Limited in-person school starts July 8 for some rising 4th graders; so let’s see if we can make masks work

In-person school is poised to begin much sooner than most people realize — on July 8th. Masks or no masks; board votes or no board votes; the Polk County School District is planning to begin in person schooling at 12 sites. This grows out of the state DoE’s “reopening guidance” issued in conjunction with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press conference a few weeks ago.

Here is the email that was sent yesterday to instructional staff, but not to the elected School Board. When I requested it, HR Director Teddra Porteous promptly provided it, which I appreciate. I think Teddra has done quite a good job during the COVID period. Keep in mind, as you read this email, that it’s her job help to staff the policy and education decisions that other leaders make. If you have objections to the plan, it’s not Teddra’s email, which I find quite clear and helpful, that is the source of those objections.

I’ll have some general questions and thoughts on the other side.

On Friday, June 12, we learned of Governor DeSantis’s initiative to provide face-to-face learning for some of our students in July. Given this, Polk County Public Schools is excited to announce a July 2020 Summer Learning Program for rising 4th grade students. This face-to-face program will occur at select school sites.

There are many positions available at each site including: Summer Lead Teachers, Classroom Teachers, ESE Resource Teachers, ESOL Resource Teachers, LPN Nurses, Network Managers, and School Guardians. Please see attached and below for additional information.

Interested applicants may apply using the Summer Learning Employment Application located in Staff Portal (see the menu section along the left side of your unique staff portal home screen). Please note all employees, even those that originally applied in May, must reapply for the July 2020 Elementary Summer Learning program. If the application is not accessible when clicking the link in the Staff Portal, please press “CTRL+F5” on the keyboard and the application will open.

Who: Rising 4th grade students at the following schools:

  • Ben Hill Griffin Elementary
  • Crystal Lake Elementary
  • Eastside Elementary
  • Garner Elementary
  • Griffin Elementary
  • Inwood Elementary
  • Stephens Elementary
  • Jesse Keen Elementary
  • Palmetto Elementary
  • Philip O’Brien Elementary
  • Purcell Elementary
  • Spook Hill Elementary

When:           

Teacher days are July 6th-July 30, Monday through Thursday each week. Hours are 7:30 A.M. – 2:45 PM.

Students will attend July 8th – July 30th, Monday through Thursday of each week. Student hours are  8:00 A.M. – 2:15 PM.

Why: For our students, of course! Summer learning activities will include 3rd grade literacy skills while also providing students an opportunity to preview and prepare for the upcoming 4th grade reading and mathematics standards. We are ready to support students in getting ready to be successful for the next school year, while having fun, face-to-face with their peers!

Pay:  Each staff member will be paid their hourly rate of pay. Hours worked in July will be paid on August 14th.

Screen shots are below.

The state and superintendent are running a real-world COVID education experiment with kids and teachers.

No aspect of this plan whatsoever has come before your elected School Board for discussion, much less collaboration. Let’s just note that right from the start. Some alchemy of state government and superintendent are driving the decision-making. A majority of the elected board is content for the board to be a complete bystander. It is what it is. There are elections coming up that allow for the public to take a point-of-view on this reality.

Perhaps we can discuss this at the weird, no agenda, in-person June 30 meeting scheduled for Jim Miles Center. Just add it to the list. But that setting won’t be conducive for hashing through policy guidelines for the summer program.

If there was any collaboration, here are a few thoughts and questions I’d be sharing or asking:

  • Is this mandatory for any specific children? How are kids being targeted for enrollment? How many have enrolled?
  • Do we have sufficient staff willing to execute this in-person program today, amid a younger-age spike in COVID cases? What about in two weeks if the spike continues to grow?
  • Are the rising fourth graders and staff required to wear masks?
  • Given the limited and voluntary scope of the enrollment, isn’t this a good test run to see if we can make masking work in an elementary school setting? I would vote to require masks for this program to see if it’s even possible to make it work in practicality in the fall.
  • What is happening in day care centers? I’ve heard reports of shutdowns because of COVID outbreak.
  • Even with masks, temperature checks, etc., are rolling outbreaks at these sites inevitable? What happens then?
  • How many other state districts are doing this? All? Is Lake Wales Charter or McKeel?
  • Is this really just a state effort to keep Florida’s 4th grade NAEP scores — which are rigged every test cycle year because of 3rd grade retention — from collapsing? See this article for details and to understand why COVID killing 3rd grade retention is catastrophic for Florida’s Jeb-world testing grifters.

I’m not against this effort on its face. It could be useful in many ways, especially if the kids are given time to play outdoors and learn constructively, beyond drilling for NAEP scores. We can learn lessons for the fall, which could include: don’t open. Or open in certain kind of way. That’s why I think it’s important to try masking and see what happens.

Because make no mistake: this is an experiment on human beings, just like our entire abysmal national response.

 

 

One comment

  1. Carolyn Baldwin

    To execute a program without a specific published health plan and target population with goals and objectives and evaluation methods is educational malpractice in the age of increasing Covid 19 infections in Florida. All lives are at risk. The fact that there has not been a full discussion with the School Board is beyond belief. Our citizens deserve more. It is noteworthy that the sites named are low socioeconomic areas. If this is an experiment, do we not experiment with well resourced populations? Interesting….