A/K/A Your local Florida public school.

Image result for dispatch from a trench
The flying dog is carrying messages for headquarters.

Masks: Most students and staff continue to comply with mask requirements. Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) stopped Friday afternoon to talk to a group of boys congregated in the courtyard because most had pulled their masks down. They respectfully complied when told to pull the masks up and GOT believes (at least he hopes) that they appreciated his message that the new variants of Covid are much more contagious and damaging, “Stay healthy. Stay safe.”

The mask problem is developing. Because of the new variants, advice is to abandon cloth masks and use a surgical or KN95 mask. (To leave the medically-certified N95 mask supply for hospitals where they are needed.) If necessary, wear two. GOT has seen a surge in children wearing surgical masks. He himself has made the change to disposable KN95, which is recommended because of his age.

Contact tracing and quarantine: After the fall, GOT anticipated that the problem of quarantine would continue its adverse impact on student attendance and learning that ultimately sabotages grades.

Despite the accumulated impact of the holidays, careless family gatherings and parties, there has been little quarantining going on. This is because the Department of Health (DOH) has fallen so far behind that by the time they get to the tracing, the time period has expired.

For example, GOT knew from one student that they had symptoms and was waiting on a test result. He looked up the last day the student had been in the room and calculated that even if the DOH contacted him the next day, he would tell them that the recommended time period had already gone by.

Notifications: Due to HIPPA and privacy concerns, the most we learn from administration or the district dashboard is that more cases were reported. We are not told if those cases had been in our rooms or if we had otherwise been exposed. Thus, the PR effort to keep people informed does not inform anyone.

However, GOT and his fellow teachers are not stupid. We see who is not coming to work. Without facts, we are left to speculate. That fuels the rumor mill and that is never a good thing. Years ago, GOT worked in a town that outdid Peyton Place in the daily rumors that spread. Someone said, “If you haven’t heard a new rumor by 10 AM, start one yourself!”

Not good for a school district so imbedded in the test-and-punish culture that they are forcing students learning from home to report to campus at the end of the month for the sole purpose of taking (useless, in GOT’s opinion) progress monitoring tests.

PPE: The district continues to supply classrooms with wipes, cleaning fluids, and hand sanitizer. The old saying goes that the army is always fighting the last war. The PPE is appreciated, but it is more geared toward fighting the last disease, namely the flu.

Schools have not experienced the level of influenza or even common colds that have been routine in previous years. Maybe we will learn a lesson from this and continue our health protocols in future years after the covid crisis is over.

But Covid-19’s real risk is airborne transmission. We receive no protections against that. Those KN95 masks? Yeah, GOT paid for that himself. At the beginning of the year, he spent $500 buying appliances for his classroom to HEPA-filter the air and UVC-light zap viral particles. Despite the poor ventilation, his classroom air is purified 2 to 3 times during each 90-minute class.

But that brings to mind that the HVAC filters are not being changed with the same regularity as past years. Oh well, cash-strapped districts have to take money from something to do the PPE supply.

Social Distancing: Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha. Don’t even ask. It’s not happening. It can’t. Class sizes are the same as pre-pandemic years.

Remote Learning: Numbers are falling as parents realize that their children aren’t thriving being stuck at home.

Vaccines: Despite the new president’s pledge to reopen schools in 100 days and that means teachers have to be vaccinated, most states including Florida are taking a pass. The CDC says it’s not necessary for teachers to be vaccinated for campuses to open.

Sigh, some things never change. The callousness for the welfare of teachers and the disrespect are ongoing despite Dr. Jill Biden’s Zoom conference for teachers inauguration day. Here’s hoping the pillow talk takes notice of teacher concerns.

Remember that no vaccine is approved for use in anyone under the age of 16. Those trials are ongoing this spring. While there is no reason to believe the vaccines are not appropriate for adolescents, we must have hard evidence before injecting them with it.

Even these trials are for children older than 12. Elementary age school children will remain unvaccinated for a long time.

Testing: In Florida, the beat goes on. The Department of Education is hellbent on conducting their tests in May. Even if the U.S. Department of Education waives federal testing requirements, Florida won’t ask. We must have testing, we must have data, we must issue school grades and evaluate teachers despite all the evidence that has piled up about this bogus endeavor, we must because we must … continue privatization of schools. We must. We must.

We must, we must, we must test because we are FLORIDA!

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