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What can Victorian schools in America teach about reopening?



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Every night, we wait for the email. Sometimes it comes in the late afternoon, but many nights I don’t touch the inbox until 10pm or 11pm. In the end, it arrives, written by a murdered 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 1

00 schools deal with similar situations.

After months of remote learning, 11- and 12-year-old students in Melbourne returned to the classroom on July 14th. For my son, who is in the eleventh grade, this face-to-face schooling lasted less than a week: on July 20 we were informed that one student at his school had tested positive for coronavirus and all face-to-face learning would be suspended while the school was cleaned and the contact trace would be made.

As of today, July 31, the school is clean, but the contact route continues. There has never been a timeline to parents or students about how long this trace will last. We look forward to day-to-day updates on whether school education will resume the next day. The director expects the Department of Health to let him know when the contact is complete and the overburdened Department of Health does so – I guess – as best he can, probably with some waiting to get coronavirus test results. .

With the debate in the United States about the possibility of reopening schools after the annual summer break, there are some useful lessons in the struggles of our schools in Victoria. An opinion piece in this week’s Times asked, “What happens when there’s a Covid-19 case in a school?” Well, here in Melbourne, many schools are already answering that question.

Today I spoke with Times education journalist Eliza Shapiro just as she was finishing a news story about plans drawn up by the New York School District (the largest in the United States) for its opening. It is one of the only large districts in the country that will attempt to learn face-to-face at any time and most major districts opt for distance learning for the foreseeable future.

Eliza’s report, along with Dana Goldstein, has shown that most large school districts are in danger of spreading major community coronaviruses if they reopen, but New York is eager to move forward and the plans Eliza gave me describe are complex and ambitious, with specific rules. when schools will close and under what conditions.

“It’s really very complicated,” he told me. “We have so many vulnerable children, so many children with disabilities, so many homeless children, so there is a lot of interest in getting so many children back in class. But once opened, if we open up, real life 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: Plans can quickly disappear when the unpredictability of the virus comes into play. Each case or cluster becomes its own mystery, demanding time and resources while raising anxiety to new levels.

To be clear: no one blames me for my child’s school situation. It is an overused 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 unknown or not shared. all.

Like our nocturnal flight learning ritual about what our situation will be like the next morning, the most puzzling thing about this virus is the extreme uncertainty and endurance it demands. What will it bring tomorrow? Or the next day, month and year? I hope that what we are going through, at the very least, can help inform and prepare other parents, students, and school districts about what their own future may entail. And, for now, it’s the biggest anticipation followed by disappointment.

What are your biggest concerns about reopening schools, in Australia or elsewhere? Let us know at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

Here are this week’s stories:


And more to you …

Last week we wrote about pandemic readingand you wondered what you were reading right now. Here are some answers and suggestions from the reader:

I’m reading a non-pandemic novel, but I think it captures the spirit of claustrophobia at home very well: “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles.

– Kurt van der Walde

An illuminating biography, “Queen Uncrowned” by Nicola Tallis, has really helped me in the situation of staying safe inside. It is about the Tudor matriarch, Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry V11, and her extraordinary life.

– Peter James

During Covid’s forties, I discovered Australian female authors and have been enjoying books that focus on the life of rural resorts. Authors like Fleur McDonald found me brilliant at developing complex characters, relationships, and particular behaviors in rural Australia. I really enjoyed several Karly Lane books, also based in rural Australia. I can recommend exploring books by Anne Rennie, Di Morrissey, and Kate Grenville; all Australian fiction writers.

– Wendy Williams


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