Israel’s school reopening failure shows Park City Schools it’s all about how you execute
If you are teacher who will be teaching this fall…
If you are an administrator who will be running schools…
If you are a leader in the Park City School District…
There is one article you should read today in the New York Times. “When Covid Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well.“
I know there is a lot of debate among teachers, parents, and others about reopening schools in Park City. Two weeks from now, though, it is happening.
Here’s what happened in Jerusalem according to the Times, “Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May. Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world. The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.”
The problem was that schools caved to pressure from parents. “Then a heat wave hit. Parents complained that it was inhumane to make children wear masks in steaming classrooms where open windows nullified the air conditioning. In response, the government exempted everyone from wearing masks for four days, and schools shut the windows. That decision proved disastrous, experts say.”
Instead of closing schools, they told students they could take off their masks because it was so hot. They closed the windows. That removed the benefits of ventilation. They made bad decisions. They didn’t execute.
One bad decision, driven by parents and accepted by schools caused a catastrophe. In Park City … parents, students, teachers, administrators, and the district personnel will all have the chance, many times a day, to make good decisions or bad decisions. Those decisions could keep us on the path to making it through the year or careen us into the ditch. This can’t be emphasized enough. We all need to work together to give education a chance, but any single one of us can ruin it.
So what happened in Israel? Two students in one high school tested positive. Then the whole school was quarantined and everyone was tested. Sixty percent of those infected were asymptomatic. “Teachers, some of whom had been teaching multiple classes, suffered the most and a few were hospitalized, the principal said.
This is what happened across the country next, “Seeking to contain the contagion, the Education Ministry vowed to shut any school with even one Covid-19 case. It ultimately closed more than 240 schools and quarantined more than 22,520 teachers and students. When the school year ended in late June, the ministry said, 977 pupils and teachers had contracted Covid-19.”
Some people in Park City would argue, “can you even open schools safely?” It’s a fair question, but that debate has passed. Now it’s all about the execution. What’s at stake are lives and in the broader sense the Park City winter season. If that goes away, much of the best parts of Park City will go with it and may not come back.
Every day, every student, parent, teacher, and administrator has a part in a grand game. Can we generally do the right thing? Can we make good decisions? Can we have discipline?
If not, Israel’s experiment tells us what it will look like.
And if we look like this school in Georgia on its opening day, we know where we are headed.
“Some people in Park City would argue, ‘can you even open schools safely?’ It’s a fair question, but that debate has passed.”
Why has that debate passed?
Why can’t the school year be delayed?
Why can’t schools be online until tests are nearly instant or until a vaccine is available?
Why can’t attendance be reduced to only a few days per week?
These are all questions that the school board has refused to answer.
The debate has passed because at some point you have to have a plan unless facts on the ground have changed. If we were delaying school or going with a different plan, that should have been decided at the last School Board meeting where they all nodded acceptance of the plan. You can’t keep teachers, classified support professionals (thanks to the last commenter I need to be sure to include them), administrators, etc. in a state of limbo. They can’t make decisions, prepare material, mentally prepare, or anything else unless there is a direction.
That said, if cases had spiked in Summit County since the decision, I think they could revisit the decision. However, cases haven’t.
So, we are where we are.
Hey BN (and anyone else who is or has been wondering the same thing),
Your questions are on point, and among the ones that teachers have been asking ALL summer long. We went into the March dismissal blind, and now we’ll (teachers and staff) be starting the school year with that same sense of uncertainty and anxious tribulation. We have tried everything humanly possible, since the last school year was coming to an end, to explain the urgent need for an advanced plan for returning to school this school year. I and most of my colleagues are shocked and dismayed that we’re going in blind. We’re in the business of educating children; however, it seems our schools have gone down a bureaucratic rabbit hole.
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