Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – July 17, 2020

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – July 17, 2020

Based on the critical metrics associated with COVID-19 in Worcester and Wicomico counties, it would seem implausible public schools will be entirely closed this fall. A hybrid schedule of in-school and distance learning would seem to be the only option for public school systems under current guidelines.

It’s impossible for local public schools to go the full in-school instruction route because of transportation problems and social distancing impossibilities within the schools. There are too many students in each class and not enough teachers and space to properly social distance. Busing the kids is also stacking up to be a major concern with no easy fix.

What most public schools seem to be leaning toward is a hybrid rotation to lessen the amount of kids in school at any given time. It helps ease the crowding inside the schools as well as allows for the possibility of buses being able to adequately separate the children along their routes. How this model will work for the teachers is a major question. It will take an incredible amount of planning for them, and one local teacher I heard from this week suggested faculty members will need at least one professional day a week to carry out an online instruction for half of the class and in-person for the others. She favored the hybrid model for safety purposes but had a ton of reasonable questions with no easy answers yet.

If the state teacher’s union is to believe, teachers do not want to return to school in the fall. In a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon, the Maryland State Education Association, Baltimore Teachers Union and the Maryland PTA were clear their membership wants to teach from home.

“It should not be lost on anyone that physically reopening schools would be, by several orders of magnitude, a much more ambitious — and dangerous — undertaking than any other reopening step we have taken thus far,” the letter said. “We must rise above politics and focus on the reality and complexities of safely reopening schools. If we open our schools too quickly and without adequate safety precautions, the result will be that some educators, students, and their family members will contract the coronavirus. Some will recover, some will face debilitating health consequences or healthcare bills that they cannot pay, and some will die. These are stubborn facts. And they are costs and consequences that we must refuse to accept. A perfect solution does not exist. A safe one does. We urge you to support this course. We stand ready to work with you to ensure that the coming school year is as safe and successful as possible for all of Maryland’s students and educators.”

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I find this view – teachers would rather teach distance learning than be in their classroom with kids – to be surprising. I don’t believe the union represents the majority of teachers, at least those in this area. A statement from Worcester County schools was confusing this week but it would seem to indicate local teachers are okay with going back to school in the classroom.

“WCPS, the WCTA (Worcester County Teachers Association) and the WCESPA (Worcester County Educational Support Personnel Association) are proud to have worked collaboratively on the Responsible Return draft model,” the statement reads. “This draft represents our best thinking to date on how we can safely welcome students and staff back to school this September. We look forward to continuing our collaboration as we enter the phase of planning: gathering quality feedback from our students and their families, our staff and our community.”

Worcester County’s plan falls into three categories – entirely face-to-face, hybrid learning through A Week/B week model rotation schedule and distance learning. Though the county is currently seeking input from families, I think the decision is already made. It’s going to be the hybrid learning option. It’s the only realistic course. Rather than wasting a lot of time with polling parents on individual topics, the county should pivot and get to work preparing teachers and letting parents figure out how they are going to make it work. One thing I do know is waiting till mid-August to make an announcement is the wrong move.

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It will forever be known as the “Pandemic Summer,” and I will never forget the horror stories I have heard from business owners. Here’s a few new ones:

•Irritated over the long wait for indoor dining, a man anonymously calls the health department to report an employee not wearing a mask while serving food. The result was the restaurant was shut down for six days. This is one example of the real consistency issue with enforcement.

•A bartender called her boss – the business owner – to express concerns about fellow employees not wearing masks while working during her shift the night before. The owner told the employee it might be best for you if you just stay home. This is where the “greed over fear” saying comes from.

•When asked to take off his hat to allow for a temperature check before entering the restaurant, a man slapped a young woman’s wrist so hard the thermometer hit a nearby woman in the head. The result was the woman’s husband shoving the man with a fight breaking out. Fortunately, a cop was in the area and was able to quickly diffuse the situation.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.