I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
In-Person Learning Drives Spread, With Or Without Masks? No Way!
Of All The Stupid Subheadings, This Is Probably The Worst
So, every morning, I get up, have breakfast, and nurse a coffee while I play Angry Birds and then move on to my morning crossword. This is my routine, and I am a creature of habit. It's probably the one thing that has remained unchanged for me in the midst of this pandemic, and I'm grateful for that routine, as it's kept my head screwed on relatively straight.
However, I nearly did a spit take in reading this headline and its subsequent subheading:
"Stephen Lecce said COVID-19 wasn’t spreading in schools. Internal documents show Ontario’s education ministry did not know if this was true/New Ontario research now indicates school outbreaks, when they occur, are relatively well contained. There is also evidence that in-person learning can drive spread."
Did we really need research to determine that in-person learning can potentially drive the spread of a virus? That 20 to 30 kids in a room with limited ventilation with one or two adults could potentially be an ideal breeding ground for illness?
I've been teaching off and on - mostly on, thankfully - since 1994. My first six months of teaching, I was endlessly gifted with a parade of viruses, mostly cold-related, as I was teaching elementary school, and let's face it, little kids are only just learning the basics about wiping noses, covering mouths when coughing, and so forth. Trying to get them to remember to do these things consistently is a huge challenge, so small wonder I was often fighting a cold.
As a high school teacher, you would think kids who were sick would just stay home. Nope! I've had kids show up with bright red faces, clearly ill and fighting a fever, just to get their final exams over and done with. I've had others show up wearing face masks in order to write and not spread germs. All insisted they were perfectly fine to write, though the conditions they were in told another story.
Most school classrooms that have windows generally are told by someone not to open these windows, as they might mess around with the chillers used to cool off the schools when it gets hot or the furnaces. There goes the ventilation or any hope of a cross-breeze. Now, we've been wearing face masks and teachers usually wear eye goggles on top of that, or face shields, so the spread of many viruses - not just COVID-19 - seems to have been limited. Notice I said limited, not eliminated, and these two words of course mean completely different things.
Of course, in-person learning can drive the spread of COVID-19. How can it not? If the flu was a bigger issue, you'd see the same thing said about that virus. Most schools have anywhere upwards of 200 students and then staff on top of that. My high school generally boasts a population of around 1500 to 1700 students, and more often than not, every desk or table in classrooms is full. At the start of all this, we were told to try and maintain two meters of social distancing. Classrooms would legitimately have to be twice the size that they are in order to accommodate that distance plus up to 34 students, which generally tends to be the cap for many in-person classes.
So, let's see; let's say there are about 30 students in any given classroom. That means 30 desks or 15 tables, where students sit two to a table, generally. Social distancing went out the window simply by virtue of classroom space, and you're often lucky to even get one meter between students. A virus, whether it's at the pandemic or endemic level, is introduced. Where do you think it's going to go?
That's right - to the first host it can find, any way it can get there.
Then, people are in close quarters, breathing the same air. They might be borrowing pens, paper, or other school supplies from each other. Teachers have often discovered even teens have a hard time observing the two meters of social distance in a classroom - could it be because teens are inherently social creatures themselves? Even with masking, you're going to be hard-pressed to beat back a virus under those conditions.
So, let's quit wasting money on studies we already know the probable answer to. Let's start focusing on what we can do to help each other get through this so that COVID can at the very least decrease to an endemic virus, rather than a global one. I'd like to go back to school.