Head to Head: Parker’s Plan for School – Completely Online

The case for a completely online schedule

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Photo credit: Maddy Leja

“Francis Parker: Is it really a Model Home if no other school follows in its footsteps?” Comic by Maddy Leja.

When Tuesday, September 8 comes around, most students from kindergarten to first grade, and sixth graders will come to Parker for their first day of school. Upper schoolers will come periodically throughout the day to visit with their advisories, and all other grades will start online. A few days later, assuming the plan is working and everyone is healthy (or at least asymptomatic), students in grades second to fourth will join them on Thursday, September 10. One day later, the school will welcome 54 more students, as the fifth graders arrive at the campus for their first time. Lastly, the seventh and eighth graders will arrive on Monday, September 14th. There is also an option for students in kindergarten through eighth grade to go completely virtual. 

There are two parts of the plan that I like: the upper school being virtual, and space for students who need better wifi in the building. Put simply, I don’t think most students should be going back to school. 

After the email that Dr. Frank sent out on July 9, to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the email saying “Parker will open school on campus for all students, five days a week, within the scope of normal school hours for the 2020–21 academic year.” It didn’t sit well with me. My nervousness didn’t even take into account that I am lucky that I and my nuclear family, the people I live with, are not at high risk. That isn’t the case for so many Parker families. How would over 900 students go to school every day? How do we contain the number of people everyone is being exposed to? What about teachers, especially teachers with health issues? What about other staff? I didn’t understand how that would all be safe. 

After the email on July 31st, I was relieved that I wouldn’t be going to school, but I worry for all of the members in our community who have to go to school. 

At first glance, I can understand why the “cohort” system assuages the fears of faculty members, teachers, students, parents, and other community members.  I must admit that initially, I fell into that category, as well. That said, upon closer inspection, I think this system is flawed. Per the website, the school will be “Dividing grades into established, consistent cohorts for contact tracing and mitigating spread of infection.” Although that phrasing contains a lot of comforting buzzwords, the plan falls apart when looking at the Parker community in general. Mainly, it is important to look at students’ complete schedules, not just their time at school. The main issues that I think will come up are siblings and what people do outside of school/who they come into contact with. For example, if there is a family of three with one Upper School student who is playing a fall sport, and two Middle Schoolers going to school, and one of them gets sick, many community members are at risk of falling ill. That doesn’t even take into account immunocompromised people and higher-risk family members. 

One of the aspects of COVID-19  that has made it so hard to contain is that there is an incubation period where you’re highly contagious yet not showing symptoms. If one asymptomatic student goes to school and takes their mask off for a split second, they’re exposing their whole class, and their teachers. If any of their classmates get sick, they’re endangering their families, and their siblings. If one of their siblings gets it, is asymptomatic, and goes to school, they’re endangering their whole pod, and the cycle continues. Going back to school will put many families at risk.  I must note that there is an option to be remote if your grade is going back to in person learning, but how many kids are doing it? 

It is also important to look at the issue outside of the Parker bubble. According to “The New York Times” on August 1, 19 out of the 25 largest school districts in the United States are starting online. One of those districts is the Chicago Public School district. If CPS, the public schools in the city, aren’t opening, why is Parker? 

According to “The Wall Street Journal,” school districts that opened in Louisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Georgia have all had to close schools after outbreaks. What makes us so sure that this won’t happen at Parker?

Should JK-12 all be online?

  • No, everyone should go back (60%, 3 Votes)
  • Yes (20%, 1 Votes)
  • No, only high school (20%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 5

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Lastly, we need to focus on the teachers and other faculty. What do they want? They’re risking their lives to come to school, and under the current plan they have to rotate classes, exposing themselves to many students. Do they feel safe at Parker?