Sorry, I couldn’t help myself to the Hamilton quote title.
Most of the online discourse I have seen in education this week has revolved around the big question: “How do we return to school in the fall?”. Personally, I am moving away from my position in Washington so I’ll need to find something new in Arizona. There are many sides in this debate and a lot of questions that need to be discussed, but I want to share a list posted on Twitter by David Walrod.
What I want to look at is their Top 10 Teacher and Staff Questions about the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Return to School document. Understandably, many are worried about students returning to school, and I would like to redirect some of that attention to the staff that make sure that students can be in a school with adult supervision. FCPS is the 11th largest district in the U.S. as of 2016 data, but these questions are applicable to districts regardless of size (Digest of Education Statistics, 2018). The question I empathized with most was this one:
6. What protections will be in place for staff members who work with multiple classes per day or work in multiple schools including elementary specialists and resource teachers, middle and high school teachers, staff who are split across multiple schools, and itinerant related service providers? Elementary specialists regularly see over 500 students per week. Itinerant providers can work in 20 or more sites. How will these staff members be protected with this highly elevated risk compared with other staff?Top 10 Teacher and Staff Questions about the FCPS Return to School, 2020
The past three years I spent as an itinerant and a music specialist. In my district, music itinerants taught classes in at least two schools per week. My second year my schedule looked something like this:
I saw 15 classes twice a week (with the exception of Class P, the primary music teacher at that building taught them the second time each week…that might be a future topic). Each class had a minimum of 24 students, around 360 students total across three buildings. If we went back to school now this model would be impossible for several reasons:
- I could not safely have 24 students in a classroom having students six feet apart for proper social distancing (CDC, 2020).
- The amount of exposure I would be risking (on behalf of myself, my husband, colleagues, and students) traveling to three different schools throughout the week.
- As the second or third music teacher in these buildings, I do not have a large room or ventilation in most of my spaces. How do we ensure safe airflow for students?
- With singing being a dangerous activity, the amount of time and materials necessary to properly sanitize instruments in between uses, what do we teach to students in music?
Now the last question I have been able to find answers to already, and feel comfortable answering as an educator. The others should be handled at the district level or higher. I think the question becomes “Is it worth the risk to have itinerants constantly exposing themselves and others to high-risk situations?”
I believe the answer is no. We will see answers in the coming weeks and months to what itinerant positions will be in the 2020-2021 school year and I truly hope to not be disappointed.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Social Distancing. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html
National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Enrollment, poverty, and federal funds for the 120 largest school districts by enrollment size in 2016: 2015-16 and fiscal year 2018. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_215.30.asp?current=yes
Top 10 Teacher and Staff Questions about the FCPS Return to School. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/11DMvuV2P4TKmdMPuyBGiZ4N5jmhL3Q3I74DyyDv9mwQ/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR14QeWyonpEStovJLZUGDusZc-yIpoDddYZ1jEvHTnZMmTxmuHHbfsEYyc