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Ideas for Handling Covid at School

Letter sent to School Board, Director of Schools, and HR Director on September 7th, 2021 at 10:30pm.

Hello Board Members, Director Spurlock, and Dr. Anthony,

Just following up on my suggestion of a meeting to discuss some out of the box ideas for Covid policies. I believe the folks from the pro-universal mask side shot an email as well while at the meeting. I’d love to grab a couple people from the pro-parent choice side, and also some teachers and other administrators to work on some solutions to which all sides can agree.

I am not saying this is easy, but a collaborative approach to the process could calm everything down and result in the long term stability we all need. I sincerely believe that RCS can create the model of innovation for learning through Covid for the whole state to follow, and you all would be the heroes who solved the unsolvable problem. It’s worth a shot!

I can make myself and a few from my group available ASAP this week or anytime really.

Why am I suggesting this? 

I am looking for a way to move the conversation away from a position where one side gets what they want and the other gets nothing. Right now, my folks are a hard “no” on universal masks. And, the other side is a hard “no” on parent choice. So this insane cycle of escalation, ranting, screaming, reaction, etc is going to continue if we don’t change the conversation. And if the conversation doesn’t change–we are going to get the same result we had last year. And I don’t think any parent or anyone at RCS wants that result, which was severe limitations to learning and terrible outcomes.

This fascinating discussion between my side and the other side started as a result of a Facebook post with the ideas below. This sparked an idea that could result in our side (no masks/no contact tracing) getting exactly what we want, while the other side (universal masking/extreme precautions) get everything they want. It’s a 100% win-win scenario, where both sides give up their fights, while getting everything they both want.

BTW, to Tiffany Johnson’s rightfully cautious point [in Sept 7th Board meeting] about avoiding “segregation,” I agree completely. Caution is needed. In the “bubble” concept I described below, no one is required to participate in the proposed “bubble” school. It’s 100% opt-in only, and it would not be “segregated” by any criteria such as socio-economics, race, ethnicity, religion, academic performance, etc. The only criteria of the opt-in only “bubble” is parents want their kids to be in the bubble and agree to the rules. Thats all. I also think the parents who want a bubble school should be the ones to provide feedback on the rules. It can be 100% up to them, so they can buy in to it. I would point out that multiple high schools have opt-in collegiate academies right now, which operate in a similar fashion. The idea is voluntary participation–not forcing anything on anyone.

Obviously all of this would be subject to changes to make it all work within state law. Of very specific note, should extra funds be required for any part of this, it’s all under Covid specific work, so existing Covid funding would be a likely path. Just brainstorming here:

RCS could have 3 types of school options:
1. Virtual school: currently available- Expansion (or just filling existing openings) could focus on recruitment of highest Covid risk students and teachers- In talking with pro-mask folks, many say they are wait-listed for this and don’t know how to move forward.- A simple outreach program from within these groups could be enough to jump start the process for more people.
2. Traditional school experience
– Limited and defined Covid precautions
– Mostly traditional school as usual
– Parents must opt in
3. Learning “Bubbles” for students whose parents want their kids at in-person school with maximum precautions. This concept is being tried in a few schools around the country as administrators are genuinely thinking outside the box for ways to make sure all families have a choice in how Covid is handled at school. A “bubble” would have the following:
– Separate buildings or classrooms
– Parents sign students up to join, so volunteer only. No one is required.
– Staggered start times or different entrances if at same building. Non-issue if a new building.
– Maximum Covid precautions: no busses, full time masking, social distancing, opt-in contact tracing and self-quarantining with definitive and trackable methodology, and a commitment to self-isolation, refraining from community interactions and activities (restaurants, church, concerts, activities, sleepovers, sports, group play, etc.)
– I am just providing a starting point on ideas. I defer completely to the parents who would want this for the actual parameters. I’d trust them to find the sweet spot for what their folks want.

A district-wide reshuffle would unquestionably take time, but for the remainder of this school year and next, Covid would be a non-factor and parents from both point of views would get what they want.

I am not saying this easy, and I acknowledge this is quite radical, but right now we are living in the worst possible scenario with instruction at a stand still and huge numbers of students receiving limited or no education due to school closures, staffing shortages, or sub-par at home learning. I think we need radical.

It’s not too late to salvage this year. We just need to think BIG!

Look forward to hearing from you.

Chris Littleton
Rutherford Students First