Just News from Center X – March 20, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Millions of students could be home for the rest of academic year because of coronavirus, officials warn

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Millions of students may remain out of school for the rest of the academic year in an effort to stop the spread of a deadly coronavirus that has reached pandemic status around the world, officials in several states are warning. As of late Sunday, 33 states and the District of Columbia had decided to close public schools, according to a tally maintained by Education Week. When combined with the closure of specific school districts in other states at least 32.5 million public school students attending at least 64,000 schools have seen their education interrupted because of the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 6,000 people worldwide. With the country facing an unprecedented public health crisis, schools have been ordered closed for days or weeks or even a month. But officials in several states are now warning the closures could be longer, even through the end of the school year. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday morning that it was even possible that schools would be shut even longer.

Nearly all California K-12 districts closed to avoid spread of coronavirus while few in rural remain open

Sydney Johnson, Ed Source
Even without a statewide mandate, nearly every district in California is closing its doors this week to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Now, the few mostly rural districts that remain open are figuring out how to move in that direction. At least 6,065,337 students in California, representing more than 99 percent of all K-12 students in the state, are affected by school closings as of 12:00 p.m. on March 18. And 99.6 percent of the state’s school districts (939 districts, or 99 percent) have closed or announced they will close due to the virus. “The rest will likely start to shut down,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference on Tuesday, shortly before the state released updated guidance for schools that includes more details on how to handle school closures, such as serving meals and offering distance learning. The state has already said they will reimburse districts for lost school days due to the virus.

National Education Association endorses Biden for president

Nicole Gaudiano, Politico
The National Education Association announced Saturday that it is backing Joe Biden for president, handing the Democratic frontrunner a prized endorsement ahead of Tuesday’s big-state primaries as he aims to wipe out his last remaining major opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Lily Eskelsen García, president of the 3 million-member teachers union, praised the former vice president as a “tireless advocate for public education” who understands the nation’s “moral responsibility to provide a great neighborhood public school for every student in every ZIP code.” The NEA is the nation’s largest labor union.

Language, Culture, and Power

Immigration court staffers were ordered to take down bilingual CDC-issued coronavirus posters

Gabe Ortiz, Daily Kos
U.S. immigration court staff were told to remove bilingual CDC-issued coronavirus posters from inside courtrooms, in a directive that apparently stood until the Justice Department, which oversees the immigration court system, reversed course following media reporting and public blowback from a top union representing immigration judges. “The signs should not have been removed,” a Justice Department spokesperson told legal reporter Cristian Farias. “The matter is being rectified.” The union, the National Association of Immigration Judges, on Monday had recommended that courthouses keep sanitizing items readily available and post “English and Spanish language versions of the CDC’s ‘Stop the Spread of Germs’ and ‘Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019’ posters,” the group tweeted, in an effort to protect both court staffers and immigrants—some of whom will likely be children—who appear for their cases.

UC Berkeley students hold ‘wildcat’ strike for more pay, rehiring of fired workers

Natalie Orenstein, Berkeley Side
UC Berkeley will become familiar with term “digital picket” this week, as graduate students, who are already working from home because of the coronavirus, begin a work stoppage Monday. The student workers are going on a “wildcat” strike — meaning it hasn’t been authorized by UAW 2865, the UC graduate student union representing some 19,000 workers — to demand cost-of-living pay adjustments and the rehiring of dozens of their counterparts who have been fired from UC Santa Cruz. “In the Bay Area and across California, wages are stagnating compared to the cost of living,” said Helen, a Ph.D. student in engineering and an organizer of the wildcat strike. She said the organizers are not revealing their last names publicly over a fear of retaliation.

Resilience and resistance: Fighting for higher education in prison

Lyle C. May, Inside Higher Ed
Over the years, various obstacles have made pursuing higher education in prison a struggle. Noise, a lack of current information or internet access, lost lessons and exams, miscommunications with academic advisers or professors, the stress and pitfalls of life on the inside, and more have made for an isolated learning experience. Prison staff have also been at times problematic and discouraging. None of these hindrances completely stopped the process and, because they are common, have helped me draw from a well of resilience I did not know I possess. Since 2004, a local nonprofit organization has funded college correspondence courses for me and another person on North Carolina’s death row. Our sponsor believes that in providing an opportunity to learn exists the potential to transform our lives. This private investment enabled me to complete an associate’s degree in arts in 2013 through Ohio University’s distance learning program. In 2017, I was accepted into the university’s bachelor of specialized studies degree program in criminal justice administration. I am now a member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society’s Psi Delta chapter at Ohio University.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

LAUSD announces 60 locations where students can pick up free meals during coronavirus shutdown

Tony Kurzweil, KTLA
The Los Angeles Unified School District has posted a list of locations where students will soon be able to pick up free meals while its schools are closed because of coronavirus concerns. The shutdown of all LAUSD schools began Monday, but the district plans to continue providing food at 60 locations, according to its website. “Los Angeles Unified, in partnership with the Red Cross, will continue to provide nutritious meals to all students who need them during the temporary closure of schools,” the district stated. The sites, dubbed Grab & Go Food Centers, are scheduled to begin giving out food on Wednesday and will be staffed between 7 and 10 a.m.

Coronavirus pandemic reveals the reality — and the risk — of America’s child safety net being its public schools

Conor Williams, LA School Report
What’s a school for in the 21st century? Start with the bedrock: they’re for helping children develop academic skills and access core content, right? Those famous R’s: reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, you know the deal. We also count on them to grow democratic citizens — informed, aware, civic-minded community members. But that’s just the beginning. Public school mandates have expanded significantly over the years. In many places, schools are also medical centers and food distribution hubs and more. This approach aims at combining an array of services to meet as many family needs as possible at a single community location.

Eight digital education resources from the Smithsonian 

Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Mag
As efforts to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis ramp up, schools across the United States—including those in New York City, Washington, D.C., and dozens of states—have closed their doors, leading students, teachers and caregivers alike to seek out online educational tools. To help support this search, the Smithsonian Institution has launched a central portal highlighting an array of distance learning resources, from STEM webcasts to American history podcasts and comprehensive lesson plans. Offerings range from low- or no-tech (interviewing family members for oral history projects) to high-tech (diving into an interactive exploration module).

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

California child care providers call for emergency support amid coronavirus pandemic

Zaidee Stavely, Ed Source
As schools and businesses close across California to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, child care providers are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide emergency support to stay in business during the coronavirus pandemic. Organizations representing both private child care centers and family child care providers, who run programs out of their homes, are calling for Newsom to provide emergency funding to pay sick leave to their assistants who fall ill or need to care for their own family members, and to purchase sanitation supplies to disinfect their homes or centers. These providers care primarily for children 0-5 years old, in addition to some school-age children, and in some cases receive subsidies for low-income families who qualify.

State student assessment tests and SATs in danger because of coronavirus

Roxana Kopetman, The Orange County Register
California educators are looking to postpone this year’s statewide student assessment tests. The State Board of Education plans to seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to suspend testing requirements in school districts that are closed due to coronavirus concerns, a spokesman with the California Department of Education said Tuesday. The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress test, scheduled to be given in May, assesses students’ progress and whether they are on track to be college-ready. Students take the test in third through eighth grades and again in high school. Palo Alto Unified in Northern California recently requested that the state suspend the testing in response to coronavirus concerns.

Ed Department offers more special education guidance amid COVID-19

Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop
As schools across the nation shutter in response to coronavirus, federal officials are giving educators additional insight on how to handle the needs of students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a webinar and fact sheet this week for education leaders aimed at ensuring that students’ civil rights are upheld while schools are closed due to COVID-19. The webinar reminds school officials that distance learning must be accessible unless “equally effective alternate access is provided.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

What 10 students learned from having to say their worst thoughts on race out loud

Hanna Rosin, NPR
The first time Judi Benson heard the unfiltered truth about race from a black person, she was 25 years old. It was 1973 and she was taking a class at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville called “Human Conflict: Black and White.” The class was radical for its time and place. In the early 1970’s Jacksonville, was still raw around civil rights — new to school busing, still struggling with desegregation in its jails. It was a city divided, with violent race riots in its recent history. But when Benson arrived for the first day of class, she thought she was beyond all that. As she wrote in a journal she was made to keep for the class: “Like the other whites in the class, I thought that day that I had it all together and would show any racists in the group a thing or two, as well as demonstrate to the black sisters and brothers how hip I was.”

As schools close due to the coronavirus, some U.S. students face a digital ‘homework gap’

Brooke Auxier and Monica Anderson, Pew Research
As K-12 officials in many states close schools and shift classes and assignments online due to the spread of the new coronavirus, they confront the reality that some students do not have reliable access to the internet at home – particularly those who are from lower-income households. Here are key findings about the internet, homework and how the digital divide impacts American youth.

When colleges shut down, some students have nowhere to go

Anya Kamanetz, NPR
Lee Myers is a senior at Berea College in Kentucky. Up until March 14, he was living in a dorm called Deep Green, majoring in philosophy with a minor in economics, and looking forward to a future career in social justice. Now that the campus has closed and graduation is canceled due to coronavirus, he and his classmates have bigger things to worry about. “Some people are panicking, rightly so,” he says, “because they don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s sort of like a bombshell that dropped on campus.” Every day, more colleges and universities are canceling in-person classes due to the threat. Most are keeping dorms and dining halls open for now, but a growing number have asked students to pack up and leave campus indefinitely. That presents a problem for the significant fraction of students who depend on their school for basic needs — food, housing, financial aid, health insurance and on-campus jobs. And, as colleges shift to online learning for the remainder of the semester, not everyone can afford the necessary laptops and broadband.

Other News of Note

Citing coronavirus, homeless families seize 12 vacant homes in L.A.: ‘We have to do this’

Liam Dillon, The Los Angeles Times
A group of homeless and housing-insecure Angelenos seized more vacant, publicly owned homes in El Sereno on Wednesday, arguing that government officials have failed to provide the shelter that’s necessary for them to remain healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. The occupation followed a similar takeover Saturday, when two families and a man moved into one of the neighborhood’s dozens of empty homes — all owned by Caltrans. The state agency bought them years ago as part of a now-failed plan to extend the 710 Freeway.

Alone against the virus

Amy Kapczynski and Gregg Gonsalves, Boston Review
The enormity of the coronavirus pandemic is still unfolding. The true toll of COVID-19 won’t be known for many months, but the best-case scenario is probably roughly ten times as bad as a severe flu season, with a particularly brutal impact on the elderly and sick. As governments around the world scramble to contain its spread, entire cities have been sealed off. Schools have been closed. Hundreds of thousands—in all likelihood, millions—of people are in quarantine. The U.S. response has been delayed, perhaps catastrophically, by failures in the scale-up of testing for the virus. We have no valid estimates—not even within orders of magnitude—of the number of infections here. But cities and localities are beginning to follow what businesses and universities had already begun to do: recommending or mandating “social distancing” measures such as limits on public events to stave off a tidal wave of sickness that could swamp our health care system.

In a plague year

Mike Davis, Jacobin
Coronavirus is the old movie that we’ve been watching over and over again since Richard Preston’s 1994 book The Hot Zone introduced us to the exterminating demon, born in a mysterious bat cave in Central Africa, known as Ebola. It was only the first in a succession of new diseases erupting in the “virgin field” (that’s the proper term) of humanity’s inexperienced immune systems. Ebola was soon to be followed by avian influenza, which jumped to humans in 1997, and SARS which emerged at the end of 2002: in both cases appearing first in Guangdong, the world’s manufacturing hub. Hollywood, of course, lustfully embraced these outbreaks and produced a score of films to titillate and scare us. (Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, released in 2011, stands out for its accurate science and eerie anticipation of the current chaos.) In addition to the films and the innumerable lurid novels, hundreds of serious books and thousands of scientific articles have responded to each outbreak, many emphasizing the appalling state of global preparedness to detect and respond to such novel diseases.