The Confusion Virus

Aug 3, 2020 by

In search of some comic relief during the pandemic with collateral benefit of gaining insight into the DOE’s school re-opening plans, go to YouTube and view Abbot and Costello’s classic “Who’s on First?” sketch.  Another of their routines that is eerily apropos of the DOE  involves some trick math to confound their landlord Sidney Fields that their arrears rent had already been paid. 

Watch them both to gain cosmic insight into the bathos and pathos of Tweed’s crisis interventions.

According to the New York Post, a school may be open as few as 6 days a month.  Under the general hybrid model, the merits and viability of which is highly in doubt as currently constituted, students will be attending their buildings twice or three times a week. 

Many students will be absent all together because their parents have the right to opt out of physical attendance, subject to change if they so wish.  Proposals for “outdoor learning” don’t take into account the weather and, less obviously, some liability and other serious legal issues.
How will subjects be programmed and instructional staff deployed?  How will class placements be effectuated so they comply with theoretically enforceable guidelines?  How will the integrity of online participation be monitored?

And can anybody familiar with our schools and the culture of custodial operation believe that “deep cleanings” will bear any resemblance to rudimentary industrial hygiene?
Among the DOE’s safeguards: If one or more students from the same class test positive, their classrooms will close and anyone who had close contact with those students should self-quarantine for 14 days.” 

Hah, good luck with that!   In many schools, kids curse out their principals when told to remove a hat.  The world “should” renders the entire concept ridiculous.  Even before the pandemic,  parents were told that they “should” keep their kids home if they have a fever, but some of them play dumb or are deliberately non-compliant knowingly send them anyway and then don’t answer the phone when the school nurse calls them.

Few students and even their parents feel governed by restrictive mandates anymore.

The frequency of COVID testing and the turnaround time for results is another thorny matter that, given current intentions, precludes re-opening.  In the meantime, students will disseminate infection and overwhelm any logistical possibility of keeping track and imposing scientific protocols.

If two or more children in the same school test positive for the virus but do not share a classroom, the entire building will be closed for two weeks, according to the DOE. If the reporting is honest and if infection rates rise as is anticipated, a school with thousands of souls is bound to be shut down indefinitely, perhaps pausing to re-open intermittently.
Snafu City!

Some basic aspects of traditional school existence have already been rendered peripheral to the point of being off the radar of concern:  attendance, subject mastery, graduation eligibility. 

Academic accountability has ceased to have any meaning or measure.
Not even the harshest critic of the DOE can blame the Agency for the pandemic. But their response to it may as well have been written by the scriptwriters for the Keystone Cops.  It’s slapstick.  It’s vaudeville.
It’s tragic.
The DOE’s confusions are mutating like a virus from south of purgatory.  And there’s no masking it.
Ron Isaac

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