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Tell HN: How USA school closure seems to be working out
147 points by novaleaf on March 7, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 113 comments
I'm in Northshore school district (Seattle Area) and our school district is the first in the USA to be closed by the CoronaVirus.

The district has actually moved pretty fast on this. They set up an emergency "online teaching" teacher training day tues, e-learning resources, and upon closure on thursday they had the elearning setup for students to try out. You can see the district emergency e-learning portal page here: https://www.nsd.org/northshorelearns

My 2 kids classes will be taught using Google Classrooms starting Monday, and the last two days were for "testing" the system. The school choose Google Classrooms I think because the students already had google apps for education accounts.

Overall, Google Classrooms is better than nothing, but honestly not much. It's basically a Teacher driven CRM system with ui complexity like all google web tools, and some integration with Google Docs. I think this might be fine for middle-school or higher, but they workflows are a bit convoluted, and I can see small kids and computer illiterate parents having serious problems navigating.

The biggest problem though, is that it's all self-directed learning. Students need to proactively seek out their assignments and course materials and have the focus to read/understand it all without any explanation by a teacher. It's "okay" in my case because I can spend the time to hover over them to make sure the work gets done and the content gets read (otherwise it's just skimmed over). Students unable to self learn and parents unable to micromanage their learning are going to be severely hurt by online learning like this. Also, me micromanaging the kids took a considerable chunk of the day, as I need to check up on them every 10 minutes or so, or they have questions (aprox 5hrs/day).

I do think the school district made the right decision to close. Kids are at lowest risk of serious infection but school staff trend older and are at highest risk.

It’s been interesting to watch the varied responses. In Seattle (Seattle Public SD) the school districts have adamantly refused to close.

For better or worse this will end up being a wild A/B test (between Northshore and Seattle) with extremely long term implications.

So far the explanations have mostly centered around these three points:

* Many students’ parents are health care providers or work in the health care industry on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. If schools close, fewer people will be able to provide front-line support.

* Many families rely on the schools and staff for basic needs, including regular meals, health care, and child care.

* Seattle can’t provide online learning because Seattle serves a diverse community with varied access to technology ... including those who do not have access to technology or internet at home.

See: https://www.seattleschools.org/district/calendars/news/what_...

It could be a matter of funding, preparedness, and scale. Northshore seems to be aware of the things you mentioned and are trying to address them. They sent out a survey to asses the scale of the need.

* they've offered childcare for those who need it

* they specifically called out children who rely on meals and have offered to fulfill them

* they've offered to check out school equipment (and training?)

* they've also offered extra assistance for kids in special needs programs that need extra attention

I don't know about Seattle Public SD, but Northshore said they had a 20% absence rate before closing the district. 15% of their staff fell into high risk groups (over 60, pregnant, etc) and that's outside of people being extra cautious when they see symptoms. Realizing that it's not just teaching staff, but janitorial, bus drivers, administration, lunch staff and others makes me think it would be difficult to continue operating normally.

Thankfully, my kid is still young and his childcare doesn't plan to close. My wife is working from home, but would not be able to do anything with a young kid running around. The lesson plan sent from school seems like a huge time suck for parents. The teachers seem to be going above and beyond. They prepared individual physical packets for lesson materials, pre-recorded circle time, and are setting up and reaching out via these new platforms. I'm still not quite sure how a "school day" will look at home. He's in a preschool program, and they've let us know home participation is optional.

My wife is working from home, but would not be able to do anything with a young kid running around. The lesson plan sent from school seems like a huge time suck for parents. The teachers seem to be going above and beyond.

i am living this right now in china. everything is closed and i had to send the younger kids to the grandparents so i can help my oldest get through his school curriculum. and i am not getting any time for work. luckily my sons teachers are great too and they support where they can, but life is pretty much on hold and in survival mode.

On r/CoronavirusWA there was a brilliant suggestion to "soft close" the schools - keep them open but encourage parents to keep their kids at home when possible. This reduces the risk without hurting low-income families.

School could either be mixed remote/local classrooms or a study hall/computer lab with everyone logged in.

They’ve come pretty close; absences are being excused and teachers have plenty of work to send the kids come with. The only difference is it is currently “allowed” vs “encouraged”.

Well even if the students had access to technology a school can't just switch to "online learning" very fast or effectively outside of applications they already use.

The explanation that I’ve seen is that closing is not an effective mitigation anyways, as children often end up congregating elsewhere in even closer contact: e.g. backup care with groups of kids, older kids getting together while schools are closed.

Given the well-known downsides that you list, and the fact that it doesn’t help much, it makes sense to stay open until there are actual cases associated with the schools.

A coworker asked the other day: what's the end point on WFH and school closure?

I think it's a good question. In this specific case, for Northshore, have they specified? Is it some number of weeks, months, years? Is there some inflection point in the spread they've predetermined it will go back to normal?

One of the main reasons to do things like close schools and work from home is to slow the spread of the virus so that it doesn’t spike in large numbers. This helps prevent the health care and similar support systems from being overwhelmed. It is likely that many/most people will eventually get the virus but if that happens over a spread out timeframe there is a better chance of maintaining adequate health support.

> A coworker asked the other day: what's the end point on WFH and school closure?

At minimum, producing enough test kits so that we could actually test every hypochondriac with the sniffles.

Since there's a mind-boggling shortage of test kits, reducing transmission rates for as long as possible is all that we can do.

> children often end up congregating elsewhere in even closer contact

Well that's just fucking stupid. The situation isn't "get out of school", it's "stay home".

> stay open until there are actual cases associated with the schools.

That's really fucking stupid. By then it's too late.

> Well that's just fucking stupid. The situation isn't "get out of school", it's "stay home".

If you have a seven year old and both parents work an hourly job, where exactly is that kid supposed to stay?

The best they can do is get a bunch of parents together and rotate which house all the kids will stay at each day and pool their wages so no one starves.

Only privileged kids have the option to "just stay home".

At least for Northshore, which has decided to close, they're reaching out to parents who need backup childcare, rely on a meal plan, lack the equipment at home to access online. They said 15% of their staff were high risk and 20% of students were calling in absent. I imagine a higher than normal amount of staff would call in sick for symptoms they would previously "work through." So /something/ out of the ordinary needed to be done in the medium term.

Even when schools are open normally, the childcare schools provide for kids like this is mediocre at best in terms of hours and quality. Co-ops/childcare swaps can be good solution, but they don't necessarily mitigate the risk of the disease spreading, though it hasn't impacted kids so much as of yet.

> If you have a seven year old and both parents work an hourly job, where exactly is that kid supposed to stay?

Anywhere that minimizes contagion of the virus. I'm not trying to be coy or flippant. I recognize that there are hardships involved. You gave a very general scenario so I can only re-state the fundamental invariant.

> get a bunch of parents together and rotate which house all the kids will stay at each day and pool their wages

That could work. Except better not to move them around, and limit their exposure to adults who do move around. I'm not an epidemiologist so I'm not qualified to give detailed advice.

I do feel pretty confident about telling people to stay home because that's how you slow down a pandemic. The streets should be deserted right now.

Here's the messed up thing: the virus doesn't care. If we have set up our society in such a way that we can't respond properly to this thing it will fuck us up and we'll have no one to blame but ourselves. IF there are too many parents working, and not enough extended family (or whatever), and/or not enough sick leave, and/or a system that can't make and distribute tests, or any of a bunch of other factors, THEN people are going to die. A lot of people. And if enough of the die (or just get really sick all at the same time) major additional problems could occur. Most cities have only about three days of food in the pipeline. After that, the only food is our pets, and then "long pork".

The best thing you can do to stave that off is stay home now before it's too late.

Maybe our civilization are fundamentally at odds with surviving a pandemic, I hope not, but be clear about the danger here.

If you live paycheck to paycheck, your choices are to stay home and starve when you run out of money, or to continue with life while making sure you wash your hands a lot and don't touch your face.

Sounds to me like the choice is pretty obvious. I suppose the government could step up and provide to replace your paycheck while you stay at home with your kids, but honestly, this isn't that bad of a virus to warrant that.

People that are high risk should stay home. Everyone else should wash their hands and avoid their face and avoid crowds.

> The streets should be deserted right now.

You're probably overreacting. And let's hope all the health care workers decide that work is more important than staying home.

> but honestly, this isn't that bad of a virus to warrant that.

How bad would it have to be?

Measles but without the vaccine. And even then, people seemed to get by just fine for thousands of years with it out in the wild.

Measles have lower lethality then coronavirus. You also did not had whole population exposed to it at the same time. You can get them only once, so even when kids get sick, adults around wont.

Back then, diseases often spread much more slowly, if at all, due to the limited transportation methods.

I don’t think that’s true at all. It just takes one person to start a new city. After that transportation doesn’t really matter.

For reference, only 20% of the world’s population has ever flown in airplane.

In 2020 there will be about 40 million flights. In 1965, when the measles vaccine was first introduced, there were about 5 million flights, and about 1/2 the world population.

But in both cases the majority of those flights were by the wealthiest people in the world.

So really not a significant difference in travel.

If anything it would be density that would be the problem, since a lot more people live in cities now.

I wonder if the problem is a ripple effect. If you close schools, a lot of parents will have to stay out of work. This means more closings, and overworked remaining staff.

People just don't know the horror of the plague. I think it's just that simple. A lot of people have no living memory of a bad outbreak. We're victims of our own success.

Northern Italy here, we're entering the third week of school closure. We have a platform that is usually used by teachers to record marks and other communications to parents, and they're using it to put homework. But it's barely an hour of work everyday and only ensuring that the kids do not forget the last things they did in class. They will not manage to finish all topics for their grade.

Hello from Cortina! My wife is a Montessori teacher here, and they've been working hard to keep students engaged and parents happy (the former is obviously the priority). A mix of Remind for parent communication, Loom for pre-recorded presentations, and Zoom for in-person group and individual meetings with the children has helped.

godspeed to you guys.

Regarding the outbreak in Northern Italy...the fatality rate seems much much higher than South Korea or Germany. Do you have any theories on why the fatalities are so much worse?

Wild guess here but fatality rate is based on the number of dead and the number of reported cases. High fatality rate means either high number of dead, or low number of reported cases. Knowing the real number of infected is really hard, especially in population less at risk (the young and healthy).

For example, there was this anecdote this week about a woman in the US. She believes she's infected, but none of the responsible authorities will let her pass a test unless she's physically been to one of the high-risk countries. So she either self-quarantine or ignore all of it and go to work. The twist is that she's a health practitioner...

I would guess that the anecdote about the woman who can't get tested is because of a severe under supply of test kits. The CDC developed a test kit last month, but it is only being sent to approved laboratories, and the tests will only be given to people "who meet CDC criteria for COVID-19 testing." [1]

Test suppliers who develop test for hospitals and doctors offices are ramping up production as fast as they can, but it will take time.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/testing.html

A population that skews old is part of it.

This site is good for up to date, and fairly detailed numbers about Italy: https://lab24.ilsole24ore.com/coronavirus/

They are doing a pretty good job of testing: 4000 yesterday. Oregon, by comparison, has the capacity to test about 40 a day.

Edit: also, they are not being "drastic" enough in Italy.

Scenes from a ski area: https://ladige.it/news/cronaca/2020/03/07/come-previsto-oggi...

Stay home, or if you want to go out, go for a walk in the woods or something, but don't go where it's crowded.

Note that the population of Italy is 15x that of Oregon, so the proportional rate of testing is much closer.

It isn't, though, it's an still an order of magnitude less in Oregon.

4.2 million, 40 tests per day 60 million, 5700 tests yesterday

Here's my wild-ass guess: The percentage of lethal cases is actually close to 0.1% when the serious cases get the best care possible (my claim). If this is true, then Italy had 200*1000 = 20.000 early-stage cases 8 days ago. This yields on the order of 80.000 cases today, hopefully less as the quarantines should have an effect by now.

This assumes a median of 8 days from onset to death in the lethal cases, and a doubling time of # infections of 4 days, which seems to be around the current level for the world outside of China. The number is very sensitive to average lethality rate, and hence also to the age & health distribution of the population.

It's completely implausible that Italy has only 5000 cases, as people who have visited Italy for their winter holidays have very frequently tested positive after returning home. They haven't all randomly met the same 5000 Italians.

Uh... data from this Chinese study suggests that death & recovery take longer than that... I read it as about 30 - 40 days from exposure.

Also suggests you've got a critical / potentially terminal patient occupying an ICU bed for 2 - 3 weeks in the process, which becomes a significant load on your available hospital capacity...


Can't you just send out test kits to 10000 random Italians and then use that to calculate the number of infected people? If its really common then you'd find 100-1000 infected people and then you can calculate the real mortality rate simply by monitoring them and recording how many of them have died. Of course it is possible that proper medical care results in a much lower than usual mortality rate compared to untreated people but that sounds more like good news than bad news.

> Can't you just send out test kits to 10000 random Italians and then use that to calculate the number of infected people?

I think at this point, it's still very early in the spread of infection and the distribution of infection might not be random and might be clustered around certain locations, social circles etc.

I would LOVE to see a full population test sample... Would be expensive (probably need 5 K - 10 K tests for a significant read, most of which will likely be wasted on "likely healthy" members of the community... but would decisively settle this outstanding question of asymptomatic infection frequency.

The closest data point we have is likely that South Korean church, where I think they hunted down more or less every member and tested them... Doesn't give you a true view of asymptomatic presence in the general population but does provide a cue about relative size vs. known infected...

The scary part is the WHO mission were adamant that they failed to find a large number of asymptomatic/mild cases in the population at large, and they tested 300.000 people. I can't get this to match up with my other hunches, so I might be very wrong on this.

My wild guess is that the virus is quite spread there but healthcare caught up very late. South Korea has 7.041 cases with 36 persons in ICU; while Italy has 5.883 cases with 567 in ICU. If we correct by ICU numbers, then Italy should have diagnosed 109k persons with Coronavirus.

That assumes that South Korea did diagnose anyone who got the virus which is unlikely. So the real number might be in hundreds of thousands.

The virus is yet to hit the rest of Europe very hard, though. Italy should be a warning to the other countries of how bad the coronavirus is.

You've arrived at the same order as my estimate of the real number of cases in Italy (I arrived at ~80k, see sibling comment), using a different technique. Yours seems more reasonable.

But note that South Korea must inevitably have missed some cases, so assuming the same ratio of diagnosed to serious cases between Italy and SK. So the real number of diseased people in Italy must actually be a little higher.

Probably because everyone who dies of something resembling pneumonia is tested. In the first few days when they were hoping to track every infected case, they were testing everyone who was in contact with sick people, but at this point asymptomatic cases aren't tested anymore, there just isn't enough capacity. As tests are reserved to sicker and sicker people, fatality rate increases.

Anyway other countries such as Switzerland, Sweden or France aren't that behind in terms of cases per million people (Iceland was even ahead of Italy as of yesterday), perhaps 10 days or so. I don't feel like my region is particularly unlucky.

In Italy the average age of patients who have died is 81

I’ve read that the average age in those Italian areas is very old.

I have a friend living in southern Italy, and she surmised that there are a few hotspots that had a combination of lifelong smokers and a much older average aged population, and those areas seem to be skewing the mortality rates.

No need for theories, the disease is more fatal to those over 80 y.o. That's why the mortality is higher: demographics

>No need for theories

Germany has 700 cases and 0 deaths. Austria has 80 cases and 0 deaths...both of these countries are adjacent to Northern Italy region, in which 233+ have died.

Saying "no theory needed" frankly raises more questions than provides answers.

Death rate being 0.5% in Italy, for 80 Austrian cases we might have one fatality soon.

When was the 1st case in Germany and when was the 1st case in Italy?

233 out of 5883 is not 0.5%

Yes, you're right, bad mental math

it's ~ 4%


This is going to be brutal on working low income parents and their children.

It seems no matter what happens there's always some justification for why poor people end up being the collateral damage.'Prevent the virus no matter what' is a position that's much easier for a well off software engineer (who can work from home and pay for childcare) to hold than for a single mother who gets paid by the hour on a zero hours contract. Many people would prefer to take their chances on the mortality rate than suffer through the measures intended to bring it down.

Sucks to be poor, almost by definition. This isn't some special harm directed at the poor; its a normal result of being poor.

Not to say anybody deserves to be poor; save the rhetoric on that. Just that its not some made-up justification; its an expected result just like physics.

We can be comforted by the fact that the poor are protected by these measures exactly as much as the wealthy (and everybody in between) - they live.

It is a special harm directed at the poor with the justification that it's for the greater good.

Much like low interest rates /monetary stimulus policies. They're justified on the basis that they are necessary/for the greater good.

There's no law of physics here that ensures poor people get the short end of the stick. Interest rates could be higher, schools could be kept open. They aren't though, maybe for good reasons but it's funny how often 'objectively good reasons' turn out to be conveniently (relatively) better for the rich.

Again, its because being poor sucks. Not a direct purposeful attack on the poor. And yes, there is a 'law of physics' - they have fewer resources to endure public health measures. Schools can't be kept open if its going to be very bad for a segment of the population - the elderly.

I think being poor by definition is the short end of the stick.

Yes, but do they need even more of short ends of sticks?

We did some remote learning out here (Gwinnett county - north of Atlanta) during weather closures. The software was awful and crashed the first day under high load.

They used it again during a single day closure and the software worked fine that time. However, many students didn’t do it, opting instead to play in the snow. Or, some children had to go to day care since their parents weren’t staying home. When they returned to school the teachers just repeated the same lesson since not every one was on the same page.

I think remote learning is possible, but we are a far way from having the kinks worked out.

Have you thought about organizing a small group of 3-5 kids to get together and work through the material, under the guidance of a parent? I homeschooled for a couple years and this was pretty effective within that community.

Don’t that just start to create the same environment that the school closure was supposed to prevent?

That was my first thought too; but, with smaller numbers like that it is much more manageable to keep an eye out for symptoms and implement quarantine. Also, from a simplistic maths point of view, in a classroom with 20-30 children, with each child having an infection vector from each other child, so a 16-27x higher chance of being infected than in a classroom of 3-4.

Hasn't happened here yet. The issue in the US will be dual income families where mom or dad HAVE TO GO to their pleace of work. This is going to make a mess for many, many families.

Yup, it will be a mess and we need to come up with solutions. But we shouldn't let that influence the decision.

Why should we not let it influence the decision? It's seems to me entirely possible that closing the schools could result in worse outcomes.

I recently saw an article where the Education minister of Singapore articulated some reasons to not close schools. Basically his case is that this alleviates burden from parents, and the school can provide food + sanitation for the kids.


I took an online class in high school. They told me it was the first ever such class taken for credit in the US. It was pretty bad, but I didn’t expect much. It’s easier to learn the answers this way, but much harder to ask the questions. As an adult looking back on who in my class became a teacher, I also realize that teachers in general are usually not the people you most want your kids learning from. Not the worst though. Curriculum is mostly just a vehicle for inquiry, and should be treated as such. Expect no results from this online platform. The kids will get the material done just fine, but they won’t engage with it unless you make it relevant to their imagination. Maybe it’s not that important though. Maybe they should be interested in other things.

> school staff trend older and are at highest risk.

This part doesn't sound right -- the highest risk groups are 70+ years old. Hopefully the school staff retires before then. The mortality rate for people below 60 is only around 1%.

The worry with young kids is that they may still be able to spread it, putting e.g. their grandparents at huge risk.

There are plenty of teachers in their 60s, where the death rate is 3.6%. If 30 teachers in their 60s get it, one of them will die on average. Even for people in their 50s the rate is still 1.3%, huge compared to the flu.

Source on the numbers? I’m having trouble believing that such accurate statistics could have been produced so quickly, especially when there is no idea how many people contracted the virus and got better themselves as if it were just another cold.

This looks like the numbers from the WHO-China joint COVID-19 mission. It likely overestimates the lethality somewhat. But even 1% is a big risk.

I doubt a a 65-year-old teacher needs any more confirmation.

It seems that the risk of complications and death goes up with age. Also kids can be carriers even if they don't fall sick. Imagine kids bringing it home to grandparents. Suspending school meetings is the right call.

It stands to reason kids can be carriers, but I have not seen any reports of child transmission data for covid-19. In this situation with such a crazy high R0 (transmissability) the lack of knowledge calls for erring on the side of caution.

Here in Switzerland they specifically do not want to close schools (yet) unless the school had a positive test and kids are in self quarantine.

The reason given is that if the kids are home it is likely that the grand parents will have to care for them as the parents have to work and the elderly are the high risk group.

I wonder what is the best concise resource on effectively starting a public-school affiliated home-school program?

Preferably something with how to balance ones own telecommuting while the kids telelearn.

If you need support with this, there are lots of resources (both human and online) like https://www.modulo.app/

Let me know if you need help, I can only imagine how stressful this would be for families who aren’t used to it

Thanks, that looks fascinating and I’m digging into it.

One major quarantine benefit of closing schools is that it forces parents to stay home. Bad for the economy, good for R_0.

Or grandma will help out, bad for the death rate.

I wasn't a good self-directed learner until my late 30s :P Good luck with the remote schooling! Part of the world's biggest remote work experiment.

Maturity and type-A self direction are the keys.

Our district has some full-online charter schools. I have a miraculously self motivated family member who pulled off full time home self study her last 2 years of high school at one of these: she got up early and finished most of her homework before lunch.

So it's definitely not for everyone, not even for most adults. I think many people need to learn as a group. But some children can thrive with self directed study.

Unfortunately kids are natural born self-directed learners but lose that impulse when we start to control their learning.

The thing about self-directed learners in their 30s is that they are learning what they want to learn or have practical reason to learn.

Unlike kids.

In the nineties when I was in second or third grade I spent little less than a month attending school from home, recovering from surgery. This being the ninteties we didn’t have this new-fangeled internet at home. One a week a teacher would come by for a few hours and talk about school and what they were up to, and hand over some assignments and talk about what I had done so far.

As I recall it I spend a lot less time on the assignments than I would in school and I learned most of what the other kinds learned (the rest was easily learned when I was back in school) - but this obviously only worked because mum was a stay at home mum and it was early enough that she could teach me.

Most of early schooling is about warehousing and training kids to behave so that adults can be around them and parents can do that in most cases. The real issues isn’t that the kids don’t learn, it is that they end up staying with the grandparents and infecting them.

Thanks for the post. It seems that we need a way to set a virtual class schedule where a teacher teaches and kids can ask questions. Reading lesson is too hard for kids. Specifically if you're not used to learning that way.

Kids are at lowest risk of serious infection [...]

Also kids might get infected and infect other members of their household.

I think your concerns with having to check up on your kids because they have tons of questions stems from the teacher not being prepared for this.

I'm sure their teacher has materials based on the fact that they will be in class in person and can answer any questions and explain things better. If this teacher had more time, I'm sure they could structure their coursework to fit the online format much better

It sounds a bit more like self-directed study than self-directed learning. If you want a resource that can help them reinforce their learning in a totally self-directed way, I'd try Khan Academy or Khan App Kids. It will help them learn, but might not be as useful for specific information they are supposed to retain for a test or a specific method of doing math or reading or writing an essay the teacher wants everyone to learn. Here's a bit more I've written on Khan and Khan App Kids. It's a fantastic resource. https://www.modulo.app/all-resources/khan-app-kids

I'm honestly surprised that the Northshore school district doesn't have a lawsuit on its hands from the WA teachers' union. Requiring teachers to do something they aren't trained for, aren't qualified for, and aren't contractually required to do seems like a pretty good recipe for a lawsuit. Not to mention any privacy issues when/if online teaching requires video recordings of the teacher to be posted online.

I know a few people in the school systems here in Washington, and from what I can gather, there would be riots in the streets if this was required state wide.

Right or wrong, the school district is taking preventative measures in an attempt to protect public health. Suing them over that would not look particularly good for the union.

Kids can catch and transmit the virus to other household members; this was the main path through the community in a few flu models a while back (spread through daycare and the elementary schools first, then families, then everyone else).

Household transmission rate was about 15% in china. (so a 15% chance of infecting another member of your household).


Santa Clara county hasn’t closed schools yet, but are preparing for remote-learning should closures happen. If you’re a parent in Silicon Valley, then you’re probably aware from the district emails. From what I’ve parsed, it sounds like they’re going to make a decision based on recommendations of the County health board (though I’d think the school has autonomy on making the decision on their own if they chose to, but I don’t know).

From Santa Clara county's official statement:

“The reason we are not recommending school closures at this time is because children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus.”


And the same statement says those 50 and over should basically stay home. I'm sure that a significant % of school staff fall into that grouping.

In regards to the quote, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Would be nice to see a statement on retransmission vs impact of infection. Seems shortsighted.

Yeah, only the parents and grandparents who they then go home to.

I doubt very much that these online days will count towards the minimum allocation of school attendance days. That means lots of children might need to repeat a year due to the gaps. Online courses are no substitute for real schooling as they are all lousy. Interaction is woeful and teenage children certainly don't have self-direction as a majority.

As a teenager I always found it suspicious that when I would miss a 7-hour school day, it would take 3 hours at most to do the make up work. If we did that all the time, we could learn twice as much!

That's just a pragmatic decision. If you have to make up the whole 7 hour school day then you could be in a situation where you are so far behind that you could never catch up.

There is this game called Warframe that has a daily login bonus. There is no mechanism to partially skip days if you missed them. New rewards are always added as a new milestone. The end result is that there are rewards that are only available after getting the login bonus for 1000 days. If you stop playing for a year and then come back you will never catch up to the latest rewards.

I can find 2.25 clearly accountable hours without losing any academic content:

- Lunch and recess (45-60 minutes).

- Passing periods (27-28 minutes).

- Lifestyle activities: art, health, gym, music, etc. (45 minutes).

Now some fluffier ones:

- Suppose, like a typical Coursera user, I can understand the content at 1.2x classroom speed. There's 60 minutes.

- The door-to-door transition period is four minutes. But settling in, packing up, pleasantries, and administrivia probably put the lecture-content-to-lecture-content time at closer to 10 minutes. So there's another 42 minutes.

There. I just found 4 hours with losing a drop of college-relevant material.

You might "doubt" it but most States now offer exclusively online programs for middle school and above, including public school districts. This is particularly popular with quasi-home school kids. Ours does in a different state, and they count as regular school for attendance/funding (state and federal).

Seeing that "normal" schools are very strict about attendance even with the online/charter options in same district, I'm assuming their funding model still needs them to count children on campus.

When they attend online school, they're attending. There's no distinction.

Funny, when I first read this, I thought of school closures in public districts where budget concerns are forcing long-term, permanent closures, not temporary ones due to CoVID-19. Maybe I live in a bubble?

I live in the Bay Area now and reading this thread makes me miss Seattle (lived there 2009-2011). It's one of the better cities in a pretty well-run state, with funded pensions, responsive politics that seem more resistant to special-interest capture (unions, ultra-rich), and a well-informed populace and leaders capable of doing the right thing.

Oakland, by way of comparison (where I live now) regularly has school board meetings that get shouted down by angry mobs (https://www.kqed.org/news/11781890/parent-protests-against-s...), a school district with a chronic major deficits (https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/budget-deficit-forces-...) and accounting scandals (https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-schools-...), and unsurprisingly, striking teachers are demanding even higher pay in the face of all this. With such gross mismanagement and leadership without the backbone to address it, it feels almost unconscionable that I'd let my kids attend this school.

I'm not sure what to make of this other than that, if you live in an area with a healthy political culture, be thankful for it. And if you don't, pay attention, and get involved.

Oakland has overseen a substantial reduction in gun violence over the last decade to 13 years but you don’t see fit to mention that

My friend is an English teacher in China. He's been "teaching from home" for a few weeks now. His comment was this: "If this has shown me one thing, teaching from home has a long way to go before it's feasible".

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this is. I had a really hard time with the "forced education" programs in primary school; some subjects were interesting, thus felt easy and fun. I would excel in these, but grow bored when the pace didn't keep up with my learning speed. Other subjects I found boring, thus were hard, and I would actively try to procrastinate. The pressure was a huge motivation killer, and the lack of freedom to explore seriously stunted my learning. Only later on, when I was doing self-directed learning, did I really start to flourish. Maybe this will be a chance for kids like me!

It's going to work differently in each school district. Some will have capabilities to do online learning like yours, and some won't.

Thanks so much for sharing; very helpful!!

Augment with discord?

I honestly think ‘closing the schools’ is a huge overreaction for what essentially amounts to a bad flu season.

> a bad flu season

It's not though, that's the point. A bad flu season never even reaches a 1% case-fatality ratio (CFR). Even the 1968 flu pandemic had a CFR below 0.5%. COVID-19 has a CFR of 2–3%.

The underlying assumption that there's some crucial process "education" happening at these buildings that mustn't be interrupted is daft.

The damned things close every summer and nobody loses their minds.

Keep your kids home. They won't turn into mindless thralls from missing a few weeks of "education".

The schools have curriculums for each grade which are usually mandated or approved by the state. The teachers create lesson plans based on that curriculum.

In theory, the lesson plans could be distributed to parents (or whoever is supervising) and they can teach it. For older students home alone or students who's parents are not able to teach the subject, there are many great teaching videos just an internet search away. The discipline to self-learn is something that would need to have been instilled by the parents.

It seems to me that as a society we have forgotten that the primary responsibility for teaching (let alone raising) our children is our own. Instead we pass it off to 'the system' and make a big deal about having to raise our own kids.

TLDR: opportunity cost

It is the primarily responsibility in some domains. For others, the system is designed to allocate responsibility to the education system in order to balance with the time demands of fully employed parent(s) (to support the family) and the cost that would be otherwise incurred.

So the system goes to jail if it doesn't enroll all school aged children? So the system decides which children go to public schools, charter schools, private schools, or homeschool? Of course not. At it's very core the responsibility for a child's education falls to the parents. Even if you send your kids off to school, you still need to be involved to motivate them, help them with assignments, etc. You can even see that the most influential factor in a child's success is whether or not the child has 2 parents (Harvard study).

Yes, you can take into account opportunity cost. However, that won't shift the responsibility, it's just the outsourcing of the labor. You can see this in any power structure (corporate, military, etc).

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