distance learning spent more time working, not less. They had to prepare a new way. It was more challenging to engage. And in the schools, they had to track down students who weren’t showing up.

        1. Keith Olsen

          I’m sure that’s what the teachers will tell you anyway.  My daughter, whose children are not in the DJUSD, has two children that were home schooled.   One teacher was hands on and great, the other teacher seemed to do as little as possible.  I just think having the teachers in the classroom zooming to the students is a good idea and makes everyone accountable.  David, do you see a problem with California schools going that route?  I see no downside, only upside.

          1. David Greenwald

            I’ve worked with the teachers of my kids for four or five months. You’re going off shear speculation. I don’t have a problem with teachers in the classroom zooming to students – most of them were doing that last spring.

      2. Bill Marshall

        One of the rare (exceedingly) times, Keith, we seem to be (or close to being) ‘on the same page’… we are of told that teachers put in many more hours than they are contracted for… and, for the more dedicated ones, that is absolutely true… married to one, so witnessed first hand… I strongly suspect they are in the top 10%, at least the top quartile… but, there are others… not so much… 10% probably ‘just putting in their time’, with little/no effort… same is true in every profession, public or private… ‘slackers’, who just do enough to keep from being “dismissed” (often paid the same as the ‘high achievers’)… unionized professions are good at having their unions see to that… no ‘pay for performance’… anathema…

        I don’t care where they are working ‘from’… fine with them working from home… wherever… I want them to be prudent and stay well/safe… but they should be ‘working’… and educating to the best of their abilities, in a reasonably safe environment…

        I keep trying to remind myself of Dad’s adage… “this, like a kidney stone, shall pass”…

        1. Alan Miller

          “this, like a kidney stone, shall pass”…

          This phrase is wrong and offends me.   My kidney stones did not pass, required painful surgery.  So, no, this may not pass, you might have to go in, pulverize it, or yank it out — or forever suffer in pain.

      3. Don Shor

        I feel that since California teachers are receiving full pay they should have to put in a full day of work. That would involve working from the school at their normal hours and Zooming from their classrooms. It would make it more normal for the students and the teachers would be available for questions from both the students and parents in real time. Also the teachers would have their needed materials and equipment right at hand.

        I can think of no reason whatsoever for requiring this.

        1. Bill Marshall

          OK… if teachers do not participate @ a 50% level, they should get full salary and benefits?

          Where is the line drawn, if any?

          What you quoted, responded to, was one end of the bell curve… you have not proposed an alternative, so one could assume you support ‘no effort, full pay and benefits’… sounds like very generous charity… you perhaps rightfully say 100% may be too much as to time/effort… but they are still compensated the same, as far as I’ve seen reported…

          Where is “the floor”?  Or, none?

          There are three issues I see… less effort, less revenue, same compensation… if you were in charge, how would you balance those?

          1. Don Shor

            OK… if teachers do not participate @ a 50% level, they should get full salary and benefits?

            Why would they not be participating at a 100% level? I see no reason to believe teachers will be doing less work from moving to a different mode of instruction. I think your whole premise is flawed.

            you have not proposed an alternative

            They do their job and get paid for it. Teaching remotely is not likely to take less time than in-person.

            so one could assume you support ‘no effort, full pay and benefits’

            No effort? Are you serious? I’m not saying that, so your assumption is incorrect.

            There are three issues I see… less effort, less revenue, same compensation…

            I don’t think it’s less effort. The district might have less revenue, though I believe ADA continues as before. They will have more expenses, and I hope our elected state officials, and Garamendi, can get more funds flowing to school districts for some of these added costs. I see no reason to change the compensation.

      4. Tia Will

        Keith

        I fail to see how forcing a teacher to commute to a classroom to teach remotely is at all advantageous. As in the case of a teacher with a 1/2 hour commute, that is 1 hour every day not available for teaching or engaging with students and parents. If your concern is teachers working less at home than at work the easy solution is to monitor their computer records which can be done regardless of location of entry.

    2. Alan Miller

      Where is the monitoring, ‘transparency’ as to what efforts teachers put in? Will they be earning their salary/benefits, or just a ‘subsidy’? Charity?

      That just seems like a cheap shot.  Everyone is dealing with the same difficulty of working at home and how to supervise employees.  I’m no fan of the teacher’s unions, in fact I think they should be abolished along with police unions, fire unions, and all public-sector unions.  I’m also no fan of public schools and wouldn’t cry if the whole system disintegrated.  However, what is this cheap shot at teachers?  From my observation of teachers I’ve known, they work their arses off during the school year, often into the evening.  They have the additional burden now of trying to shape a curriculum on-the-fly using a protocol no one has used before and with no prior planning.  I’m sure there are slackers as with anything. The broad-brush cheap shots are not useful.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Acknowledged… but as I’ve seen posted here, teachers may not have the tools:  equipment; computer skills; knowledge how distance learning, is different than classroom; etc.

        How are those teaching efforts monitored?  If at all?

        Fine… we do nothing to monitor effort, monitor progress of students, trust (but not verify) and go our merry way… after all, “it’s for the kids”… got it…

        And of course, all teachers are putting 100% effort into all of this… got it… don’t understand that, because not all did a year ago… but, all teachers are perfect… all are way above average, at least… got it.

        Sorry I said anything… not… but it’s in  the hands of you all, now…

         

  3. Ron Glick

    The infections in Davis are mostly in the under 45 group. Sixty percent of the cases in Davis are in the 18-45 years old group. I go out and see many people, especially young people, without masks on. Is it any wonder the schools can’t open.

    In the survey only 28% wanted schools to open fully. Not a vote of confidence.

    1. Bill Marshall

      You are correct Ron G… fully opening schools, as if there is nothing happening, is foolish… not convinced full closures are ‘wise’/necessary… my opinion, and am entitled to it.

      But, it is what it is… full closures for classrooms…

  4. Tia Will

    David

    “A lot of my views on schools re-opening right now are based on the premise that we can have a vaccine roll out to stem the rise of COVID by the winter.  If that proves optimistic, we will have to revisit how to approach… the world.”

    In alignment with my new policy of bluntness, I believe this premise is not only optimistic but wildly improbable. I know the hope contained in “Operation Warp Speed”. However, I would present some basic facts that would argue against this.

    1. As I enter this, no vaccine has ever been developed against the MERS or SARS viruses despite multiple efforts, or against any coronavirus of which I am aware.

    2. The research and development phase for a new vaccine is measured in years (2-5 typically) while many more years are typically needed for efficacy and safety studies. Even with all the time and care taken, our flu vaccines are at best 70% percent effective and at worst, somewhere around 40%

    3. Trump’s track record: The wall was going to be built quickly and we wouldn’t be paying for it. Trade wars were easy to win. GOP would repeal and replace the ACA.

    I know we all want a miracle vaccine. But now I am going to be really pessimistic. What could go wrong? Well, as has happened in the past (thalidomide for example), our scientists could miss a significant side effect. The outcome? The vaccine would have to be withdrawn. We now would have to deal with those side effects, would be back at square one with COVID-19, and would have created the perfect environment for the anti-vaxxers to say we told you so and create a new generation of refusers of any vaccine. True, this is a worst-case scenario, but remember this optimism is coming from an administration that pride’s itself on deregulation, many related to safety.

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      Well, as has happened in the past (thalidomide for example)

      Well sure you know, Tia, thalidomide was developed to be a “vaccine” against ‘morning sickness’… so not such a good example, professionally…

      It was a wrong drug for a common condition… not a good ‘vaccine’…

      But thank you, ‘sincerely’, for giving the anti-vaxxers more ammo against vaccines for MMR, smallpox, Hep, HPV, yearly Flu, etc.

      Or, any vaccine against Covid-19.

      But, I share the concern about moving too fast to embrace any ‘miracle’ (although I do believe they happen) treatment/prevention… gargling with or injecting bleach comes to mind…

      1. Tia Will

        Bill

        Thalidomide was intended as a treatment, not a vaccine as we both know full well. It is still an example of a medical intervention that had devastating side effects. My point as I am sure you could figure out is that due caution is warranted with the introduction of any new medical intervention, especially one intended to be used across virtually an entire population rather than a relatively small subset, making it even more critical numerically speaking than was the case with thalidomide.

        As for my “giving” anyone more ammunition against more vaccines, obviously you are not keeping up with the conversation as they had already jumped on this the moment the word vaccine came out of the first proponent’s mouth. However, to deny there is any risk would be as irresponsible as those individuals spreading the nonsense that the coronavirus is triggered by 5G towers.

      1. Alan Miller

        Then again, the results keep flipping:

        The ‘results’ aren’t flipping, the media is just doing what it does.  Remember, as local TV news reports from 1970 to 2015 reported, Moller was going to have his flying cars going in ‘about two years’.  That would be 1972 on . . . it’s half-way through 2020 and all Moller has brought us in almond butter.

        I’ll believe there’s a vaccine when they inject it into my cold, dead corpse.

        1. Bill Marshall

          taking a shot

          Assume that was intended as to some discussion on vaccines…

          There are some reports, not fully credible yet, that POTUS is working on a vaccine… saying VBM is inherently corrupt, and strongly implying that any results in the Nov election, if they do not go his way, are invalid…

          Putin apparently has gotten a vote that sets him up to be “ruler for life”… POTUS is smarter than that… he’s looking for a ‘vaccine’ that will work without a vote… or better, despite a vote… a darn good vaccine…

          And of course, POTUS wants all schools fully open, like NOW!…

      1. Tia Will

        Alan

        I didn’t say it had anything to do with Trump, the man. I do believe the track record I posted indicates a propensity to make things sound much simpler than they turn out to be in the real world. Despite the optimism expressed and snazzy name for the project, the record to date as well as my limited knowledge of vacccine development would indicate a much longer timeline. I would have written the same words if the same things had been said by a Democratic president. If you doubt that, go back and read my scathing comments about Obama’s deportation and border policies which I likened to the movie Snowpiercer. There is nothing partisan about this pandemic and there was nothing partisan about my comment.

  5. Robb Davis

    I will add my voice to those who doubt a vaccine roll out by winter.  Even if a vaccine is proven, the logistics of mass production and then dissemination mean we are still many months out—and, of course, the Oxford results not withstanding, we do not have a viable candidate yet.

    The KEY, as David has stated is slowing community spread.  Without it we cannot hope to prevent spread among students that they will bring home.  Here is data on the proportion of intergenerational households and the most vulnerable groups in our community will be higher than these averages:

    https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/millions-of-seniors-live-in-households-with-school-age-children/

    Here is the latest on what we know about spread from children.  I am presenting this via a Twitter thread but the original study is linked. There is still much to learn but my initial take is that spread, especially in older children is likely: https://twitter.com/ct_bergstrom/status/1284644413470203909?s=21

    Again, if there is widespread community transmission (using the State’s standard—which is reasonable—there is in Yolo County), then the biggest problem with re-opening immediately is that it will lead to a quick close up as cases spread.

    However!  Masks alone will not work.  We need to drive down the community transmission so that we can employ the full array of tools to fight this thing and that includes testing, tracing, isolation, and quarantine.  We cannot mobilize these effectively with widespread transmission.

    Bring that down, get quick testing results, use test/trace/isolate AND THEN talk about safe reopening with appropriate protocols (lots of resources to draw on) and, possibly, pooled testing within learning “pods”.  Pooled testing should now be coming online and it is how Wuhan tested so many so quickly about 2 months ago.

    These are all possible strategies practiced elsewhere in the world and in places where schools have opened successfully they are key.

        1. Alan Miller

          I’ve only stepped out of my house a few dozen times since March — what I’ve seen is most adults can’t get distancing or masks down — I’ve had several store employees walk right up to me.  Children and young people – not even trying, just doesn’t register.  Pod learning seems like a great idea in theory – but not even the adults are using their heads, and some are actively using their arse for thinking.  Theoretical constructs such as this can’t work.

        2. Robb Davis

          I disagree Alan . Schools have the ability to control the environment in which students learn and they do it all the time. They can require and enforce mask use.

          1. David Greenwald

            They can require mask use, harder to enforce it when you are talking about children. IN fact, it was hard enough to control adults in teh court house in San Francisco two weeks ago.

        3. Alan Miller

          RD, I’d like to believe what you say and it sounds so good, but it’s just not what I’ve observed of the behavior of children out and about today.  I so wish it were true.

    1. Richard McCann

      We should close all education institutions for the fall until 1) we have a distance learning mode that can reach all students and 2) effective health safety measures in place universally. We should then extend school into next summer to make up the time.

      We made the same type of transformative change going into World War II. We face the same dire situation; we can’t blunder along just because making these changes is “inconvenient.”

    2. Richard McCann

      Whether a vaccine might be effective is still an open question. Several studies are showing that immunity might pass quickly, but the studies may not be comprehensive enough to address the full immunity system.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/could-covid-19-immunity-really-disappear-months/614377/

      https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/studies-report-rapid-loss-of-covid-19-antibodies-67650

      https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00502-w

  6. Richard McCann

    We should close all education institutions for the fall until 1) we have a distance learning mode that can reach all students and 2) effective health safety measures in place universally. We should then extend school into next summer to make up the time.

    We made the same type of transformative change going into World War II. We face the same dire situation; we can’t blunder along just because making these changes is “inconvenient.”

    1. Tia Will

      Rich

      I am at a loss why you believe all institutions of learning should be closed. Allowing remote learning for as many as we can reach would benefit not only those individual students but would help teachers develop and hone new skills that might help all in the long run. Bear in mind that we have no idea how long we will be dealing with this. here is no guarantee this crisis will be over by the end of the fall semester, or even this time next year for that matter.

       

  7. Alan Miller

    We made the same type of transformative change going into World War II.

    That’s what I was saying when this thing started.  I thought it was possible.  But from what I’ve seen I’ve given up on America – be it people in denial that large gatherings can spread disease if the cause is righteous, or people in denial that covering their spit spray from flying everywhere could prevent them from infecting people should they be infected and not showing symptoms.  So, come on in Coronavirus, we, America, are ripe for the killing.

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