Virtual is the Best Policy
On Friday, July 31, Barrack released a plan to reopen the school for the coming year. Like many other private schools such as Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the plan was a hybrid education model, alternating between in-person classes and online learning. Since then, the plan has been revised extensively, but it still retains hybrid elements.
While Barrack has gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of all students, staff, and faculty, one can never be too careful in these times. The only way to make school 100 percent safe for everyone is to make school 100 percent online, like all Philadelphia public schools. Barrack’s current plan allows students to stay home and attend all classes virtually if they so choose, yet the provisions for our teachers, while flexible, are not as straightforward. Like everyone else, they are required to stay home if they display symptoms of COVID-19, but the very extensive plan does not make it easy for teachers to choose, for the safety of themselves and their families, to teach from home. Moreover, for some of our teachers in higher age brackets or who have underlying health conditions, COVID-19 poses a more serious threat than it does to young, healthy students.
There are also procedural concerns with this new model, like the use of tents. There is no climate control in these tents, which will make class quite uncomfortable on hot days, and detract from students’ focus. And in the winter, if by some miracle school hasn’t closed yet, having students learn outside in the frigid weather can pose health risks. Another possible issue is that without lockers, students will have to lug all of their needed supplies on their backs. The plan advises that students bring rolling backpacks, but anyone who has ever tried to pull rolling backpacks up stairs or across grass knows that is not a viable solution.
It seems that the easiest -- and safest -- way to address all these problems is to make school entirely online, benefiting students, teachers, and staff members.