Last week we marveled at Gov. Ralph Northam’s unworkable guidelines to reopen Virginia schools this fall.
Richmond’s bizarre restrictions on social distancing and class size make it impossible for kids to be in their classrooms five days a week.
Instead, most school districts seem to be cooking up schemes to divide student bodies in half with 50 percent of children in school two days a week, the other half in school for two other days a week and with the fifth day given over for teacher planning.
In other words, we’re looking at a two-day-a-week school year.
Sure, school officials insist that students will also have three days of virtual learning, but it’s no secret that distance learning was a colossal disaster this spring.
I read a Washington Post piece on distance learning this week and spied this comment from a teacher who wants to go back to the classroom five days a week even if it puts her and her family in peril for Covid-19:
Full online learning was a disaster for my unprivileged school population, because of technology and internet access issues, and most importantly, parental supervision/support. THEIR parents were the essential workers making sure everyone else’s shelves were stocked and facilities cleaned and construction continued. THEIR parents weren’t home helping with assignments, and the ones who were home don’t speak English or have a proper education themselves even if they wanted to help. I couldn’t reach out to support the parents because most of them don’t even answer their phones, if they have one, or they hang up the phone as soon as they hear an English voice on the other end.
More proof, if any was needed, that virtual learning hurts poor and minority students the most.
But wait, there’s another a problem looming.
A Washington Post piece headlined, “Loudoun County Announces Fall Plan That Includes More Remote Learning, Sparking Parent Anger,” claimed that parents were steamed that their children – who are at very low risk of contracting the virus – would not be in class five days a week. Protests are planned.
Here’s the paragraph that caught my eye:
Taking the bus to school would look different, too. Under the suggested rules, students would sit one per seat and in every other row, whenever possible, although siblings from the same household would be permitted to sit together. This would significantly reduce bus capacity, the guidelines note: Following this plan, a formerly 77-passenger bus could accommodate just 13 students.
Wait a minute. A large school bus, that’s normally jammed with kids three-to-a-seat will be able to carry only 13 passengers?
What will that mean to local school districts?
To find out, I contacted the Virginia Beach Public Schools. Turns out the Beach transports 45,750 students every day by bus.
So let’s do a little elementary math, shall we?
If Virginia Beach goes to a split schedule, roughly 22,875 bus riders will need the service on any given day. With 13 cherubs to a cheese wagon, the Beach will need 1,760 buses.
Dang. That’s unfortunate.
The city owns just 750 buses and has only 568 bus drivers.
How much would 1,010 new buses cost? Stripped- down buses, probably without turn signals or headlights, carry a price tag of at least $50,000. My abacus says the price tag would be roughly $50 million.
At the risk of sounding like a glass-half-full girl, I have to wonder where the schools will find the loot for new buses.
Where will they find drivers?
This entire school plan is a fat unfunded mandate from Richmond.
If the governor wants only 13 kids on a bus, let him find the dough to pay for a new fleet of buses.
Or work out a deal with Uber to deliver the kids to school each morning.