How’s the first day of school where you live?

Here in Maskachusetts, today is the first day for public schoolteachers to teach. Negotiations with the union resulted in a startup delay of more than two weeks so that teachers could receive training and come up with a plan for the various bizarre forms of teaching that they’re going to be doing. Plainly there was no way for the teachers to do any prep in April, May, June, July, or August. (Private school teachers figured out how to teach remotely back in March, sometimes in only a day or two; see Massachusetts private school students zoom ahead.)

A popular system here seems to be “hybrid” in which students will attend school in-person two mornings per week and the rest of the time is “learning at home” (i.e., Xbox; back in 2009 it was the adults who were on the 99 weeks of Xbox plan!)

Another feature is that the school days are shortened. Where they previously escaped at 2:50 pm, now the school day ends at 1:45 pm. The reason for this is unclear. A teacher told me that it was to give teachers additional time to plan assignments and that teachers would never be expected to interact with students after 1:45 pm.

A friend in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania shared a plan from the public school system there (featured for its mediocrity in Smartest Kids in the World: Poland). Students will attend school Monday through Thursday, but then be dumped on the parents on Fridays. If it is safe for the students to attend Monday through Thursday, why can’t they also go Friday? If it is unsafe to be at the school on Fridays, why it is safe for them to be there Monday through Thursday?

These schedules, which feature a lot of time at home, seem ideal for boosting the pay of tutors and also for increasing inequality. “Parents are spending $70,000 for their kids to learn in ‘pods’” (New York Post):

Now that most NYC-area schools have released their plans for the upcoming school year, with a combination of remote and in-person learning, parents of elite students are scrambling to supplement what they believe will inevitably be lost if students aren’t in the classroom — by hiring private educators.

Known as “pods,” small groups of four to 10 students in the same grade led by a tutor or teacher, have become the solution for weary and wealthy parents who are paying thousands of dollars — on top of five-figure private school tuitions — for the extra help monitoring kids during their school’s remote learning schedule.

Christopher Rim, founder of the education and college consulting firm Command Education, has been inundated with calls from “desperate parents” demanding leaders for pods that they’ve created with other families. He’s already staffed four pods in the Hamptons with tutors and expects to close in on 10 by the time the school year begins, with kids expected to rotate learning at a different home each week. One Water Mill parent already volunteered her 13-bedroom manse as the permanent home base of her kid’s 11th-grade four-person learning pod. He charges $3,500 a week per student, but offers a flat rate of $70,000 per kid if you pay the whole year up front, which covers 30 weeks of school.

Rim, a 25-year-old Yale grad with a BA in psychology who started the company in 2015 out of his dorm room, trains his tutors, who are all Ivy-league educated and under 30 years old. Some have teaching degrees and are certified to teach in public schools but not all. Said Rim, “This is not a replacement for school. This is not an accredited program. This is a supplement to make sure the students are on track.” All his tutors will be tested for COVID weekly, and will follow CDC guidelines for social-distancing whenever possible.

It’s also a matter of pride. Parents aren’t broadcasting the fact that they’re spending $70,000 a year on top of the $50,000 private school tuition to friends, Rim said, because “They don’t want other parents to gossip about them, that their kid needs a tutor in order to survive the school year.”

Readers: Any good tales from your necks of the woods?

15 thoughts on “How’s the first day of school where you live?

  1. So the net effect of all of this is going to be increased inequality, poorer student outcomes for most, with a long tail of economic and social consequences, including the inevitable urgent calls for more public school funding. Then there’s the fact that $70k/year on tutors would have presumably been spent elsewhere, invested, used for philanthropy or other expenditures that would have helped the economy, including local businesses. Even in Water Mill, NY that money would presumably have helped the local businesses that aren’t run by the celebrities (“…Today Water Mill is a resort community of beautiful beaches, farms and mega mansions. Celebrities and public figures such as Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Lauer, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Steven Schwartzman and Bruce Blakeman have homes or vacationed there.),_New_York

    And a lot more kids are going to have their daily lessons provided by Xbox, Roblox, and Bioshocks.

    Obviously, wealthy parents believe deeply that private schools and tutors are essential to their children’s education, future success and opportunities in life. So why don’t they express a lot more support for school choice and vouchers for the “poor?”

    “The public elementary and secondary schools in the District of Columbia spent $30,115 per pupil during the 2016-2017 school year, according to Table 236.75 in the Department of Education’s “Digest of Education Statistics.”

    But only 23% of the eighth graders in the D.C. public schools were proficient or better in reading in 2019…”

  2. Neighbors pretended to be a Shutdown Karen so that he wouldn’t have to cope with the “hybrid” school schedule of two mornings of masked in-person classes per week (about 6 hours of instruction total). Their kids are thus in the fully remote option, logging in from their massive suburban estate (set up for a possible later segue in the season to a ski house). The father’s mid-morning update: “This online school is too funny. Both classes let the kids out 15 minutes early. We will find out what I suspected all along: school is a giant babysitting operation.”

  3. In the town where I live, here in eastern MA, I saw kids, after school, socializing like they always used to, without a MASK in sight, not even in their hands !!

    If COVID-19 won’t kill us today, the dumbing-down of our future generation surely will.

  4. Here is a person on the street report from Opportunity Zone 33 in the Lone Star state, where school started more than a month ago. With the local school district forcing everyone to online only for the first four weeks, and in-person K-12 education starting after Labor Day.

    The youngest human resource in our family unit was happy to go back last week. Even if it means non-stop mask wearing from 8am to 3:30pm and having lunch in the cafeteria with only two other students nearby.

    It’s a weird experience so far, because less than 30% came back in person, and teachers need to cater live to both in-person students as well as the remote ones. They alternate sync/async days.

    The first four weeks of online school were very socially isolating. I inquired about “do you zoom with your friends to catch up?”, and learned they never do. Outside of limited interaction via online class meetings , kids would only socialize with siblings (if available) and parents.

    Morning school drop-offs are a breeze – no more traffic jams, no angry crossing guards, and none of the typical mayhem from years past. Seven school days into it, the gym teacher directing traffic in the morning is no longer wearing his mask and engages people in conversation more easily. This gives me hope!

  5. Here in the Garden State quite a few hybrid school hotspots already popping up. Not reported are the effect of students/teachers that have brought the plague home.

    Think about this….NJ is 5th smallest state yet has 598 separate school districts each with educrats, who haven’t a clue about health + safety during Covid. How could they be expected to make an informed decision when most can’t comprehend a simple scientific paper let alone something as complicated as covid something there is no consensus about. This is not a knock against administrators since it’s not something they are trained for or have experience. Keep in mind in many schools lots of classrooms have no windows or ones that open. Some are modified closets. MERV 3 vs. MERV 5 is ridiculous decision to give when there is no airflow period! This is something for OSHA who sadly turned tail and said….”do the best you can”.

    Just as Trump kicked the can down the road for States to figure things out, Murphy did the same with local district superintendents. To be fair messy govs. did the same.

    Oh yeah, one more thing…. Keep in mind property taxes pay for almost 70% of local school funding.

    Parents are fed up with their kids around their neck and are desperate to get them back to school especially with property taxes increasing almost every year and SALT deduction capped at $10K. They squeeze the board, the board squeezes the supt., the supt. squeezes the principals and buildings admins…department heads…teachers….down the food chain…every teacher is exposed to over 100 students per day + those in halls and staircases… is it possible to expect this to end well?

    One big shitshow based on a wing and a prayer….recent experience in Europe, Israel and parts of the far East tells us this should explode by Thanksgiving at the latest.

    Shame on Murphy, administrators who didn’t band together and say we can’t make this work, unions turning their backs…and of course parents who don’t seem to care if schools are safe or not.

    The rub is that without schools open f/t the economy can never recover but to open all at once with no understanding or care for ventilation,testing, tracing and PPE enforcement we’re all fucked.

    • This is exactly right. The lack of centralized leadership and guidance is exacerbating the problem. There is no way to have 200-1000 school district superintendents/school boards per state be able to develop safe operational plans — this needed to be consolidated at higher levels where public health officials and doctors could draw up safety guidelines.

      Trump/CDC: States, it’s up to you.
      Governors: School districts, it’s up to you.
      Random school board in Pennsylvania: We have no clue. We are five random retired senior citizens or stay-at-home parents. Let’s make something up…

    • You guys want the cure through more centralized planning? Lolz. the economy is going to reopen without Mothers. And the $chool industrial complex is going to whither and die without its raw ingredients. It is all for the better.

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