Dateline: February 12, 2021

It had to happen. The first case of the B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the UK variant, has been confirmed in the city. It turns out that every test is not being checked because that requires a genetic sequencing of the sample. According to the story, 825,000 cases were detected last week meaning 825,000 test results; of that, 6,000 tests were selected for the genetic sequencing to identify the Covid strain.

Statistics is a powerful thing. It can take a limited sample and detect the trends in the population. While a raw extrapolation of data is inappropriate, it does mean that one case detected represents many more in existence.

When will it turn up in schools?

Image result for carrier pigeon
When FedEx won’t cut it.

School reopening is the argument of the day as the Biden administration attempts to interpret its stated goal of getting kids back in school within its first 100 days.

For those who are calendar-challenged, that means April 30 roughly.

For those who are BS test (nod to Peter Greene for coining the double-entendre) challenged, that means just in time for all the kiddos to return to the building and take their tests.

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is working on a piece for the President’s eyes as well as the good Doctor his wife on what teachers want for their campuses to open in the midst of the pandemic.

But here’s a teaser: ventilation. One of the caveats of reopening advice is that school classrooms be well-ventilated. Think of those Chinese restaurants a year ago, where researchers discovered that early transmission was taking place because the diners were in an enclosed space without adequate ventilation of the indoor air with outdoor air.

GOT read a piece how CO-2 monitoring could serve as a proxy for how well a room–office, home, school–is ventilated. Naturally, he immediately bought a monitor to see what it would reveal about his classroom. While the article warns that readings must be taken over time, the readings in GOT’s classroom today will spark an early hypothesis.

7 AM (before school): GOT sits alone at his desk preparing his materials for the day. (And complying with district mandates regarding standard on the wall, lesson plan template, etc. but that’s a gripe for another day.) One person, CO-2 at 500 parts per million (ppm).

8:10 – 9:40 AM (first period, a face-to-face class): 20 persons in the room, readings rise from 1750 ppm to 2150 ppm by the end of the class.

9:45 – 11:15 AM (second period, another face-to-face class. During the change the classroom door is open to the hallway, but the hallway’s exterior door remains closed–traffic control): 25 persons in the room, readings rise from 2100 to 3600 ppm by the end of the class.

Lunch: GOT opens the windows to air out the room. In the first 15 minutes, readings drop to 900 ppm. In another 5 minutes, the readings fall to 700 ppm. By the time 30 minutes have elapsed, the reading is 410 ppm, equivalent to the outside air.

1:45 PMish: It begins to rain. GOT is teaching his 4th period class, which is a remote learning class. He sits alone, but he has to close the windows. The readings rise to 500 and then peak at 564 ppm as he speaks maskless (GOT is by himself, after all!) to the class. His exhalations alone cause the rise.

Is GOT’s classroom well-ventilated? Isn’t that one of the conditions required to safely reopen the school buildings?

(Because the narrative is flawed. No school system is closed. Many campuses and buildings are closed, but the schools are open and teachers are working more hours to provide online instruction than they would if all classes were in-person.)

GOT will continue to monitor readings in the room and build a database, He will move the monitor around the room to see if the location makes a difference. Expect future reports.

In other news, there is an upswell in student socializing, laughter, and loud noise. Good Guggamugga, how we have missed it. If there has been one consistent note among teachers about this pandemic year, it is how sad the campus is. Kids stayed apart, no one talked in a classroom, it was depressing. As always, balancing health protocols and human needs is tough.

GOT’s district decided to focus on mental health for the month of February. They featured a ‘take off the mask’ campaign to encourage students to talk about their struggles during this time. There were two problems: some people interpreted that to mean that the district would no longer require actual mask wearing and it looked like the district had forgotten that February was Black History month … because they had.

GOT supposes district officials might read this post (hoo-ha, he could only hope! A little fish in a mighty small pond, he is) and object. But the truth is that the district has made no push to highlight Black history as it had in previous years.

Finally, the fall-out from one high school reacting to it all resulted in social media threats. Therefore, GOT’s district instituted enhanced security procedures yesterday and today for high schools. That meant every student had to walk through a metal detector or be wanded and have their bags searched.

Oh yeah, and the district decided that wanding should be extended to employees. A teen issues a threat on a social media platform and one of the district’s responses is that we had better search teachers, too, to make sure they aren’t bringing weapons on campus.

You read that right.

Dispatch ended.

2 thoughts on “Update: Dispatch from the Covid Trenches

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