Archives for category: Safety

Los Angeles public schools have the most ambitious COVID testing practices in the nation. “The district operates the most ambitious school coronavirus testing program in the nation, with more than 500,000 mandatory tests administered every week for all students and staff.” Even so, the Los Angeles Times reported, one-third of all students stayed home.

Glenn Sacks, a social studies teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, explains the COVID protocols that have enabled the district to keep its schools open safely.

He writes:

At Los Angeles Unified, everybody gets tested every week, and anyone who doesn’t have a negative test result can’t come to school. We’ve proven this can be implemented and made routine with only a modest amount of disruption.

Los Angeles Unified’s James Monroe High School, where I teach, is typical. Every Thursday a COVID testing team sets up in our multipurpose room. All students are tested – one week all the English teachers take their classes, next week the math teachers, etc.

The testing was rocky at first and some teachers, myself included, complained about the wasted time. Yet within a few weeks it was running efficiently, and testing now usually takes only 10 to 15 minutes.

All teachers and support staff are also tested. Everybody gets their test results back in 24 to 48 hours, delivered via email and also on our “Daily Pass” phone app.

Each morning all students and staff must generate a Daily Pass, which certifies that they have a current, negative test result and are thus eligible to enter campus. The students line up and present their Daily Pass’ QR code to the administrators and support staff for scanning, and the lines move quickly.

When there is a positive test result, administrators are notified, and the student isolates. There is contact tracing – all teachers have submitted their classroom seating charts to the administration, so when there is a positive test result, administrators can quickly identify the students most likely to be exposed.

Masks are readily available for students and staff, as is hand sanitizer. We have proper ventilation and filters, and each school site has a COVID Task Force in which both union representatives and administrators participate.

Sacks hopes that the finger-pointing and blaming will end. There is a safe way to reopen schools.

This statement by a student was published anonymously at Reddit. He wanted to explain what is happening in his school in regards to COVID. The situation, as he puts it, is “beyond control.” There are many absences, students as well as teachers. There is very little learning going on. The writer makes clear that he hates remote learning, but given the conditions in the school, he thinks remote learning is preferable to no learning.

The article has created quite a buzz. It has thus far received more than 5,000 comments, mostly from other students, reporting on their schools, but also from teachers. Meanwhile, the new Mayor, Eric Adams, assures the public that all is well.

The statement begins like this:

I’d like to preface this by stating that remote learning was absolutely detrimental to the mental health of myself, my friends, and my peers at school. Despite this, the present conditions within schools necessitates a temporary return to remote learning; if not because of public health, then because of learning loss.

A story of my day:

– I arrived at school and promptly went to Study Hall. I knew that some of my teachers would be absent because they had announced it on Google Classroom earlier in the day. At our school there is a board in front of the auditorium with the list of teachers and seating sections for students within study hall: today there were 14 absent teachers 1st period. There are 11 seatable sections within the auditorium … THREE CLASSES sat on the stage. Study hall has become a super spreader event — I’ll get to this in a moment.

– Second period I had another absent teacher. More of the same from 1st period. It was around this time that 25% of kids, including myself, realized that there were no rules being enforced outside of attendance at the start of the period, and that cutting class was ridiculously easy. We left — there was functionally no learning occurring within study hall, and health conditions were safer outside of the auditorium. It was well beyond max capacity.

Open the link and read the rest.

Some schools are managing very well with in-person learning. Others are not. Schools cannot make up for “learning loss” if there is no instruction going on.

An important point to bear in mind. For everyone, this is an unprecedented time. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. None of us has lived through one before. No one knows what will happen a week or a month or six months from now. We follow the science, protect health and life as best we can, don’t take risks, and hope it ends soon. Odds are COVID will become less virulent, manageable with vaccines, and fade into the long list of diseases from which we must protect ourselves. Maybe next winter, the doctors will remind us to get a flu shot and a COVID shot. Meanwhile, we do the best we can.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. wrote the following article in the Miami Herald:

Once again, carnage goes to school. Once again, American students are used for target practice. But conservative leaders are on the case. Recognizing the ongoing threat to our children, they know it’s time for decisive action.

It’s time to do something about books.

And if you expected that sentence to end differently, you haven’t been paying attention. In red America these days, books are Public Enemy No. 1.

As Time magazine recently reported, librarians are seeing a definite spike in censorship activity. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, executive director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, called it “an unprecedented volume of challenges.” From Texas to South Carolina, to Virginia to Florida and beyond, conservative governors and advocacy groups are removing books from school library shelves, particularly those that deal with the two subjects they find most threatening: sexuality and race.

All to protect our children.

Open the link and read the article in full.

If you don’t know the work of Jitu Brown, this is a good time to inform yourself. Jitu Brown has worked for many years as a grassroots organizer in Chicago. He wants families and communities to be able to advocate for themselves, and he trains them to do it. He ardently opposes school closings and privatization, methods of ”reform” that are imposed on communities of color by the powerful. He led the successful hunger strike that blocked the closing of the Walter S. Dyett High School, forcing Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rescind the closing and to reopen the refurbished high school. Out of his work in Chicago, Brown led the creation of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has chapters in 36 cities. J4J strongly supports the establishment of community schools that meet the needs of communities and build networks of families and communities.

MEDIA ADVISORY TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7TH 10:00 AM ET


AFT’S RANDI WEINGARTEN, NEA’S BECKY PRINGLE, U.S. SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, CONGRESSMAN BOWMAN (NY-16), JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE’S JITU BROWN TO JOIN EDUCATION EQUITY COALITION AT PRESS CONFERENCE TO ANNOUNCE NEW COALITION


National Leaders Back ‘Equity or Else’ Campaign and
Push for Biden Budget Initiative: $440 Million for Community Schools


(WASHINGTON, D.C) – On Tuesday, December 7, 10 a.m. ET, the American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten; National Education Association president, Becky Pringle; U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD; Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16; Journey for Justice Alliance national director, Jitu Brown; and Schott Foundation for Public Education president, Dr. John Jackson will join national justice and education union leaders to hold a press conference in support of the “Equity or Else” campaign to announce a brand new commission, and amplify its strong support for President Biden’s education budget which will announce a groundbreaking increase of 41 percent for school funding in his proposed FY2022 budget. This Equity Commission will engage municipalities and the federal government to inform government officials at every level on how to create investments and policies that transform quality of life for all Americans, with a focus on equity.


Journey for Justice sits at the helm of the coalition that has been pivotal in shaping President Biden’s agenda on education, especially around community schools. The Equity or Else campaign is a coalition of leaders and organizers from different quality-of-life areas, including education, housing, health care, environment/climate justice, youth investment and food production and delivery, to promote education on how inequity impacts these areas and the grassroots solutions they have organized.

The coalition includes: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School.


WHAT: News Conference with National Education and Justice Leaders on President Biden’s Budget Proposal and Brand New Equity or Else Commission


WHO:
● U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD
● Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16
● Becky Pringle, president, National Education Association
● Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers
● Dr. John Jackson, president, Schott Foundation for Public Education
● Jitu Brown, national director, Journey for Justice Alliance
● Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education, state advocacy director
***

PLEASE EMAIL MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM TO RSVP*** WHEN: 10:00 AM ET, Tuesday, December 7, 2021

WHERE: The National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC (Vax card or Negative COVID Test Required)


Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/J4JAlliance

FURTHER BACKGROUND: The Schott Foundation’s national Opportunity to Learn Network, in partnership with the Journey for Justice Alliance’s Equity or Else project, is launching a nationwide campaign to reverse the trend of privatizing public schools and in its place implement its proven plan for reimagining an education system that has long neglected Black and brown children and starved their schools of resources.

Bolstered by a newly created Grassroots Equity Commission, Equity or Else has come to Washington to back the Biden administration’s budget, which would double the Title I funding that targets low-income schools and, for the first time, allocate $440 million for sustainable community schools. The commission, formed by Schott with J4J, will engage local and federal government in exploring how institutions engage Black, brown and working-class families.


Intent upon getting true equity in education for children of color and reversing the runaway school-privatization trend abetted by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, grassroots members of campaign organizations will also meet with key senators and with current Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.


The time is ripe for reimagining public education. The Biden administration is committed to allocating critically needed new resources for the task. Congress has shown itself willing and able to provide those resources. The conviction of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers has amplified the discussion of what equity actually means. The pandemic has highlighted the stark inequity that afflicts children of color. And those who have been left behind are raising their voices to demand the rooting out of systemic racism in every institution, including: schools, hospitals, healthcare, food production and delivery systems and public safety.


The Schott Foundation’s Loving Cities index assesses how these institutions function in Black, brown and working-class communities. Equity or Else is founded on the proposition that this reimagining of policy must be guided by the voices of those who have been most deeply affected by inequity. We have come together and are finding solutions that meet our needs.

Equity or Else is doing listening projects with people in underserved communities across the country. The Equity Commission will engage officials from municipalities and the federal government to explore how those foundational institutions in those communitIes can be reimagined, with a focus on equity. By using data from all these sources, the commission will be able to inform government officials at every level on how to create equitable investments and policies to transform quality of life for all Americans.


The following national organizations are participating in the overall Equity or Else campaign: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Alliance for Education Justice, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School. For more information go to http://www.standing4equity.org

Founded in 2012, the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) is a national network of intergenerational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 36 U.S. cities. For more information go to www.j4jalliance.com.


FOR MORE INFORMATION: MAYA HIXSON
321.266.2000 MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM
LAURIE GLENN
773.704.7246 LRGLENN@THINKINCSTRATEGY.COM

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The issue of parent rights has emerged as part of a larger strategy to control what topics can be taught in school and which books students can read. Teacher professionalism has been pushed aside as Republican politicians advance legislation to protect parent rights.

Jan Resseger points out that basic parent rights already exist: parents can decide whether to enroll their child in a public or private school. But the issue becomes heated when politicians seek to give parents power over curriculum, reading lists, and teaching.

The issue of parent rights is directly related to the manufactured controversy of “critical race theory” and conflicts over COVID protocols. “Parent rights” politicizes decisions about mask mandates and vaccinations. Some very noisy parents insist that they can send their children to school without masks or vaccines. Their “right” to ignore public health requirements puts other children’s safety at risk. Similarly, rightwing ideologues are using the CRT issue to claim that parents have the right to control or censor what their children are taught.

Children too have rights, she maintains, and among them are the right to learn free of outside political interference.

Nancy Flanagan, a retired teacher in Michigan and expert blogger, asks rhetorically, “Who is to blame?” Obviously the shooter and his parents, who bought the murder weapon and did not lock it away.

But there are other causes of the senseless killings, she writes.

Two things—true things—are repeated endlessly in these dialogues. The first is that the nation exposed its true values nine years ago after the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary, choosing unrestricted gun ownership over the lives of children. The second is that we need a greater understanding and focus on mental health. In our schools, of course.

What is often missing from these heart-wrenching discussions is the fact that schools are just like malls and movie theatres and churches and political rallies—stages for playing out what it means to be an American citizen in 2021, our deepest principles and beliefs.

Despite selfless and heroic actions, despite good parenting and good teaching and due diligence on the part of school administrators and counselors—we live in a pretty ugly country right now.

We live in a country where Kyle Rittenhouse walked free. Where senators and governors boldly lie about election results. Where parents, urged by astro-turf organizations, mob board meetings to protest the teaching of facts and requiring masks in a deadly pandemic. Where thousands of brutal insurrectionists attacked our most sacred building and democratic processes, led by the President of the United States.

Also this: the Oxford HS shooter lives in a state where a gang of angry young men conspired to kidnap and execute the Governor, fantasizing about taking her to a remote location and ‘putting her on trial.

None of this mitigates the reprehensible behavior of this teenager. He is fully responsible for what he did. But it’s worth thinking about the unique context of growing up in America, the people respected as leaders in this nation, the ruthless tactics used to acquire and maintain power and ‘freedom.’

She discusses answers like school counselors, mental health programs, social-emotional learning, and the backlash against them.

It might help to pay as much attention to individual children and their problems as we pay to their test scores.

If we were truly a nation that cared about life, we would enact gun control laws and stop the slaughter of children.

You read the news: another school shooting. This time in Michigan. Students and teachers in most schools have drills to practice defense against a shooter, in this case, a sophomore in the high school. Why did he have a gun? Why did he shoot? What will the country do to prevent future school shootings? Will we ever have gun control? After Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and countless other such massacres, we know the answer. It’s not the answer that one would expect in a civilized country. Next time you hear a politician spouting off about being pro-life, ask him or her how they can be pro-life and pro-gun.

A sixth-grade teacher, Melissa McMullan, shared her reaction to the latest tragedy:

She writes:

Today, I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives, injuries sustained, and emotional trauma that will all reside permanently with those impacted by the actions of a child compelled to bring a gun to school in order to kill. I am also struck by the heroism of teachers.

I find myself thinking about the promise of public education. Education is our society’s most potent weapon. It has the potential to be the great equalizer, eradicating poverty and fostering independence. This drives me to love my students fiercely and continually strive to offer better instruction than the day before. I am not alone. My building and school district are filled to the brim with teachers who pour everything they have into their classrooms every day. We are not alone. Across the country, teachers go into their classrooms every day to give their students everything they have. And then some.

But we are suffering. Our students are suffering. We are asked to keep our students seated three feet apart, make sure they are wearing masks, monitor mask breaks, teach outside, make sure we are simultaneously offering virtual instruction to students who cannot come to school, manage the continual flood of absences and find ways to keep our instruction moving forward. We counsel students, their families, and our colleagues about the uncertainties of living through a pandemic that no one has a handle on. How our students learn, and what they need from us have vastly changed. Yet, as always, we are asked to comply with an antiquated (and irrelevant) teacher evaluation system.

What happened on Tuesday, at a school outside of Detroit, is a sickening reminder of what matters. People sent their children to school and three will never come home. Some were injured, and the scars from those injuries will never leave them. While many others, albeit physically unscathed, will never get over the trauma of having the safety of their school violated in such a manner. And a child had access to a gun, knew how to use it, and used it to injure and kill students and teachers in his school community.

What struck me is that teachers, as always, stepped in and did exactly what they needed to do to protect their students. I am in awe reading about the teacher who heard gunshots and quickly responded. The teacher was able to get all of the students in the room, lock and barricade the door with desks, and ask students to arm themselves with objects to throw should the door be breached. Ultimately the teacher had the students jump out the window for safety.

I am left wondering how many more responsibilities can we give teachers? How long will our leaders ignore the overwhelming list of responsibilities that have been added to our plates, while continuing to evaluate us based upon metrics that have no relevance? We have to ask ourselves:

What do our nation’s children need from public education?

How do we support teachers in meeting our children’s needs?

Our current metrics are not only costing valuable time, energy, and resources, but they are part of a system that is failing teachers and the students they love. What took place in Michigan is not the canary in the coal mine, it’s the mushroom cloud. We need leaders to stand up now.


Melissa McMullan, PhD, 6th Grade Teacher

John F. Kennedy Middle School

Port Jefferson Station, NY 11776

Organized parent groups in Illinois are suing school boards, the state board of education and the Governor to remove mask mandates and other safety measures from the schools. They want their children to be unprotected from the coronavirus. They don’t want the pandemic to end. This is the latest from Illinois Families for Public Schools. The overwhelming majority of lawsuits against public health mandates have been turned down by the courts. Let’s hope this one loses too.

Action alert: Sign this petition to oppose lifting the mask mandate and other covid safety measures in IL schools!

Last week, a lawsuit was filed against 145 school districts including Chicago Public Schools, Governor Pritzker and ISBE by groups of parents at these districts to lift the mask mandate and other covid safety measures in the schools. Each group of parents gave Attorney Tom Devore $5000 totalling $725K donated to make our schools and communities unsafe. 

Parents in Algonquin launched a petition to say these parents do not represent them and they do not want the mask mandate and other safety measures lifted at their schools. They got over 1200 signatures over the weekend and are asking for support in signing and sharing with other parents and community members who want schools to remain safe. 

Sign and share this petition

Please sign and share this petition with other parents and community members who actually want this pandemic to end. Over 6.2 million children have tested positive for covid since the pandemic started and 1.1 million just in the first six-weeks of this school year. 

As much as we’d like this pandemic to be over, it’s simply not, and no amount of covid-denying magical thinking will change that. The vaccine will be available for school-aged children 5-11 very soon, so let’s keep our schools open safely now.

Here’s another recent relevant article on the topic of school board culture wars happening around the country: 

WBEZ: What it’s like to be on the front lines of the school board culture war

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court refused to overturn a vaccine mandate in Maine that does not allow religious exemptions.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch voted in the minority, contending that Maine’s failure to offer a religious exemption was based on religious bias.

In two previous cases, from anti-vaxxers at Indiana University and public school teachers in New York, the Supreme Court also upheld vaccine mandates. This suggests that the high court recognizes that public health in a global pandemic requires a strong governmental response to stop the spread of the disease and protect the public.

It also appears that lawsuits filed by police unions, firefighters’ unions, and other government employees are unlikely to succeed.

All of this is very good news for the vast majority of the public, which has been vaccinated and frankly doesn’t understand resistance to vaccine mandates.

Steven Singer writes that teachers are getting sick and exhausted because of the stress of the pandemic. One week, they are heroes. Next week, they are villains.


At the staff meeting the other day, one of my fellow teachers turned to me and said he was having trouble seeing.

He rushed home and had to have his blood pressure meds adjusted.

Another co-worker was sent home because one of her students had tested positive for Covid-19 and she had gone over to his desk to help him with his assignment.

I, myself, came home on Friday and was so beat down I just collapsed into bed having to spend the next week going from one medical procedure to another to regain my health.

The teachers are not okay.

This pandemic has been particularly hard on us.

Through every twist and turn, teachers have been at the center of the storm.

When schools first closed, we were heroes for teaching on-line.

When they remained closed, we were villains for wanting to remain there – safe from infection.

Then there was a vaccine and many of us wanted to reopen our schools but only if we were prioritized to be vaccinated first. We actually had to fight for the right to be vaccinated.

When our students got sick, we sounded the alarm – only to get gas lighting from the CDC that kids don’t catch Covid and even if they do, they certainly never catch it at school.

We were asked to redo our entire curriculums on-line, then in-person for handfuls of students in funky two-day blocks, then teach BOTH on-line and in-person at the same time.

The summer was squandered with easing of precautions and not enough adults and teens getting vaccinated. Then schools reopened in August and September to debates over whether we should continue safety precautions like requiring students and staff wear masks and if we should expand them to include mandatory vaccinations for all staff and eligible students to protect kids 11 and younger who can’t take the vaccine yet.

It’s been a rough year and a half, and I can tell you from experience – TEACHERS ARE EXHAUSTED.

As of Sept. 17, 2021, at least 1,116 active and retired K-12 educators have died of COVID-19,according to Education Week. Of that number, at least 361 were active teachers still on the job.

I’m sure the real number is much higher.

According to the Associated Press, the Covid pandemic has triggered a spike in teacher retirements and resignations not to mention a shortage of tutors and special aides.

Difficulties filling teacher openings have been reported in Tennessee, New Jersey and South Dakota. In the Mount Rushmore State, one district started the school year with 120 teacher vacancies.

But, as he writes, it didn’t start with COVID. Open the link. Read on