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a superintendent on trying to reopen his schools safely[

August 03, 2020 08:24PM
Quote

I’m sorry, but it’s a fantasy’
Jeff Gregorich, superintendent, on trying to reopen his schools safely


Jeff Gregorich, superintendent of schools at Hayden Winkelman Unified School District in Arizona

[www.washingtonpost.com]

This is my choice, but I’m starting to wish that it wasn’t. I don’t feel qualified. I’ve been a superintendent for 20 years, so I guess I should be used to making decisions, but I keep getting lost in my head. I’ll be in my office looking at a blank computer screen, and then all of the sudden I realize a whole hour’s gone by. I’m worried. I’m worried about everything. Each possibility I come up with is a bad one.

The governor has told us we have to open our schools to students on August 17th, or else we miss out on five percent of our funding. I run a high-needs district in middle-of-nowhere Arizona. We’re 90 percent Hispanic and more than 90 percent free-and-reduced lunch. These kids need every dollar we can get. But covid is spreading all over this area and hitting my staff, and now it feels like there’s a gun to my head. I already lost one teacher to this virus. Do I risk opening back up even if it’s going to cost us more lives? Or do we run school remotely and end up depriving these kids?

This is your classic one-horse town. Picture John Wayne riding through cactuses and all that. I’m superintendent, high school principal and sometimes the basketball referee during recess. This is a skeleton staff, and we pay an average salary of about 40,000 a year. I’ve got nothing to cut. We’re buying new programs for virtual learning and trying to get hotspots and iPads for all our kids. Five percent of our budget is hundreds of thousands of dollars. Where’s that going to come from? I might lose teaching positions or basic curriculum unless we somehow get up and running.

I’ve been in the building every day, sanitizing doors and measuring out space in classrooms. We still haven’t received our order of Plexiglas barriers, so we’re cutting up shower curtains and trying to make do with that. It’s one obstacle after the next. Just last week I found out we had another staff member who tested positive, so I went through the guidance from OSHA and the CDC and tried to figure out the protocols. I’m not an expert at any of this, but I did my best with the contact tracing. I called 10 people on staff and told them they’d had a possible exposure. I arranged separate cars and got us all to the testing site. Some of my staff members were crying. They’ve seen what can happen, and they’re coming to me with questions I can’t always answer. “Does my whole family need to get tested?” “How long do I have to quarantine?” “What if this virus hits me like it did Mrs. Byrd?”

We got back two of those tests already — both positive. We’re still waiting on eight more. That makes 11 percent of my staff that’s gotten covid, and we haven’t had a single student in our buildings since March. Part of our facility is closed down for decontamination, but we don’t have anyone left to decontaminate it unless I want to put on my hazmat suit and go in there. We’ve seen the impacts of this virus on our maintenance department, on transportation, on food service, on faculty. It’s like this district is shutting down case by case. I don’t understand how anyone could expect us to reopen the building this month in a way that feels safe. It’s like they’re telling us: “Okay. Summer’s over. It’s been long enough. Time to get back to normal.” But since when has this virus operated on our schedule?

I dream about going back to normal. I’d love to be open. These kids are hurting right now. I don’t need a politician to tell me that. We only have 300 students in this district, and they’re like family. My wife is a teacher here, and we had four kids go through these schools. I know whose parents are laid off from the copper mine and who doesn’t have enough to eat. We delivered breakfast and lunches this summer, and we gave out more meals each day than we have students. I get phone calls from families dealing with poverty issues, depression, loneliness, boredom. Some of these kids are out in the wilderness right now, and school is the best place for them. We all agree on that. But every time I start to play out what that looks like on August 17th, I get sick to my stomach. More than a quarter of our students live with grandparents. These kids could very easily catch this virus, spread it and bring it back home. It’s not safe. There’s no way it can be safe.

If you think anything else, I’m sorry, but it’s a fantasy. Kids will get sick, or worse. Family members will die. Teachers will die.

Mrs. Byrd did everything right. She followed all the protocols. If there’s such a thing as a safe, controlled environment inside a classroom during a pandemic, that was it. We had three teachers sharing a room so they could teach a virtual summer school. They were so careful. This was back in June, when cases here were starting to spike. The kids were at home, but the teachers wanted to be together in the classroom so they could team up on the new technology. I thought that was a good idea. It’s a big room. They could watch and learn from each other. Mrs. Byrd was a master teacher. She’d been here since 1982, and she was always coming up with creative ideas. They delivered care packages to the elementary students so they could sprout beans for something hands-on at home, and then the teachers all took turns in front of the camera. All three of them wore masks. They checked their temperatures. They taught on their own devices and didn’t share anything, not even a pencil.

At first she thought it was a sinus infection. That’s what the doctor told her, but it kept getting worse. I got a call that she’d been rushed to the hospital. Her oxygen was low, and they put her on a ventilator pretty much right away. The other two teachers started feeling sick the same weekend, so they went to get tested. They both had it bad for the next month. Mrs. Byrd’s husband got it and was hospitalized. Her brother got it and passed away. Mrs. Byrd fought for a few weeks until she couldn’t anymore.

I’ve gone over it in my head a thousand times. What precautions did we miss? What more could I have done? I don’t have an answer. These were three responsible adults in an otherwise empty classroom, and they worked hard to protect each other. We still couldn’t control it. That’s what scares me.

We got the whole staff together for grief counseling. We did it virtually, over Zoom. There’s sadness, and it’s also so much fear. My wife is one of our teachers in the primary grade, and she has asthma. She was explaining to me how every kid who sees her automatically gives her a hug. They arrive in the morning — hug. Leave for recess — hug. Lunch — hug. Locker — hug. That’s all day. Even if we do everything perfectly, germs are going to spread inside a school. We share the same space. We share the same air.

A bunch of our teachers have told me they will put in for retirement if we open up this month. They’re saying: “Please don’t make us go back. This is crazy. We’re putting the whole community at risk.”

They’re right. I agree with them 100 percent. Teachers don’t feel safe. Most parents said in a survey that they’re “very concerned” about sending their kids back to school. So why are we getting bullied into opening? This district isn’t ready to open. I can’t have more people getting sick. Why are they threatening our funding? I keep waiting for someone higher up to take this decision out of my hands and come to their senses. I’m waiting for real leadership, but maybe it’s not going to happen.

It’s me. It’s the biggest decision of my career, and the one part I’m certain about is it’s going to hurt either way.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/03/2020 08:26PM by zn.
SubjectAuthorViewsPosted

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PHDram63July 11, 2020 07:54AM

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zn50July 11, 2020 08:31AM

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PHDram49July 11, 2020 08:48AM

  Re: yup

zn51July 11, 2020 10:29AM

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  "Though there is no data on long-term effects"

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  Re: yet

PHDram42July 12, 2020 06:03AM

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  Re: where we are in terms of discovering its long-term impacts

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  Re: 2 where we are in terms of discovering its long-term impacts

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  Re: Interesting Article About Mask Wearing

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  Re: A New Understanding of Herd Immunity

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  Re: A New Understanding of Herd Immunity

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  Re: wishful thinking?

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  Re: wishful thinking?

zn53July 15, 2020 08:51PM

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  Re: 21-year old thought he had mild case of CPVID-19 then went into organ failure

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  Re: out today and less than half people wearing mask

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  Re: out today and less than half people wearing mask

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  Re: it;s not just deaths

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  Re: it;s not just deaths

zn35August 03, 2020 05:32AM

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PHDram27August 03, 2020 05:56AM

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zn37August 03, 2020 06:42AM

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PHDram38August 03, 2020 07:37AM

  a superintendent on trying to reopen his schools safely[

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Rampage2K-51August 04, 2020 10:41AM

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zn32August 04, 2020 11:55AM

  Re: deja vu all over again: The Mask Slackers of 1918

AlbaNY_Ram34August 04, 2020 01:29PM

  Re: deja vu all over again: The Mask Slackers of 1918

Rampage2K-38August 04, 2020 02:31PM

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ramBRO34August 09, 2020 07:52AM

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PHDram42August 12, 2020 03:40AM

  Re: Population immunity is slowing down the pandemic

zn43August 13, 2020 05:14PM

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zn29August 14, 2020 05:42AM

  I agree with the guy you quoted

Atlantic Ram34August 14, 2020 02:35PM

  Re: I agree with the guy you quoted

zn31August 14, 2020 03:10PM

  There's not 1 metric for success

PHDram31August 16, 2020 05:49PM

  yeah we know

zn25August 16, 2020 07:09PM

  Re: yeah we know

zn28August 16, 2020 07:31PM

  What do you think of this idea...

Atlantic Ram35August 16, 2020 08:27PM

  Re: What do you think of this idea...

zn28August 17, 2020 04:29AM

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PHDram19August 17, 2020 04:30AM

  What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

PHDram34August 17, 2020 03:17PM

  Re: What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

ramBRO35August 17, 2020 05:11PM

  Re: What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

PHDram20August 17, 2020 06:53PM

  Re: What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

ramBRO35August 17, 2020 08:17PM

  Re: What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

PHDram23August 18, 2020 06:23AM

  I disagree

zn23August 18, 2020 06:47AM

  not sure what your disagreeing with

PHDram13August 18, 2020 07:58AM

  Re: What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

waterfield23August 18, 2020 07:55AM

  Re: What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

PHDram19August 18, 2020 08:32AM

  Re: What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

waterfield16August 18, 2020 08:26PM

  One-size Covid policy doesn’t not fit all. (Article)

Rams4316August 18, 2020 08:25AM

  Re: One-size Covid policy doesn’t not fit all. (Article)

ramBRO21August 18, 2020 05:08PM

  Re: One-size Covid policy doesn’t not fit all. (Article)

AlbaNY_Ram19August 18, 2020 05:30PM

  Re: One-size Covid policy doesn’t not fit all. (Article)

ramBRO20August 18, 2020 06:54PM

  Just saw my internist

waterfield33August 18, 2020 03:12PM

  Re: Just saw my internist

MamaRAMa29August 18, 2020 03:25PM

  Re: Just saw my internist

waterfield23August 18, 2020 07:40PM

  Re: Just saw my internist

zn17August 18, 2020 08:24PM

  It's time to come to grips with what this means...

JamesJM25August 18, 2020 08:37PM

  Re: It's time to come to grips with what this means...

zn30August 18, 2020 09:01PM

  What I find is that...

JamesJM18August 18, 2020 09:30PM

  Re: What I find is that...

zn27August 18, 2020 10:09PM

  In all sincerity, ZN...

JamesJM21August 18, 2020 10:35PM

  Re: In all sincerity, ZN...

zn22August 18, 2020 10:44PM

  Why me? (nm)

JamesJM12August 18, 2020 10:54PM

  Re: Why me? (nm)

zn18August 18, 2020 11:18PM

  That was answered.. in unequivocal terms..

JamesJM24August 18, 2020 11:24PM

  Re: That was answered.. in unequivocal terms..

zn28August 18, 2020 11:50PM

  Re: It's time to come to grips with what this means...

ramBRO43August 19, 2020 04:53AM

  theories?

PHDram24August 19, 2020 05:20AM

  Re: theories?

ramBRO24August 19, 2020 06:26AM

  Re: theories?

AlbaNY_Ram20August 19, 2020 06:49AM

  Re: theories?

ramBRO24August 19, 2020 07:12AM

  Re: theories?

AlbaNY_Ram26August 19, 2020 02:32PM

  Re: theories?

PHDram20August 19, 2020 04:35PM

  cost benefit

PHDram25August 19, 2020 10:57AM

  Re: cost benefit

AlbaNY_Ram24August 19, 2020 02:15PM

  Re: cost benefit

PHDram33August 19, 2020 05:01PM

  Re: cost benefit

waterfield22August 19, 2020 09:57PM

  i disagree

PHDram24August 20, 2020 05:10AM

  Re: i disagree

waterfield22August 20, 2020 09:37AM

  Re: i disagree

zn16August 20, 2020 09:59AM

  no it doesnt sound familiar.

PHDram21August 20, 2020 11:55AM

  Re: no it doesnt sound familiar.

waterfield21August 20, 2020 01:40PM

  Re: no it doesnt sound familiar.

PHDram18August 20, 2020 04:52PM

  Re: no it doesnt sound familiar.

waterfield18August 20, 2020 07:48PM

  Re: no it doesnt sound familiar.

zn22August 20, 2020 08:38PM

  Re: no it doesnt sound familiar.

PHDram16August 21, 2020 11:35AM

  Re: no it doesnt sound familiar.

waterfield22August 21, 2020 12:04PM

  Isn't that what I said above?

PHDram13August 22, 2020 03:26PM

  gotcha

PHDram18August 19, 2020 10:49AM

  Re: Just saw my internist

ramBRO42August 18, 2020 03:38PM

  He was scary

RamUK23August 20, 2020 08:03AM

  Doctors worldwide are recording more deaths due to lockdowns than to Covid...

Rams4333August 20, 2020 09:36AM

  I can’t believe this is a real article

Atlantic Ram21August 23, 2020 05:19AM

  A thank you to those who have posted in this thread

AlbaNY_Ram28August 21, 2020 06:26AM

  Absolutely what AlbaNY said ^^^^

RAMbler17August 21, 2020 11:38AM