Report from Louisiana: I’m armed with a spray bottle and a rag.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Admittedly, I am more than a little obsessed with reading about coronavirus and learning everything I can about mitigating the spread in my classroom as I prepare to return to in-person classes soon. The medical and research community is learning so much about the virus, how it spreads, and how we treat it every single day. What we thought we knew in May or June is already out of date.

I’ve been increasingly alarmed about returning to the classroom as regular readers of my posts know. My classroom usually holds 27 kids, it has no ventilation, and the windows don’t open. There is one door. It is a small room, as classrooms go, and so 25 kids in there is a wall to wall, but we always push those limits. I am told this year, as long as Louisiana is in Phase 2, there will be no more than ten students in the room at a time.

Every teacher will be supplied with one spray bottle of HALT, a hospital grade cleaner and disinfectant, and one microfiber rag. We are to use this rag to clean desks between classes, for the entire week, then the rag will be washed.

Every teacher will be provided with a cloth mask, and disposable masks will be available to students who do not have a mask. Masks will be mandatory for all, but “flexibility is expected,” assumingly for students with asthma and other medical conditions.

And pretty much, that’s it.  Good luck.

I’m honestly not sure how long we will be in school; as schools across the country are beginning to open up it does not seem to be going well. In Indiana, there was an issue on Day One at Greenfield Central when an infected student came to school. Also in Indiana, Elwood Senior High School is closing for one week because a staff member was positive for Covid.

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said on Sunday that “areas with high caseloads and active community spread should ‘distance learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control.’” In Louisiana, our community spread rate has been in the upper 90% consistently.

So, I’m kind of resigned at this point; I’ll go back into my classroom which will in no way resemble the normal classroom that everyone wants to return to. It will be distance learning in person. I won’t be able to consult one on one with kids who need help because I can’t get that close to them.  I won’t be able to walk through the room to monitor work or behavior. There can be no fun group projects or activities.

And then someone will get sick; I hope it’s not the teacher on the third floor who has been doing chemo. I hope it’s not the teacher who gets pneumonia every year and struggles with respiratory issues. I hope it’s not the teacher with an auto-immune disease on my floor. I hope it’s not any of the students. I hope it’s not me. I hope none of us bring it home to at-risk family members.

And you know, there are these people who say that teachers are griping and worrying for nothing, that we are lazy and just don’t want to go to work. They point out that retail workers and grocery workers, hospital workers and law enforcement, have been working all along. This is true. They have. And thank goodness for that.

But which of them works in a small, unventilated room enclosed with 10 to 25 people, for six hours a day, for 60 to 90 minutes at a time? Not to take away from what other groups are doing at all, but what we are about to ask of teachers is unprecedented.

So. Armed with my spray bottle, my mask, and my microfiber rag, I’m expected to do what Major League Baseball can’t even do: protect my charges from a pandemic. With all of their money, and all of their resources, MLB can’t protect their million dollar investments.

But me and my spray bottle will try.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Back to School, Part II

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Over the past few weeks I have read everything I can get my hands on about reopening schools, about Covid-19, about teacher anxiety, about parent anxiety, about the disparity of internet access across rural America, and all of the other problems that are coming with the new school year.

Copious amounts of reading and research, and I still don’t have any answers.

This much I know:

Most teachers are freaking out about having to return to in-person classes in a few weeks. Some teachers are just ready to get back to the classroom, Coronavirus be damned.

School systems don’t have any real idea how to do this. There’s no blueprint. Some places have the virus more under control than others, and that has to play into whatever the plans for your district are.

Poor kids and rural kids don’t have the same internet access that suburban middle class or wealth kids do. This makes virtual schooling a challenge.

We need schools open for childcare so parents can work. No, wait, schools are for learning! And sources of food, and socialization! No! Wait!  What are we doing?

So. Much. Confusion.

And so many variances in our plans. In my school district, we are currently scheduled to go with an A/B-day hybrid model with kids coming on alternating Fridays. Parents uncomfortable with this can also opt for a virtual only option. Teachers will have kids in the room every single day.  Students will get on the bus, with or without a mask, sit two to a seat, get breakfast in the cafeteria, take it to their classroom and eat. THEN we will take temperatures.

How many people will have been exposed at that point if a student is carrying the virus?

Teachers are worried about supplies: are there enough thermometers? Do they work? Are there enough supplies for cleaning the classroom all day long? (We have to sanitize between every group that comes in).  What happens when there is an exposure, or an outbreak? New CDC guidelines say you don’t really have to quarantine for 14 days. In fact, you could be back at school before your positive test even comes back. Do we trust the CDC guidelines, now?

Everything has become so political.

So, look. At this point, after all this reading, after all of this ever changing research, I’m going to do what I should have resolved to do in the very beginning and save myself a lot of time. I’m going to protect myself. I’m going to wear my mask, keep my area wiped down, stay six feet away from everyone, all of the time, and take any other measures I deem necessary to protect myself.

I have that right.

There is absolutely nothing I can do about my district’s plans; they never asked for my input, after all. So all I can do is take care of myself. I’ll take care of my students the best I can, but if I don’t have the supplies, I will be limited in what I can do. I hope we have them.

At this point, all we can do is try to survive. I can’t read any more about best practices (we don’t have any), or try to keep up with changing sanitation measures.

I think we will probably be in session long enough to get Chromebooks out, kids accustomed to virtual platforms, classes set up, and then back home for 100% virtual schooling. I give it two weeks.

God knows, I hope I am wrong.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

DaTechGuy off DaRadio Livestream No Frills Podcast a JK Rowling Good Time SPECIAL TIME 10 AM EST

Today we move up DaTechGuy off DaRadio livestream No Frills podcast to 10 AM EST rather than 3 PM accommodate some time with DaWife (if people like it we’ll keep it here) our topic(s) for DaWeek are…

  1. JK Rowling and Me or why she isn’t vulnerable to being cancelled
  2. Closed schools, a blessing in disguise
  3. History as it is or why I’m confident of a Trump victory in Election 2020

And if we have time we might talk about a few more things

It all begins at 10 AM EST hosted by me. You can watch the livestream here

The whole point of the podcast is to increase traffic and revenue. If you like what you see share it on Palver, and facebook and all those other platforms I’m not on, consider subscribing to my youtube channel so I can get big enough for them to moniterize the channel so the left can complain and then censor me. …

…or you can just hit DaTipJar and cut out the middle man.

NOW is the Time to Overhaul our Schools

There is a lot of talk about if and when schools reopen but there is a factor that is not being considered.

We have reached the logical conclusion from the removal of prayer in school. Three generations later we have a highly medicated student body that intimidates their teachers, requires police to keep them in line and is taught that America is the source of all the evil in the world despite all the evidence being to the contrary.

And I haven’t even touched on professional teachers claiming that saying 2+2=4 is a sign of white supremacy and colonialism.

Why on earth would you want to send your children back to that kind of mess? I wouldn’t.

But as the schools are closed and their reopening is iffy, we have an opportunity. NOW is the time to examine the curriculum that exist and compel a change.

Toss Howard Zinn into the dustbin of history that his ahistorical history belongs in and bring back actual history, actual science, actual math, actual reading focusing on developing and informing. Teach the basics you actually need. Get rid of excess administration and keep the focus on education rather than indoctrination.

If that isn’t possible push a voucher system and remove public schooling all together. Allow a free market loose on primary and secondary education and watch schools fight to provide the quality to attract those voucher dollars. Watch black education rates and grades soar, watch the trades come back. Watch the need for school police drop and yes, if a market exists for liberal indoctrination for kids even that will be available for the few parents who want it.

There will likely not be a better chance in my lifetime to get this done. Let’s do it!

Report from Louisiana: Education Disparity during Covid Closure

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – One of the issues this pandemic has exposed has been the complete and utter lack of preparedness by education systems for such an event. Granted, nobody could have expected a nationwide shutdown of the economy and stay-at-home orders for weeks on end. But, in Louisiana at least, this is not completely without precedent. When Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, we dealt with extended school closures in specific areas of the state. The difference, of course, as far as education goes at least, is that those displaced students had other school systems still in operation where they could transfer. That is not the case now.

What has emerged is a patchwork of fixes and plans between school systems. Each district is working in different ways to educate their students and there is little uniformity between systems much less within each individual district.

The result is that some students are receiving an education and others are not. The Advocate reports on survey results by the state Department of Education:

Educators said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a national digital divide that is especially jarring in a state like Louisiana, where about two-thirds of students — nearly 500,000 youngsters — live in low-income households.

When the shutdown order came, the school in which I teach, for example, was winding up Spring Break. We walked out of our classrooms that previous Friday fully expecting to return in ten days. My classroom right now is exactly as I left it on March 6.

School districts across the nation scrambled to enact a plan. Nobody knew how long we would be closed. Students did not leave the campus with textbooks, work packets, or technology.

In a Title I school, like mine, the problems are compounded by the fact that many of our students do not have home computers or Wi-Fi.  But, in another school across town, kids have Wi-Fi, strong parental support, and personal computers.  

What were districts to do? How can you level this field over night?

We did the best we could, I guess. We set up dates where students could come to the school and sign out Chromebooks if they needed technology, but that doesn’t solve the Wi-Fi problem. Some students were given copied work packets. We enacted a “do no harm” policy where students can be graded on the work they turn in, but can’t be given a zero for work they don’t do, and overall a student’s grade can not go down from what it was on March 6.

Is this ideal?  Nope. But what’s the answer?

And how do you prepare for something like this?

Some school districts across the country have set up mobile Wi-Fi hotspots in buses parked in the neighborhoods, but obviously this has not been a uniform practice.

According to the survey:

Officials in the East Baton Rouge Parish school district told the state that 55% of their students lack access to a laptop; Central, 50%; Jefferson Parish, 40%; Livingston Parish, 38%; St. John the Baptist Parish, 65%; West Baton Rouge Parish, 65%; and St. Landry Parish, 60%.

At the other end of the spectrum for students lacking laptops is Ascension Parish, 1%; Lafayette Parish, 20%; Orleans Parish, 20%; St. Bernard Parish , 15%; St. Charles Parish, 5%; Plaquemines Parish, 10% and Zachary, 0%.

The shortage is even worse in rural areas, where five mostly north Louisiana school districts say 75% or more of their students lack access to a laptop or tablet at home.

Governor Edwards is planning to begin to reopen Louisiana for business at the end of the week and will announce his plans during a press conference later today. He has cautioned residents to temper their expectations and notes that this will be a very gradual process.

One of the things we certainly must address in the near future is to develop some kind of emergency plan that does not contribute to the already huge disparities in our education systems. While it’s impossible to prepare for what you don’t know, it is possible, now that we DO know, to create some kind of contingency plan for our students.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

COVID-19 and rethinking grade school

Let’s be honest, nobody’s kid is this excited over Kahn Academy!
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Like most people, my kids are now home from school. At first, I’m sure most kids celebrated, like mine did. Yesterday was a turning point for my youngest daughter though, because when she told me that she was going back to school in another week, I told her that wouldn’t happen.

My prediction is that we don’t go back to anything normal until at least April. While I don’t believe the gloom and doom, 12-18 month recession, Fallout-style post-apocalypse robbing your neighbor for toilet paper worldview that seems to get pushed around, I also don’t think this will quickly resolve itself. We are going to hunker down for a lot longer than anyone imagined. This is not like a hurricane, where the storm passes and normalcy is restored in around 1-2 weeks. It’s going to take a while.

In the aftermath, it’s going to change grade school education. Right now my kid’s schools are struggling with how to fairly teach classes. I say “fairly” because there are still kids that don’t have internet at home, so simply saying “Move your class online” isn’t always going to work. Worse still is that we have lots of parents that just don’t care about their kids education and viewed school as the babysitting service so they could go to work. Normally teachers could cover up this problem, but COVID-19 is tearing that scab off.

There will be a bunch of kids that will benefit from learning at home. People will be surprised to find that in terms of hours of education per day, schools are fairly inefficient at teaching high-performing children. That’s a combination of large class size and the 90/10 rule of poor performing children, where you spend 90% of your time teaching the bottom 10% of your class. At home, in the right setup, a high performing kid can blow through lessons quickly when there is no bullying, food fights, and other distractions.

When these kids go back to school, schools will want to hold them back. We’ll hear about “social development” problems of skipping a grade. But that’s not really an issue. The problem is we view grade level and age as linked, even though we know that some people mature and learn faster than others. In the past, these kids were one-offs because there just wasn’t a lot of them. It’s going to become much more obvious when thousands of kids nation-wide test high enough to merit skipping a grade.

The reverse is true too. Plenty of kids won’t test high enough to merit passing their grade. In many cases it won’t be there fault. Many kids benefit from the structure, discipline and food that comes with school, and too many have parents who can’t or won’t provide a decent home to learn in. We cannot abandoned these kids. As a nation, we should be planning to hold summer schools to catch these kids up.

Perhaps COVID-19 can change how view grade school education in general. Instead of linking age to grade level, we focus more on testing and placing kids according to their performance, giving kids that are high performing more challenges early on. This means they graduate sooner and have more chances at a younger age for higher education. For kids that struggle, why are we not regularly providing summer school? We know the kids that aren’t doing well. Making them come to summer school, both to finish their current grade and to get a jump on the next grade, might be the ticket to better performance. It also gives us an excuse to pay teachers more and give them full-year compensation.

COVID-19 sucks, but it might be what we need to change our old views on grade school education.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Report from Louisiana: A sampler

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – A sampling of news items from Louisiana this week:

John White:  Louisiana’s long-time State Superintendent of Education, John White, has decided to move on to other endeavors. I wish I could say I was surprised, but alas, Mr. White has been working without a contract for the past four years.

White became Superintendent in 2012 and his tenure has never been without controversy. He immediately instituted sweeping reforms, came under criticism for his position that the fault that Louisiana ranks so poorly in education is the fault of the teacher, and the fact that there has always been discussion as to whether or not he ever taught in the classroom.

One of the most controversial aspects of White’s tenure has been his implementation of the Louisiana version of the Common Core curriculum. White and Governor John Bel Edwards have always had a contentious relationship although they have managed to grudgingly work together; one of the Governor’s initial campaign promises was to replace White, but he could never quite get the votes of the education board to do so.

Personally, the current curriculum situation is one reason why I’m retiring at the end of the 2021 school year, and I’m not sorry to see White move on, however, I have real concerns about who comes next. I believe it will be critical for Governor Edwards and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to listen to teacher voices and input as the next superintendent is selected.

Storms: Northwest Louisiana experienced an unusual violent weather system this past weekend as strong storms and tornadoes swept across east Texas, Louisiana, and on toward the east coast. Here, in our area, we had three fatalities and much property damage.

The storms rolled through just after midnight Friday, and into Saturday morning.

Benton Middle School lost part of their roof and classrooms were inundated with water.

We are counting our blessings that this did not happen during the school day.

National Championship:  New Orleans is rocking right now as Mardi Gras season is underway and LSU is in town to take on Clemson for the National Championship. LSU has had a beautiful, perfect season and quarterback Joe Burrow has been a joy to watch. Very exciting.

President Trump with be in attendance and will be watching the game in a suite with the Louisiana delegation. Security is amped up right now, obviously. Trump figures in to sever of the current prop bets, which you can see here, including whether or not he will wear a red tie. (I’m going with yes on that one).

I’m making gumbo for game day, of course.

Geaux Tigers!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Five Quick One Line Truths Media vs Trump, the London Stabbing, Pot, Education and this year’s Pats Under the Fedora

If the Democrats / Media had treated Donald Trump like both a regular candidate, and a regular president right from the start, they would not be in the pickle or the bubble they are in today.

Thinking of the rise of Islam in general and the London stabbing in particular, you have to go to the mid 30’s to find European governments in general and England in particular so wedded to the idea of appeasement in the face of a foe willing to supplement or destroy them.

The social costs of the normalization and/or legalization of Pot were as obvious as the social costs the normalization of porn which were, in my opinion, a feature rather than a bug to those who have pushed these results.

When I look at Universities taking big money from those who have made it their mission to bring down American society and destroy education I understand the old communist saying about capitalists selling them the ropes to hang them.

Finally, the most amazing thing about the New England Patriots record this season is that, thanks to Nick Folk emergency surgery, as of today they have field twice as many different kickers this season (4) as they have from 1996 till last year (2).