An Under-Reported Covid Education Success Story -or-
What the working title was going to be: "How the Sausages Got Made."
Back in March of 2020, it was the Revenge of the Kidney Stones for yours truly. At the same time, the Covid-19 Pandemic was hitting America with its first wave. The school district that I work for quickly closed, just like every other district in Ohio.
At work, managers and administrators immediately began having meetings and tried to formulate a plan to open for the Summer of 2020. Yes, you read that right. The Summer of 2020. The district takes great pride in their Special Education programs.
During the planning meetings, I was in bed, in pain and surly. I would eventually have surgery to remove a stone blocking over 50% of my ureter. Right after my surgery, the Director of Operations asked "can you do your job from your home?" Because my primary job is in the Transportation Department as the district's router, I answered that I could do routing from home, "preferably from bed."
After a month of slow-paced routing, guessing what to do for Fall of 2020, I had to have answers. The district had no walk zones, would there be walk zones? What would be the capacity for busses? Would there be layovers for bus cleaning? Would there be the same amount of busses as 2019? Would there be layoffs? Or would there be more drivers?
Now all of the logistics is boring routing stuff. But imagine teachers asking logistical questions of their classrooms. Imagine janitors asking about amplified cleaning schedules. What of issues such as social distancing and student rotations?
By August of 2020, the district that I work in decided K through 8 would go 5 days a week in person. High School would go 2.5 days in person and 2.5 days virtual. The district that I live in decided K through 8 would go 2 days a week in person and 2 days a week virtual. The High School would go 1 day a week in person and 3 days virtual. In both districts, parents were given the decision to send their students in-person or virtual only. On the fly, both districts were given a la cart education options.
About half an hour to the east of the district I work in, the Cleveland City Schools said that it was impossible to open the schools. They would stay closed until Spring Break 2021, almost a full school year after our district had limited Special Education classes in the Summer of 2020.
Every time the subject of the schools closing in the district that I work in, the same reply came from the Board Office, "the parents want the schools open." I'm pretty sure those Cleveland Parents wanted the schools open, too. My wife at one point said "I'm ready to drop our kids off on school property whether they open the schools or not."
In September of 2020, the district I work in, the district my kids go to school in, the district immediately to the west of my district and the district immediately east of my district were all on different schedules. When I asked about other school districts, my immediate boss kept chirping at me, "you don't work for other districts."
By December of 2020, Covid had done a number on the district I work in and we were forced to go online for 2 weeks. Between quarantines and Covid cases, there wasn't enough staff to keep the schools open. I ended up driving a bus because we ran out of drivers (don't worry, I have my CDL.) At different times during the winter, we ran out of teachers, support staff, bus drivers, and janitors,
At the end of the first semester, January 2020, the busses had run 5 days a week throughout the entire school year except for the 2 week period the staff was overrun. The Board Office at the district I work in then offered the opportunity for students who were virtual to return to in person learning or to keep their current education choices. Hundreds of parents changed their students' options, including transportation options.
Then, in April of 2020, the Board Office at the district I work in again offered the opportunity for students who were virtual to return to in person learning or to keep their current education choices. Dozens of parents changed their students' options.
I was, and am currently, grateful to have a job. Every time my commitment was questioned, I had the same answer "as long as you keep paying me, we can make this work."
But I wasn't actually in a school. I was in a small administrative building across the parking lot from a school. People in my building who got drafted into actually working in the schools told me that morale in the schools was bad. Really bad. From the Superintendent on down, the philosophy was "how do we keep the schools open?" Our district Apollo 13'ed the crap out of the 2020 school year. If a successful school year was judged by keeping our doors open and providing a service, 2020 was a rousing success.
Was there a cost for keeping the doors open? In the last 2 weeks, it's been announced that for Fall we will have:
A new Superintendent.
A new Assistant Superintendent.
4 of the 5 School Buildings will have new Principals.
6 of the 8 Assistant Principals will be new.
Multiple new Directors in support staff departments.
I haven't even touched upon all the teachers and support staff not coming back who are making their decisions over the summer. If we turned over almost every administrative position, how do think things are going to go for the Fall for the rest of the staff?
This is a direct quote from a member of the support staff in our district. "Our district stayed open because these are OUR kids. Even if they're not really, we consider these kids as such. The Cleveland Schools were closed because they think of their students as THEIR kids. It's really that simple."