It’s trying, if not impossible, times for educators. The concerns expressed this week — by two teachers publicly but shared by numerous in public schools – are inevitable.
These folks are teaching in unprecedented times, amid a pandemic with real health concerns for all. Complicating the ongoing extreme range of individual comfort levels about the pandemic has been an unreliable internet connection system that makes teaching kids at home impossible and leads to frustrated parents who take to social media to air their beefs.
Connectivity outages have occurred for at least the last two weeks in public schools. Though the problems reached the point of outright outages in late October, intermittent issues have been occurring since the start of the school year, according to teachers and parents. Teachers are frustrated at having their hands tied by a problem they say should have been addressed over the summer by school system leadership. If there were warning signs, there’s no excuse for teachers being robbed of the most critical tool they need to educate – the ability to communicate and connect with students.
There is a lot to be concerned about in education these days. It doesn’t matter if its public or private school, elementary school or university. Educating in a responsible fashion while working under regulations imposed to minimize infections is a daunting task. Anyone involved in education deserves the utmost respect because they are in many cases blindly working and being guided by their instincts. It’s become clear in recent weeks public school leadership is clearly struggling.
Throughout this journey of educating amid a pandemic, transparency is a must. During the ongoing connectivity debacle, the school system apologized repeatedly for the issues causing learning problems for both virtual and in-school students and promised to rectify them as quick as possible. The problem is there is no quick fix and it has quickly become a nightmare. The situation was believed to be fixed Monday night, but once students returned to school on Wednesday the outages returned. Hindsight makes the message on Monday night about connectivity issues being solved seem foolish. There were no kids in school Tuesday for a professional day and by mid-morning Wednesday outages were reported. It’s an unfortunate situation.
Confounding connectivity frustrations is a general worry over positive COVID-19 cases. The school system is taking the approach the health department will handle all positive cases and subsequent close contact tracing and guidance on quarantine parameters. Unless a closure of some sort is required, plans are not to notify families or teachers of positive cases within school buildings. This is a policy from the public school officials drawing fire from families and educators. It’s a questionable approach. Families have a right to know if there’s a positive case reported in the school building their child attends. The information can be communicated without violating privacy laws. Not informing has resulted in scuttlebutt and distractions.
Transparency and clear communication – internally with staff and externally with families — must be maintained. The county school system has handled it well on some fronts, including over the summer when reopening schools was in the forefront, but the decision to not communicate positive tests among students or teachers to at least those within the same school building is irresponsible and merits further review.