Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Social Distancing in College Classrooms

I really don't know how this is going to work.

First, given reports of the last few days, and especially the news of the Harvard study indicating social distancing may be needed well into 2022, I'm not sure colleges will even be back in the classrooms.

Second, though, how are colleges supposed to do this? At my school, we have enrollment in each class capped at 40 students, which is a full classroom. You're not going to be able to distance students within the class. Either class maximums have to lowered by about half, or teachers are going to have to double their teaching loads, which won't happen.

Man, all of this is crazy.

At the Los Angeles Times, "Social distancing in a classroom? Newsom suggests major changes when schools reopen":

Although campuses are likely to reopen in the fall, the school day may unfold in starkly different ways, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, suggesting staggered start times, “reconfigured” classrooms that allow for social distancing and some continuance of online learning.

The governor said that physical distancing and other precautions against transmission of the coronavirus could remain in place for a lengthy period at schools after stay-at-home orders are lifted and California begins to gradually reopen.

School district leaders will need to begin considering a host of safety measures, he said.

“Can you stagger the times that our students come in so you can appropriate yourself differently within the existing physical environment — by reducing physical contact if possible, reducing the congregate meal, dressing issues related to PE and recess?” Newsom said. “Those are the kinds of things — those are the kind of conversations we’re all going to be having over the course of the next number of weeks and the next number of months.”

“We need to get our kids back to school,” he added. “I need to get my kids back to school. We need to get our kids educated.”

Such precautionary measures would have a profound impact on the experience of school for the state’s 6.1 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade as well as for students attending college. Since early to mid March, virtually all schooling in California has become “distance learning,” typically involving students and teachers interacting online.

The biggest concern has centered on the effect of the altered learning environment for students who lack computers, adequate broadband or suitable study conditions at home. Many school districts are loaning out computers and arranging for internet access. Los Angeles Unified is spending $100 million on computers and broadband hot spots for its students — 80% are members of low-income households.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said he’s encouraged by the governor’s optimism, the incremental progress in the fight against COVID-19 and the early thinking on reopening schools. All the same, he said, schools need to “continue working on distance learning,” make the most of the current school year and look at using the summer to address academic issues.

On Monday, L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner announced that campuses in the state’s largest school system would remain closed through summer, with online courses available. District officials also said Monday that no student would receive a failing grade for spring classes...
My college is also having online summer classes, and faculty are waiting to hear what's going to happen for the fall semester.

Keep your fingers crossed.