Plan for Connecticut Schools: Do Not Reopen This Fall

The plan for opening Connecticut schools this fall is not a plan. It is an abdication of responsibility.

No 6′ distancing in classrooms required. No 6′ distancing on school buses required. No Covid -19 testing required. No funds for increased sanitizing of schools allocated. No added funds for on-site health care allocated.

Business as usual. But a pandemic is not usual.

This abdication of responsibility will put all of the people in those school buildings at tremendous risk: students, teachers, custodial staff, and administrators. And it will put the families they go home to at the end of the school day at added risk. And it will put all those with whom the family members come in contact with at their workplaces at added risk. It is an abdication of responsibility not only to the children of Connecticut but to all the citizens of Connecticut.

What to do instead?

Learning via computers should be the preferred delivery system, except when young children would be at home without the presence of adults. Of course, it’s not as good for kids as being in school as they were in the past. But the past is not the present. The present is a global pandemic.

Accepting the reality of the global pandemic changes everything.

All students in Grades 8-12 can learn remotely via computers. All K-Grade 7 students who have adult supervision can also learn remotely via computers.

The K-Grade 7 students who do not have an adult at home should be accommodated in schools. The schools would have adequate medical staff to test the faculty and staff so that the health of the adults working in the schools is assessed on a daily basis, and the children have their temperatures taken and recorded daily. It would be a controlled environment with public health as the priority. All students and faculty would wear masks and the 6′ distancing  would be strictly enforced for this group of students so that they would have some of the safety measures that their peers at home, learning remotely, have.

The less affluent communities in Connecticut would never have the funds to put the unrequired elements of masks and massive sanitizing of the schools in place and would never have the funds to hire enough teachers for classrooms to have fewer students so that the 6′ distance between students could be maintained.

If the wealthier Connecticut school districts do find the funds to put public health measures in place, the education in the schools will look a lot like remote learning: kids sitting 6’ apart, masked, staying in the same seat all day, facing straight ahead looking at the masked teacher who will be presenting information to them. No discussion groups, no interactive science labs, no music classes, no art classes, no gym classes, no socialization in the cafeteria or walking through the halls.

The American Association of Pediatricians’ statement that children should  go back to school in order to further their social development is meaningless because the public health requirements of a 6′ perimeter around each student would prohibit any social interaction between students. In fact, prohibiting social interaction is exactly the point of the 6′ rule. There can be much more social interaction in a Zoom discussion group or a group project than in a classroom with masked students sitting 6′ apart from one another.

An in-house CDC memo surfaced recently. It stated that the surest way to insure another wave of the pandemic with its increase in illnesses and deaths would be to re-open schools this fall. Schools must remain closed so that your children and all of our citizens are protected.

The one lesson that all of our students need to learn in the coming semester is this: We love you. Because we love you, our priority is to keep you safe.

If the decision is made today that students will remain home or in designated safe schools for the fall semester, teachers can. spend the next month planning how to make distance learning classes into ones that are interactive and collaborative.

We will do our best for all of Connecticut’s children by NOT reopening school buildings in the fall. Learning will still happen. Illnesses and deaths will not increase. And, along with reading, writing, and arithmetic, students will learn what social responsibility in a pandemic means. They will learn how to grow into good, kind, wise adults by watching us care for them.

May 20th: Stay Home

Saud Anwar, a Connecticut State Senator and a physician who, as a leading pulmonologist, treats patients with COVID-19 says it’s too early for Connecticut to reopen businesses because it threatens public health. He and other Democratic senators wrote a letter to the Governor opposing the May 20th opening.

The Governor says he is going to follow the advice of his task force and reopen anyway. The physician on that task force is Ezekiel Emanuel who has written that life after age 75 is not worth preserving and that, when he is 75, he’ll no longer have a flu shot or take a prescribed antibiotic because he dismisses the worth of a life after 75.

To whom do you trust the lives of our most vulnerable population? A caring and knowledgeable pulmonologist or a member of the task force who dismisses the value of the lives most at risk?

No one claims that the pandemic is over or that the virus has gone away. The dangers are the same this week as they were last week or last month. The need for caution is the same this week as last week or last month.

The solution is for each of us to make a personal decision to not reopen. Let your hair grow long. Keep making boring meals at home. Wear last year’s clothes. Keep talking to your friends on zoom instead of in person. Meet with your book group, your church, your synagogue, or your mosque online. Tough it out.

Lives are worth saving. Lives of all ages.

Stay home.

The song says: We’re called to stay home.

Schools must remain closed in order to preserve the lives of Americans. We must find new ways to BE SCHOOL and educate our young differently. The danger of the pandemic calls for it as does our deepest responsibility as citizens. So, too, we must not gather to worship. We must find way to BE CHURCH or BE SYNAGOGUE or BE MOSQUE and pastorally care for one another in new ways other than in group gatherings.
David Haas, a noted composer of liturgical music, writes about his opposition to plans announced by Catholic dioceses to now “open up” group gatherings for Mass. I join him in his opposition to that reckless and morally repugnant action. Let us, instead, listen to  a song written by David Haas and performed by Chris Brunelle.  Then let us become the kind of communities sung about: communities of justice and love. 
No photo description available.

 

 David Haas writes:

Not to cause a storm … well, maybe I am … but I have to say, honestly, that I am perhaps one of the few who are in dissent in response to the decisions being made to open up our churches for liturgical celebration in the coming days, allowing for more people to gather in our parishes and other faith communities.

I believe that we are playing with real fire here. I fail to see the wisdom in opening the doors to more and more people while at the same time, the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate, and the horrific number of deaths are rising right alongside … to my thinking, this is not rocket-science. It seems dangerous and a bit reckless to be putting the ability to be in the presence of Christ found and shared in the ritual of consecrated bread and wine above the concern, health, and well-being for the other, yes, “transubstantiated” presence of Christ found in the assembly who not only gathers together for Sunday, but live as pilgrims in the faith day to day in the world.

 

I mean, I get it. I know people are anxious to “get back to church.” I miss not being at liturgy, too. I too, want to be in the same space with the people with whom I feel the deep connection of a Christ-Faith Community. But we are called on a deeper level, NOT to “go to church,” but to BE church, in the places outside of the sanctuary – especially now. This church, the Body of Christ, is already present in the holy people of God in our homes, our families, in our relationships, and those “out there” (who are reachable through phone calls, letters and through the gift of social media), who we can be attentive to, and to honor with the same reverence.

 

There is also, to my brain, a problem with saying that only a small number of people are allowed to attend in the early “first stages” of this coming together for liturgy, and then, as I have seen in some diocesan guideline announcements, that the next stage should only allow a number of people that would not exceed 30% of the seating capacity in the worship space. While it is sacramentally and bit theologically coercive to “make people” gather for sacrament … it seems equally coercive to tell people, while opening its doors, to “stay away.” Does it not seem just a bit ironic and wrong-headed to have hospitals becoming more and more full than our churches?

 

Pope Francis has called us to be ministers and servants in the “field hospitals” of the suffering and poor. In our frantic ache to gather back into the church buildings to celebrate the liturgy, to be in the presence of Christ in the sharing at the table of the “liturgical” proclamation of the Word and the resurrection meal of the Eucharist … should we not first and foremost during these times, be more anxious to be in and serve at (in creative ways) the table of the WORLD? Fr. Kenan Osborne once said: “We must find the Lord not only in the table of the Eucharist, but in the table of the world around us. If we do not see Jesus in the table of the world, we really will not find Jesus in the table of the Eucharist.”

 

The celebration of the Eucharist is most certainly the “summit and source” of our life as members of the Christian clan. But if we cannot first celebrate this presence, and nurture and expand its healing grace in where the Christ is most present and most needed – in the world right now that is suffering beyond what our hearts and brains can cope with at times – then in my mind, our efforts and strategies to come back to the liturgical space while it is considered by experts to be a dangerous proposition – is a grave mistake, and in conflict with the reasons why we gather to celebrate in the first place. The values of “full, conscious, and active participation” of the liturgy begins and always moves toward the full, conscious and active participation in the LIFE OF CHRIST. Out there … in the world. Not only nor primarily in our lovely and comfortable liturgical spaces (which I believe, will not feel comfortable for many for some time).

 

There is a story that is told of Mother Theresa of Calcutta that she once allegedly said “when I hold the Eucharist in my hands and when a I hold a leprous person in my hands I am holding the same Christ.”

 

Can we be a bit more patient, calm down, and think through the potential consequences of being too much in a hurry? I know, it is hard. But can we discern and examine where our decisions might lead us, not only in terms of safety and public health, but also possibly putting the gospel cause at peril?

 

So, I apologize for my rant, and I know many will not like what I am saying here. But in the midst of all that seems to be a driven-centered need to get back to “normal liturgical celebrations” (which they are now, not so, and will not be for some time, by the way), I cannot stay silent. So, I dissent.

No Schools To Open In The Fall

Of course, we are not going to open schools in the fall.

You know why? Because we are in the midst of a pandemic and will be in the fall also.

It will be just fine to not open schools in the fall. This blog will explain that in detail in subsequent postings. But for now, let’s accept where we are. Let’s tell the Connecticut  Commissioner of Education that we get it that we are in a pandemic and do not expect or want schools to open in the fall. Let’s tell Governor Lamont the same thing. And let’s tell our local Superintendent of Schools to relax because we get it about being in a pandemic and ask him or her to explore different ways to meet the needs of our children other than to pack them into school buildings.

Dana Millbank in The Washington Post describes succinctly where we are as a country and why we should not for one minute even think about opening schools in the fall. Please read:

Counter-protesters block a drive-by protest during a rally to reopen the country and economy during the coronavirus pandemic outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 8.
Counter-protesters block a drive-by protest during a rally to reopen the country and economy during the coronavirus pandemic outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 8. (Matt Slocum/AP)
May 8, 2020 at 3:27 p.m. EDT

 

Now is the spring of our disgrace.

 

Around the world, countries are winning the battle against the coronavirus and beginning a responsible return to work, school and leisure, confident that their governments have the deadly virus in check.

 

But the United States plays the loser. Unwilling to do the hard work needed to beat the pandemic, we are quitting: forcing people back to work without protections people in other countries enjoy. The most powerful country in the world is failing.

In October, Johns Hopkins University rated the United States the country best prepared for an epidemic, as President Trump boasted in February. But this week, a Hopkins scientist told Congress we are “the worst affected country in the world.” How did the best become the worst?

Trump has abandoned attempts to control the pandemic, though there is no downturn in cases. His administration ignores its own reopening requirements and shelves guidelines written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead Trump applauds reckless reopening in a way that, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, admitted, “will lead to an increase and spread. It’s almost ipso facto.”

This is state-sanctioned killing. It is a conscious decision to accept 2,000 preventable deaths every day, because our leaders believe the victims are the poor schlubs who work in meat-processing plants, not “regular folks,” as Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack memorably put it this week.

It is deliberately sacrificing the old, factory workers, and black and Hispanic Americans, who are dying at higher rates. This comes after “stimulus” programs passed by Congress proved a bonanza to big business and billionaires but offered little to the nearly one-fifth of American children who are not getting enough to eat — a rate three times as high as during the Great Recession, a Brookings Institution study found.

The mindless reopening is as stupid as it is immoral. Does anybody truly believe Americans will return to work while the virus rages? Send our kids to schools without tools in place to stop outbreaks? Put our parents in retirement homes that, without adequate testing, are often death traps? Enjoy a restaurant, theater, flight to Disney World or trip to the mall, knowing it could kill us? Reopening masquerades as a political cause — LIBERATE! — but it is really a lazy unwillingness to do the hard work to defeat the virus, and to restore our economy.

It didn’t have to be this way.

New Zealand just announced that it has eliminated the virus. Australia is close behind. They did this with all the things we didn’t do: aggressive lockdowns, huge investments in testing and contact tracing and reliable, apolitical communication by government. New Zealand says 75 percent of its economy is reopening.

Germany, Greece, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong are among those defeating the virus, too.

Yet, encouraged by Trump, mostly Republican-led states plunge ahead with reopening without the necessary tests, tracing, masks or isolation facilities — pretending the virus will disappear if we look the other way. Arizona typifies the new head-in-sand approach, trying to get scientists at state universities to “pause” modeling of the virus’s progression as the state reopens.

Disaster awaits. Andy Slavitt, a senior health official during the Obama administration, notes that outside of New York, cases are actually increasing, at a rate that would present 50,000 new cases a day by month’s end.

“It’s a huge gamble,” Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski told Christian broadcaster David Brody this week. If “we see an uptick again in the covid-19 pandemic coming back because we didn’t handle it right the first time — we still don’t have testing and we don’t have a solution — that is devastating as an incumbent president.”

And rather more devastating for the people dying. But Trump seems unconcerned. Asked about unemployment, which just hit a highest-since-the-Depression 14.7 percent, Trump declared: “Nobody is blaming me.”

True, most Americans accept as necessary the economic pain of shutting down. And Trump’s supporters seem not to care that his early failures led directly to our highest-in-the-world death count of 76,000. Too many even seem unconcerned about the deaths, concentrated in minority communities.

But they will soon see other countries’ economies reopening safely because other governments got the virus under control. And they will see deaths accelerate here, making consumers and workers frightened to return. All we can do is pray for a vaccine breakthrough and hope summer weather helps. That’s because our president abandoned the fight.

 

Trump can lie all he likes about the adequacy of testing and supplies, and blame his predecessor, his opponents and the media for his incompetence. It doesn’t matter to the virus. As we progress toward what could be the autumn of our agony, he owns all of what comes next — politically and morally.

Our Children Are Not Falling Behind

Don’t worry that our children are “falling behind” and must get back to school in the fall before it is safe to do so. They are learning so much in this terrible pandemic. They are learning how to be people of integrity by sheltering in place. They are learning how to care for others by not socializing as they love to do. They are learning how to be resilient by doing what each day requires of them. They are learning how to have courage by not giving up even though the time of the pandemic stretches before us into the summer and fall. They are learning that they have adults in their lives who give to them and care for them in remarkable ways that spell love every single day. The children are learning how to grow up and become adults of integrity, courage, and compassion. Our children are learning all they need to learn.

This salute to our children is circulating online. I post it in solidarity with its authors:

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Everyone is applauding everyone children. These heroes have stayed indoors more than they've ever known in Their whole worlds literally been turned upside down and they don't know why. All these rules they've never known. being family or give hugs. Vacations, sports and activities, play dates school canceled. Adults talking about others becoming unwell, news reporting death after death. Our children's minds be racing. Every day their resilient little bodies get up and on despite all that's going So here's to little heroes: today, tomorrow, forever'

 

In The Next Phase Of The Pandemic

 

This startling fact was posted by Beth Bye, a long-term Connecticut state senator and current head of the Connecticut State Office of Early Childhood. The statistic was determined by a highly credentialed research organization

 
Preventing 10,000 deaths means that 10,000 mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters are with their families who, otherwise, would not be, due solely to the effectiveness of social isolation. We, here in Connecticut, learn each day of one more death of someone we know, one more loss. The news of those deaths pains us, and the losses overwhelms us. It seems that 10,000 more deaths would be more than any of us could handle.  
 
We can prevent illness and death if we each commit to continue social distancing when, to aid the economy, the states lessen restrictions on social distancing although the virus will be still with us. At that time it will be up to us, as individuals, to decide how we will go about our lives. By not inviting people into our homes, by not gathering with friends in their homes, by not meeting up with others in churches, synagogues, and mosques, by not permitting our children to play with other children, by not going to a crowded neighborhood pool or beach, by not getting a much-needed haircut, by not going to a restaurant or bar, by not going to the gym, and by not traveling on planes, trains, and buses, we can save someone’s son, save someone’s daughter, save someone’s sister, save someone’s brother, save someones mother, and save someone’s father. 
 
We can save ourselves. 
 
We ARE  all in this together. Stay safe. Keep others safe.
 

 

More Than 14 Lies Per Day

 

The Washington Post fact checkers and staff have determined that Donald Trump in three years in office as President of the United States made 16, 241 false or misleading statements. That is more than 14 lies per day.

But wait: Telling more than 14 lies per day is not acceptable behavior for any of our K-12 students in this country.

In elementary school, we teach children how to be good members of their class.  We tell them not to lie, steal, or be unkind to one another. If a child told 14 lies each day, a PPT  (Planning and Placement Team composed of the student’s parents and educators) would be called and and an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) drawn up and given to the classroom teacher as well as the child’s art, music, and physical education teachers. The IEP would center on immediate and ongoing interventions from a school social worker and school system psychologist in order to change the child’s habit of telling lies and to address the child’s psychological need to do so.

In middle school, we teach young adolescents how to navigate their growing independence and become contributing members of peer groups that are increasingly important to them. If a middle schooler told 14 lies each day, individual psychotherapy would be recommended and increased school social services put in place. All of the students’ teachers would be notified of the student’s problem through an updated IEP (Individual Education Plan), and they would meet regularly with an intervention team.

In high school, we bring adolescents to the beginning of adulthood and encourage their involvement in opportunities for leadership. A student with a habit of telling 14 lies per day would be excluded from those opportunities. Membership in the National Honor Society requires proof of the student having four attributes: character, scholarship, leadership, and service. A student who told 14 lies per day would surely not qualify as having character. Also, being a captain of an athletic team, an officer of the student council, or the captain of a debate team would necessitate having a habit of honesty. In addition, a student who told more than 14 lies per day would be hard put to get teacher and guidance counselor recommendations for his college applications.  The student’s high school experience would be without distinction and his future prospects quite dim.

Yet we have a President of the United States of America who has told more than 14 lies per day to the people of the United States. We have a President who, at the going rate, will publicly tell 3,794 more lies before leaving office on January 20, 2021.

How can we, as parents and educators, speak to our children about honesty and decency when a person who lies is our President?

We can’t.

We must not re-elect Donald Trump.

Our children deserve a President to whom they can look up to as a model of good behavior, as a leader worth emulating, as a person who simply tells the truth.

Viewing the Video

Hello Readers,

In my most recent post entitled There Are Two Words For It: Stupid and Dangerous, if your email did not contain the video mentioned in the post, click on the title of the post, and in a minute or less, the video will appear. It is worth watching.

I can’t remember when I have used the word “stupid”. Using it in the title of a post indicates how truly awful I find the decision of the Governor of Georgia.

Ann

There’s Two Words For It: Stupid And Dangerous

We teach our high school students when they write an essay in their English class to present clear evidence for their position and to reach a conclusion that is well-founded and offers a logical plan of action.

The Governor of Georgia clearly is not demonstrating the good thinking of  high school students.  If he wrote his plan in an essay, the essay would earn an F.

Watch this video of Dr. Karla Lorraine who is so dismayed that Governor Kemp has reached the conclusion, with absolutely no evidence, that the people of Georgia no longer need to maintain any social distancing and can gather together in gyms, massage parlors, movie theaters, bowling alleys, restaurants, and on beaches.

Governor Kemp is “liberating” Georgia. He is in sync with Donald Trump who contradicted the social distancing policy of his own administration and urged Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia to “liberate” themselves and similarly open up their states.

Dr. Lorraine knows too well what will result from Governor Kemp’s plan and from Donald Trump’s advocacy to “liberate” states from social distancing:  illness and death.

Our National Shame Is At The Top

As we English teachers read great literature with our high school students, the question of what makes someone a hero frequently occurs. We question together what qualities in a person cause us to be inspired by her or him. We discuss what uplifts us about human beings and what we want to emulate in the actions of others. In every discussion about what is heroic, students bring up the idea of a hero having an individual conscience and doing what the person thinks is right, regardless of the personal consequences.

Recently, Captain Brett Crozier, the captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, was fired from the United States Navy for doing just that. He reported that 100 men on the aircraft carrier tested positive for the COVID19, and, to save the lives of the crew, the aircraft carrier needed to dock. He was fired for that action. However, the great grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, for whom the aircraft carrier is named, not only supports what Captain Crozier did but also wrote that his great grandfather did the same thing. The sailors onboard the aircraft carrier were grateful to Captain Crozier for his lifesaving action and cheered for him as he disembarked the carrier. The crew sees their captain as a hero.

Future high school students will bring in the example of Captain Crozier as they analyze the motivations and actions of Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, Arthur Miller’s John Proctor, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Toni Morrison’s Sethe. They will also bring in examples from the current President and his cabinet who condemn Captain Crozier’s motivation and actions. Those students will, without doubt, analyze the current administration as being totally bereft of real leadership and not possessing any shred of a moral center.

The nature of tragedy in our national life is monumentally expanded by the current President. To our devastating peril and our national shame.

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