Every day we receive more information about the Coronavirus. We are now at a point where there have been some strict mandates laid out regarding travel, dining in restaurants, and large gatherings. Across the country, schools have closed to slow down the spread of the virus, hopefully. We haven’t even concluded of the first week, and many school districts in different states are now pondering the question, should schools even open back up this year?
When we were first told to close, I thought like many: well, we get an extra week of spring break. Now, instead of two weeks, we will get three. At that moment, it never crossed my mind that would be the last day of school for the 2019-2020 school year. Even when universities decided to close for the semester and move everything online, it still never crossed my mind that school would be over for the year.
That all changed the other day as I was watching CNN and following the latest coverage of the Coronavirus spread. Something about the tone of everything shifted; it appeared to me that they did not have a handle on this spread like they thought. The recommendation on the mandates was laid out, and then they said in two weeks, they will reevaluate things. I took that as it could get extended another two weeks that will take us to the last week in April. What really caught my eye was the quote by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine that schools could be closed for the rest of the year. What once wasn’t even a thought could now be a reality.
If schools do not open again for the school year, there are five things to consider:
- Will we be paid for the remainder of the school year? Most in education, such as administrators and teachers, are salary workers. We do get paid over breaks such as Fall, Winter, and Spring Break. If this Spring Break is extended for the remainder of the school year, that is an additional nine weeks of not working. Would we still get paid if we technically are not working? We then have another 8-9 weeks of summer vacation. It may seem like a silly question, but so educators need to support themselves, too.
- Can a student be retained in the grade if they did not get a full school year? Typically, around Spring Break is when teachers have a conversation with students they plan on retaining in their current grade. The last nine weeks of school are used to evaluate the student’s progress, and at the end of the year, formative assessments are used in determining whether or not a student moves on to the next grade. In high school, students still need those credits to graduate. If we do end school nine weeks early, how should schools go about making those decisions? Do you retain a student based on 27 weeks of instruction instead of 36? Do you move the student on to the next grade even though they may not be ready?
- What about those hourly workers? There are many hourly workers in schools as well that must be considered, the bus drivers, the kitchen staff, and the cleaning staff. My network of schools we do not have buses, but we do have vendors for food services and cleaning. When school is not in session, those vendors do not get paid, which means their staff does not receive a paycheck. We are talking about people who will be out of work. I spoke to one of the cafeteria workers, and she mentioned that her boss told her to file for unemployment.
- Can we not bring back an underperforming teacher? Now, because our teachers do not have a union and are considered “at-will” employees, we do not have to offer them a position for the next school year, and it is alright. To me, the same question applies to teachers as it does for students. How can I, in good faith, not bring a teacher back who was underperforming if they do not get the entire school year? As with students, we use the end of the year evaluation and end of the year assessment to gauge a teacher’s effectiveness. If school ends in March, that means no evaluation and no assessment, so how do we appropriately decide a teacher’s performance.
- How Are the Children? My mentor and friend, Chris Stewart, challenges us daily with this simple question. If the school year ends in March, I am concerned about the well-being of the children who are now out of school for an additional nine weeks. I am worried about if we have the programs intact that can feed children for the rest of the school year. How can we ensure the children are still learning? Only time will tell the answer to this question.
As I am writing this, I am hoping these are just thoughts and not a reality. Only time will tell what comes of the 2019-2020 school year.