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Nightdo night, we wait for the email. Sometimes it comes in the late afternoon, but many nights it doesn’t hit me in my box until 10 or 11am. Eventually, he arrives, written by a fenced school principal letting us know that my son’s high school is still closed.
My family is in the same position as thousands of others in Victoria, where about 100 schools are dealing with similar situations.
After months of distance learning, Year 11 and 12 students in Melbourne returned to class on July 14th. For my son, who is in 11th grade, this personal schooling lasted less than a week – on July 20 we were informed that the student at his school had tested positive for the coronavirus and all in-person lessons would be suspended while the school was cleaned and traces of contact were made.
To date, July 31, the school is clean, but contact traces continue. No timeline has ever been given to parents or students how long this tracking will last. We wait day by day for updates if the school will resume the next day. The director expects the Department of Health to notify him when contact tracking is complete, and the Overloaded Department of Health does – I guess – do its best, probably with some of its expectations for coronavirus test results.
When debates in the United States are worrying about whether schools should reopen after the annual summer break, there are some helpful lessons in our school battles in Victoria. A piece of thought in the Times this week asked, “what happens when there is a Covid-19 case in a school?” Well, here in Melbourne, many schools are already answering that question.
I spoke to Times education reporter Eliza Shapiro today as she was finishing a news bulletin about New York City’s school district plans – the largest in the US – for reopening. It is one of the only large districts in the country that strives to learn in person anytime soon, with most major districts choosing distance learning for the foreseeable future.
Eliza’s reporting, along with Dana Goldstein, has shown that most high school districts are at risk of spreading large community coronaviruses if they reopen, but New York can’t wait to move forward and the plans Eliza outlined for to me they are complex and ambitious, with specific standards because when will the schools be closed and under what conditions.
“It’s really complicated,” she told me. “We have so many vulnerable children, so many disabled children, so many homeless children, so there is a lot of interest in getting as many children back into the classroom. But once we open up – if we open up – real life it will clash with these plans and it will be really difficult. “
What Americans may not fully understand is what we have already learned in Victoria: Planets can quickly disappear when the unpredictability of the virus comes into play. Every case or cluster becomes his mystery, seeking time and resources as it evokes anxiety to new levels.
To be clear: I am not to blame for anyone for my son’s school situation. It is an exaggerated word in these strange times, but the situation is unprecedented and extremely complex. I applaud everyone involved for trying to keep the community as safe as possible. But Victorian schools are in a much better position than many American school systems by almost every metric, and yet things here are messy and unpredictable and often delayed for reasons that are not fully known or shared.
Like our nocturnal ritual of learning while traveling, what will be our situation in the morning, the most troubling thing about this virus is the extreme insecurity and stamina it requires. What will it bring tomorrow? Or the next day, month and year? I hope that what we are going through can, at least, help inform and prepare other parents, students and school districts what their future may have. And for now, it’s mostly prediction followed by disappointment.
What are your biggest concerns about reopening schools, in Australia or elsewhere? Tell us at email@example.com.
Here are this week’s stories:
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 27, 2020
Do I have to refinance my mortgage?
- It might have been a good idea because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing applications have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to go online. But the defaults are also high, so if you are considering buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
What will the school look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, seeking to continue online learning education, perfect child care and hectic workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts – Los Angeles and San Diego – said on July 13 that the guidelines would be remote only in the fall, citing concerns that coronavirus infections in their areas pose a very high risk to students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll about 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to the classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution will not be an all or nothing approach. Many systems, including the largest city, New York City, are designing hybrid plans that include spending a few days in class and other days online. There is still no national policy on this, so check your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Is air coronavirus?
- The coronavirus can stay up for hours in small droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in the enclosed spaces of poorly ventilated homes and may help explain the super prevalent reported events in plants, few churches and restaurants. It is unclear how often the virus has spread through these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared to the larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or is transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an expert of aerosol at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are also released when a person without symptoms digs, talks or sings, according to Dr. I also get more than 200 other experts who have described the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 occur?
- So far, the evidence seems to show that it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are more infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were the result of transmission from people who did not yet show symptoms. Recently, a senior expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus from people who had no symptoms was “very rare”, but it was later withdrawn again.
And over you…
Last week we wrote about reading the pandemic, and asked what you were reading now. Here are some answers and suggestions from readers:
I’m reading a novel that has nothing to do with pandemics, but, I think, nicely draws on the claustrophobic spirit of staying home: “A gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles.
– Kurt van der Walde
An enlightening biography, “The Unparalleled Queen” by Nicola Tallis has really helped me in the constant state of safe living indoors. It is about Tudor matriarch Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry V11 and her extraordinary life.
– Peter James
During Covid quarantine I discovered Australian female authors and enjoyed books focusing on station life in remote rural areas. Authors like Fleur McDonald I saw brilliantly in developing complex characters, relationships, and behaviors specific to rural Australian areas. I quite liked a number of books by Karly Lane, also based in rural Australia. I can recommend exploring books by Anne Rennie, Di Morrissey and Kate Grenville; all realized writers of Australian fiction.
– Wendy Williams
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