Photo credit: Maddy Leja
Head to Head: Parker’s Plan for School
September 7, 2020
On left, Alex Carlin on why Parker should stay completely online, and on right, Emma Manley on why Parker should begin to reopen. Vote at the bottom! Comics by Maddy Leja.
Head to Head: Parker’s Plan for School – Completely Online
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?
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?
Alex Carlin is a junior in her third year on the staff of "The Weekly." Currently, she is serving as a Videographer and a Staff Writer. Outside of "The...
Head to Head: Parker’s Plan for School – Start Reopening
I want to preface this by saying that I don’t want anyone to get sick. I want everyone to stay safe and I wish this wasn’t happening. I don’t agree with the people who say that COVID-19 is a hoax or less dangerous than the flu. I wish that we could all do remote learning, the safest option. But I don’t think that’s practical. I do think Parker’s current plan is.
I think that the current Parker plan is the one that will help us return to school safely and efficiently, as long as we all work together. With only JK-8 students returning, on-campus learning can resume for the students who need it most.
The plan involves JK-8 slowly returning to school during the first week. The approach for reopening is to have students in small cohorts with their teachers. All JK-8 students will receive iPads.
Before school each day, students will fill out a form to ensure they do not have any symptoms and have not traveled to a hotspot for the coronavirus. After arriving at school, students will be screened and receive a temperature check.
Once inside, there will be one-way hallways to promote physical distancing. Bathrooms have been changed to follow physical distancing, and the heating and air conditioning systems have been upgraded.
High schoolers will remain at home and attend online classes, but there will be space on campus for students to use if they do not have reliable wifi.
While having to wear a mask for eight hours a day and having to be six feet apart from friends doesn’t sound fun, it’s what needs to be done. Having students at school with a mask requirement and social distancing is more effective than lower school students visiting playgrounds or seeing their friends outside of school, anyway.
This plan has options for everyone. Requiring all students to learn from home isn’t equitable. It doesn’t account for parents who can’t find childcare or students who don’t have reliable wifi at home. Students who may be immunocompromised can stay home.
Childcare is a big reason why younger students should be able to return to school. With more parents returning to work, younger students could be left at home. Without childcare, students are alone. This is less of an issue for older students who may frequently be left home alone, but it poses major problems for students as young as four. If we’re all at home, older siblings could bear the burden of taking care of their younger siblings on top of school work and other responsibilities.
Since remote learning started, on average, students have fallen months behind from where they would normally be academically. Continuing online learning can’t yet fix that, and neither can most parents. According to a working paper from Brown University, students have lost up to a third of progress in reading and half in math. With Parker’s current plan, there’s a greater chance for one-on-one sessions with teachers that will help students catch up.
I do think that high school students should remain at home. This gives younger students the chance to be able to return to school and continue progressing in their learning, while a safe plan is made for high school students.
It would be too dangerous to have more than a thousand students and staff return at once at this point of the pandemic. But we also cannot wait to send younger students to campus until it is safe for everyone to return. We can’t wait until a vaccine is created to send everyone back at once. We need students to return gradually, so that the education of younger students is not negatively impacted more than they already have been.
Waiting until everything is completely safe could mean online learning until the spring. For a lower school student, this could mean falling far behind in the curriculum, especially if their parents are not able to support the child academically. Conversely, an older student has more resources and background knowledge in the subjects they are taking, which means they can self assess and learn more material on their own.
Chicago Public Schools have moved to full remote learning this fall. While I think this is a good choice for CPS, it’s not the right approach for Parker. Parker has the resources and funding — especially because the tuition is not decreasing — to return safely and effectively.
There have been many outbreaks in schools and camps around the country, but Parker doesn’t have to be one of them. Most of the students or campers who were infected weren’t physically distancing or wearing masks. A photo went viral in early August of a Georgia school hallway where most students weren’t wearing masks, and they were all in a crowded hallway. Now, if that were Parker’s plan, I wouldn’t support this reopening. But Parker’s plan involves physical distancing and mask wearing and frequent sanitization.
A study from Lurie Children’s Hospital has shown that children below the age of five can transmit the coronavirus up to twice as much as older children and adults can. Other studies show that older children and teens can spread the virus as much as adults. Regardless, the cohort-based plan means that younger students are only seeing the same small group of people everyday, and can only transmit the virus to them.
Despite social distancing guidelines, many teens have been hanging out with friends in large groups, going out to restaurants, and going to beaches and parks. If high schoolers were to return, this behavior could put the rest of the Parker community at risk. Due to the pandemic, there has been a rise in loneliness and depression in teens. I think that Parker’s plan addresses this by allowing high schoolers to attend some sports practices, clubs, and science classes on campus, rather than cancelling all on-campus activities for this school year.
As on campus learning for high school returns, I think that a cohort model should be followed as well. Cohorts could be based on science classes, which usually require more hands-on learning. Students could attend most classes online while being on campus, while taking a select number of classes in person. As a high schooler, I want to return as soon as it’s safe. And that can happen sooner if we can all make this plan work.
Parker prides itself on its sense of community, and that’s what we all need to keep in mind as we reopen. If we all put the Parker community before ourselves, we can do this safely and effectively. This means moving other commitments online or making sure that younger students aren’t going to public playgrounds often. This means frequent sanitization at home and at school, to make sure that we don’t start another outbreak.
This plan can work. We just need to work together.
Emma Manley is a senior in her fourth year on The Weekly. She is thrilled to be Editor-In-Chief this year! Previously, Emma had served as News Editor,...