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What Can Victorian Schools Learn About America From Opening?



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Every night, we wait for the email. Sometimes it comes late in the afternoon, but many nights it doesn’t hit my inbox until 10 or 11 pm Eventually, it arrives, written by an annoyed school principal who informs us that my son’s high school is still closed.

My family is in the same position as thousands of others in Victoria, where about 1

00 schools are dealing with similar situations.

After months of distance learning, 11 and 12 year old students in Melbourne returned to class on 14 July. For my son, who is in 11th grade, this school people lasted less than a week – on July 20 we were informed that a student at his school was positive for coronavirus and all teaching in the a person is suspended while the school has been cleaned and contact tracking has been done.

As of today, July 31, the school is clean but contact tracing continues. There was never a timeline given to parents or students about how long the tracking lasted. We look forward to day-to-day updates on whether school will resume the next day. The principal waits for the Department of Health to tell him when contact tracking is complete, and the overburdened Department of Health does – I assume – its best, probably with some of its own waiting for results. of the coronavirus test.

With a heartbreaking debate in the United States about whether schools should reopen after the annual summer break, there are some helpful lessons in our school struggles in Victoria. A piece of opinion in this week’s Times asked, “what happens when there is a case of Covid-19 in a school?” Well, here in Melbourne, many schools are already answering this question.

I spoke to Times education journalist Eliza Shapiro today as she was briefing the news of plans drawn up by the New York school district – the largest in the United States – for the opening again. It is one of the only large districts in the country that tries to teach people anytime soon, with many large districts opting for distance learning for the foreseeable future.

Eliza’s reporting, along with Dana Goldstein, has shown that many large school districts are in danger of spreading the major coronavirus in the community if they reopen, but New York is keen to move forward and the plans outlined for me Eliza are complex and ambitious, with specific standards for when schools close and under what conditions.

“It’s really complicated,” she told me. “We have so many vulnerable children, so many children with disabilities, so many homeless children, so there’s a lot of interest in getting as many children back into the classroom as possible. But once we open up – if we open up – real life will clash with these plans and it will be really difficult. “

What Americans may not fully understand is what we already learned in Victoria: The Plans can quickly disappear when the unpredictability of the virus comes into play. Each case or grouping becomes its own mystery, requiring time and resources while raising anxiety to new levels.

To be clear: I don’t put any blame on anyone for the situation at my son’s school. It is an excessive word in these strange times, but the situation is unprecedented and extremely complex. I commend all those involved for trying to keep the community as safe as possible. But Victorian schools are in a much better position than many American school systems by almost every metric, and yet things here are messy and unpredictable and often delayed for reasons that are unknown or completely undivided.

Just like our evening ritual of learning on the fly that our situation will be the next morning, the most disconcerting thing about this virus is the extreme uncertainty and resistance it demands. . What will you bring tomorrow? Or the next day, the month and the year? I hope that what they are going through can, at the very least, help inform and prepare other parents, students and school districts about what their own future may hold. And for now, it’s mostly anticipation followed by disappointment.

What are your biggest concerns about reopening schools, in Australia or elsewhere? Let us know at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

Here are this week’s stories:


And On For You …

Last week we wrote about pandemic reading, and I asked her what she was reading now. Here are some answers and suggestions from the reader:

I read a novel that isn’t about pandemics, but, I think, captures the spirit of claustrophobia of a stay at home: “Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles.

– Kurt van der Walde

An illuminating biography, “Queen Uncrowned” by Nicola Tallis really helped me in the ongoing situation of staying safe inside. It’s about Tudor matriarch Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry V11, and her extraordinary life.

– Peter James

During the Covid quarantine I discovered Australian female authors and I was enjoying books focusing on the life of the stations in rural areas. Authors like Fleur McDonald have found me brilliant in developing complex characters, relationships and behavior particular to rural Australia. I enjoyed a number of books from Karly Lane, also based in rural Australia. I can recommend exploring books by Anne Rennie, Di Morrissey and Kate Grenville; all Australian fiction writers.

– Wendy Williams


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