(This is a guest post by Joseph S. Lento, a licensed Teacher of Orchestral Music and School District Administration. In 2014, President Obama named him a National Teacher of Arts and Humanities. Joseph also has commendations from Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. In 1999, he was named NYC Public Schools Bronx County High Schools Teacher of the Year. Learn more at his website, Brasscomets.angelfire.com.)
Is it at all possible for good to arise out of a tragedy such as COVID-19?
As we know, public and private education are in dire straits the likes of which few are truly comprehending.
Our schools reopening without a plan that adheres to the medically mandated Social Distancing is a breeding ground for COVID-19 and an economic crisis that will fracture and destroy lives. With those facts in mind we must reopen our schools but not until we’ve reinvented them.
If we don’t, we stand to lose nearly 200,000,000 of the 3,500,000 teachers in the nation if schools do not reopen.
Such a catastrophe would lead to homelessness and unemployment the likes from which we could never recover. My plan outlines the measures required to reopen schools following the medical guidelines for social distancing while vastly improving opportunity for students.
The plan I’m proposing is a simple and cost-free solution to an incredibly complex problem. It will save lives; our nation’s school system and economy.
Here it is:
In order to bring about public confidence, the initial phase of schools reopening must follow the medical and government mandated Social Distancing. In order to accomplish this, we must use a ‘Split Schedule’ supplemented by on-line support.
This is a simple alternating or permanent Block Schedule of all classes at joint physical locations supplemented by on-line support. This would provide an instant reduction in class sizes by fifty percent and save countless lives not to mention the financial burden and grief that would even further fracture families and the Economy.
Here is what a basic ‘Split Schedule’ would resemble. For example, we schedule Math, Science and English on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:45 am to 11:30am This includes 15 minute breaks between classes and 30 minutes for dismissal. The afternoon schedule would run from Noon until 3:45pm with the same breaks allotted between classes. Where possible, I would implement students remaining in one location and the teachers traveling to them. This is only a suggestion in order to limit movement.
On Tuesday and Thursday we can hold Art, Music, P.E. and World Languages using the same schedule as we would on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This schedule can be alternated with the Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule or any other permutation that fits the needs of your community.
Having fifty percent less students in a school at any given time would also benefit our special needs populations as there will be much more space and personnel available. Classroom sizes can be doubled by combing adjacent classes.
Educational resources would automatically be doubled because when Mr. Lento is not teaching on the days he is assigned to the school building, he is holding remote tutoring sessions or working to support students. This model instantly cuts class sizes in half and doubles teacher availability!
When children are not attending their morning or afternoon schedule, they will be on-line accessing various educational/artistic resources through the faculty at their schools. This is an enormous win for our underserved communities and all students in general.
So, what of school nutrition/transportation programs and other school related personnel?
No more congregating in the school cafeteria. All students qualifying for free Breakfast and Lunch will receive it in a take home bag and eat at home.
Once school has started all children will receive the following days Breakfast and Lunch upon leaving school.
All Food Service employees will be trained to work as school support personnel during the hours they would otherwise have been in the school’s food services office. This would add another layer of support for students they previously did not have.
The role of Transportation Operators, Custodial personnel, Administrative Assistants, school Psychologists, Guidance Counselors, Speech, Physical and Occupational Therapists would not be impacted.
Unless we implement this program, dire consequences will result. Scores of millions of students will lose any hope of Educational Equity because Educators will be lost. This plan saves money and increases productivity, and most of all it will exponentially increase student success! COVID-19 can be the Dark Knight that turn this Pandemic into Educational Equity, if we can see beyond our conventional ways.