How COVID Protocols Disrupt the Learning Process

This time last year, all I wanted was for my students to have access to in-person instruction. I didn’t mind having to do a hybrid structure, deep cleaning on Wednesdays, mandatory masks, extended quarantines, or social distancing—I would have done anything to have my students back in person. 

Some of these protocols were necessary last year, others were not. However, thanks to the vaccine, further research, and our control of the virus, it is abundantly clear that these protocols will not only be COVID theater this fall, but also a disruption to learning.  

As of now, the majority of schools are thankfully planning to ditch some of these protocols, such as the highly ineffective and burdensome hybrid structure and the arbitrary requirement of six feet of distance—two measures that often prevented five days of in-person learning from happening. Unfortunately, we still have recalcitrant teachers unions with leaders such as Randi Weingarten, who will do everything in their power to obstruct the return to five days of in-person instruction. The Chicago Teachers Union has already made egregious demands that 80 percent of eligible students be vaccinated before they return to school this fall in-person. It would be helpful both morally and politically for Democrats to side with the science and kids this year over their most problematic interest group.

Other protocols have also proven to be futile as mitigation strategies, yet schools are still planning to use them despite their costliness. Many schools last year made the well-meaning but ill-advised decision to close one day a week for “deep cleaning” despite the scientific evidence that COVID transmission on surfaces is almost nonexistent. Nevertheless, a school district in Alabama is planning to spend part of its COVID relief funding on deep cleaning rather than on more important things such as improved ventilation or addressing learning losses. Likewise, quarantining students who have been “exposed” in their pod are over-the-top precautions which will cause students to needlessly miss out on critical instructional time.

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Comments (66)
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  • I see a lot of false reporting/claims of children hospitalizations in the comments. I will reserve my opinions one way or the other. I will also refrain from explaining/discussing 'long COVID' and the lack of information in regard to it, because that's not the point of this article. It is worth noting, however, that all respiratory infections result, in some patients, a long-form of disease that can take months or years to fully recover from, and that children and younger individuals are vastly more likely to fully recover (and recover quicker). Decades of data on respiratory infections.

    But I think it is worth having the best possible data to reflect on. AAP considers 'children' based on the state level reporting, which is important to note as a caveat. From AAP (definition found in PDF report): Age ranges reported for children varied by state (0-14, 0-17, 0-18, 0-19, and 0-20 years).
    "Children were 1.3%-3.6% of total reported hospitalizations, and between 0.1%-1.9% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization"

  • I'm going to sidestep the mask issue because I do think there's a lot of open questions there, especially because I saw a lot of my students not using masks properly or consistently. The part that needs to be publicized more is the "deep cleaning" nonsense because everyplace is still putting out hand sanitizer and wiping things down without real need. I have to spend the last two minutes of class making students wipe down their desks and CHAIRS (how exactly do they think covid enters the body?). Total waste of time and money.

  • I tend to disagree with this article, but thanks for presenting it nonetheless. The debate it launched in the discussion was meaningful also.

    In many aspects, Mr. Hooper is persuasive: the needless safetyism should end. But especially at high-school age, it seems like a relative problem of trying to work under constraining circumstances of mask wearing. Yet five-day-a-week in-person instruction should be strived for as the standard.

    Policies for elementary and middle school will have to be designed separately, even though any age differentiation will have to be arbitrary, since diseases don't check people's birth dates before infection. There are no clear, hard natural cut-offs.

  • It makes no sense for the author picked the lowest cost but most effective mitigation strategy to eliminate, during a resurgence of a highly transmissible variant.

    My kids' schools were open all year (September 2020 to June 2021). They wore masks every day. It had zero impact on their ability to learn. It did not seem to bother them at all.

    Long distance learning was a real problem, especially during the initial lockdown. To understate the case, my kids did not learn well then.

    The FDA has more than enough data to grant full approval. They should do so without delay, and schools should mandate the vaccine. In the meantime, all teachers and faculty should be required to take it. Everyone 12 and up should then be allowed to attend school without masks. Soon the vaccine will be approved for younger children, and hopefully masks will become a thing of the past.

  • This is wrong. Covid infections, sickness, and death disrupt learning far more than masks do. I'm retired Army, now a classroom teacher in Oklahoma, where our Trumpster-dominated legislature and our Trump-sycophant governor have generated a law that forbids the schools from requiring either masks or vaccinations.

    Did The Dispatch just print this so we can see what the knuckleheads are thinking?

  • Two things. First, it isn't just the unions. The decisions around education are also driven by many teachers and parents, who are letting their emotions supersede their intellect, and administrators, who are doing what they need to do to avoid the class action lawyer lurking behind a tree, just off campus. Second, I teach eighth graders: mandate the shot.

  • I really wish The Dispatch would start labeling reporting vs opinion pieces. Not that opinion pieces - including this one - don't have value, but I think it's important to differentiate between the two. Oh, and a third category - political analysis, which doesn't fit nicely into either of the other two.

  • I spent the morning looking over research about long-term covid and it really seems to be a poorly understood phenomenon at the moment. The data fluctuates so widely because the symptoms are not defined well and no great trial studies have been conducted yet. Some symptoms, like insomnia, are on the rise among children who haven't had covid, which points to the confusion around the issue. This article in Nature does a great job summarizing some of the research and laying out the uncertainty.

    We put medical experts into a difficult position when they do not have good data. They feel a need to give a statement and a recommendation, but no one wants to accept the most honest answer when it is, "Sorry, but we just don't know yet."

  • Let's see a teacher with a degree in political science and three years experience or the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics? Which one should I trust for guidance on pandemic protocols to keep my children safe? Come on Dispatch. This is shoddy work.

    1. To the dispatch, I disagree with the above comment regarding the quality of this writing and found it enlightening and worthy of discussion, not shoddy at all. As an overly-credentialed individual myself, I feel free to state that arguments to credential are rather underwhelming.

      As an aside the AAP has for years (~30y) provided recommendations to practicing pediatricians and government leaders based on little more than expert opinion and a culturally left point of view. They have not necessarily waited for the science before they begin to enforce that predetermined opinion on practicing physicians and the families/kids they treat.

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