Ron Isaac’s Commentary: “Situation” Hopeless?

Dec 30, 2021 by

Situation Room.  Sounds almost James Bondish.  Anyway, “Romper Room” is already registered as intellectual property.

Like such phrases as “person of interest”, it sounds vague, elusive, mysterious and ominously important. The term hides what it means.  It could have been used like a password to identify a top-secret retreat for code-breakers racing during war to ward off global conflagration.

In fact, it is the Department of Education’s crisis center where reports of Covid have been sent to be slam-dunked into the circular file.  So far, at least, visitors don’t have to undergo a retinal scan to get to enter this bottom-secret chamber of frenetic dormancy.

To meet the exponentially spike in COVID cases in recent weeks, the Situation Room had in effect become incommunicado.  They were harder to reach than a bubble gum wrapper floating in the International Space Station.

As the cases piled up, the Situation Room became a Situation Stadium. ( Spoiler alert: there’s hope).

The DOE’s Covid-testing program had fizzled just as new cases were skyrocketing.

Reportedly, staff with a sound basis for requesting a test were being refused, and fewer students were being tested than should have been.  Testing of students and especially of staff  had been down more than 22% since October, according to Chalkbeat. 

There were snafus caused by inflexible “testing windows” and foggy consent forms.  Attendance suffered.  It appeared that even more schools would continue to close down and that a return to remote learning was a growing, some said inevitable possibility after winter recess.

That had been a largely failed recourse last year, but a marginally lesser evil than the complete cessation of education.  It is claimed that in recent months, has there been some “fine-tuning” of this last resort of “distance instruction”, 

For a while, as a diversionary measure, the DOE doubled down on their ineptitude with highfalutin rationalizations about “layered mitigation measures” and other self-serving justifications that fly in the face of science, common sense and sometimes their own professed policies.

In recent days, they seem a bit more ready to recognize imminent challenges and attempt to meet them.

That’s imperative, because schools must be kept open at almost all costs to ensure the continuation of face-to-face learning in January. But not at the expense of safety.

Owing largely to the United Federation of Teachers, the outlook is now much brighter.  The UFT played a decisive role in securing from the governor a commitment to send 2 million instant Covid-19 tests to our schools.

More good news is that in response to effective coordination between the teachers union and the incoming and outgoing mayoral administrations, the Situation Room is being overhauled, and there will also be a steady increase in the availability of PCR tests going forward.

There’s plenty of thanks to go around. Especially to New Yorkers who, despite controversies and bombardments of disinformation from certain media and privatization elements, maintain their strong and rightful trust in our public schools.

Ron Isaac

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