The Tipping Point

We win! Mississippi is first in something!

We lead the nation in positive rate on C-19 tests, which means that we’re actually losers. Surprise.

But there may be more bad news on the way. All of Mississippi’s public school districts will reopen by the end of this month, which means that rates of infection are likely to increase, even with our best efforts. What will be the tipping point for a return to distance learning? Must 20% of the school be infected? Fifteen?

I suspect that our decisions will mirror how we’ve responded to the disease in other ways. Communities that quickly adopted mask mandates will offer more flexible curricula predicated on keeping people healthy. The assumption in these districts will be that parents will be well informed and intentional about the ways their kids get educated, and that students can return to f2f classes once numbers improve. Other districts will not have such resources–or the faith that the parents of students will stay engaged enough to help with teaching their kids.

For students who lack connectivity or familial stability, staying home to try to learn means living, but losing opportunities. Consider the students who turn to school as a source for reliable social structures, meals, and emotional support. Returning to remote learning won’t help them thrive, either. Do those issues transcend the health risks? The economic loss of not having class weigh heavily on us as well. What will happen when parents of grade schoolers cannot go to their jobs?

What happens when the grandparents of face-to-face school students attend school functions and contract C-19?

None of these issues has an easy resolution. I look forward to your assessment of the best path forward.

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6 Responses to The Tipping Point

  1. Danielle Ryans says:

    To be honest, it is not surprising that Mississippi is leading the nation in positive rate on Covid-19 tests. Most of the things Mississippi is the top in are bad things. All the issues facing the students and those around them that are returning to school or choosing to do distance learning do transcend the risks of them catching Covid. If the students go to school, they are likely to come into contact with someone who has the virus and might end up contracting it themselves. The students choosing distance learning will also be vulnerable to catching the virus if they are stuck inside all day because if the virus comes to them, they will probably have a weaker immune system than normal to fight it because they are not going outside and getting enough Vitamin D. Most parents have no other income coming in than what they make from their jobs. They will have no other choice but to send their kids to school because they still have to provide for them. This has been one of the hardest decisions for some parents of school children today: send your child to school even though they make contract Covid-19 so you can work to take care of them or stay at home to homeschool them knowing that you have no income coming in and cannot provide for your family. Then you have the problem of an eldery family member contracting the disease if the child goes to school and catches it. If that happens, that person might not be able to recover. Older people are more likely to have underlying health conditions and weak immune systems so they are unable to fight against infectious diseases. Even if schools follow the proper procedures, there are still chances of their students, staff, and faculty contracting the virus. I believe that the safety of the students and staff members is more important than the students getting a better education by attending school face to face. Even though virtual learning is not very practical, I believe it is the safest option. For the students who do not have access to wifi and an electronic device, their school can mail them work packets. This may be a lot for the teachers to do, but it is safer than in-class learning. The schools could also send buses of meals daily to the students’ homes so the children will still be provided with meals and bus drivers could be still paid. In my opinion, there is not a right way to move forward as of now because there are so many uncertainties and not enough information.

  2. Elena Eaton says:

    Statistically speaking, fewer than 3% of Mississippians infected with Covid-19 have passed. Further, fewer than 2% of Mississippi’s population has been infected at all; therefore, the mortality rate of COVID-19 in Mississippi is roughly .00073%. By comparison, in 2017 the death rate of the flu in Mississippi was .00026 %. The small size of these percentages lends support to the popular notion that the disease is insignificant. I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell Leilani Jordan, 27 from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, that her death was insignificant. Death is personal and permanent. As deaths from COVID-19 continue, no matter the scale, it seems fitting that Mississippians take it upon themselves to take preventative action—it’s the considerate thing to do. The Coronavirus has already devastated the United States economy. With unemployment at 10.4%, a drastic 7% inline, there are few additional, unforeseeable economic repercussions of this disease. Really, the best thing for economy right now is employment; yet, we cannot match the productivity of years past until it is safe for workers to resume their positions under “normal” circumstances. Given that adolescents are among the largest transmitters of Coronavirus, the decision to pursue distance-learning is almost apodictically the best way to limit virus transmission, thereby accelerating America’s recovery from this medical and economic curveball.

  3. Dylan Griffith says:

    With schools reopening, it is only a matter of time before someone eventually either contracts C-19 and infects majority of the school population or contracts C-19 from a classmate or faculty member. Masks and social distancing mandates will only delay the inevitable. Given the current situation, online learning appears to be the best solution at first glance. With students at home, they can still receive an education and lower the transmission rates of C-19. A win-win right? Well, no not exactly. Students with domestic issues or poor internet are worse off at home than at school. Not to mention, staring at a computer screen all day does not exactly improve one’s health. However, with a few tweaks this system can still be a success. For example, if schools offered the option for select students to attend school in separate classrooms while also receiving lunch and a safe environment, online learning would be a great alternative. In the end, there is no perfect solution to the online vs. f2f debate, but there certainly is a better solution than the plan currently in action.

  4. Aabha Mantri says:

    The sheer dismissiveness of the severity of the pandemic is concerning. People still refuse to wear masks and adhere to social distancing rules. Kids hang out with their friends and there is not a single mask in sight. It is no wonder Mississippi is leading in COVID-19 cases.
    Across the state, schools have different approaches to dealing with C-19 and making sure students still get the education needed. For example, the Lauderdale County School District split up the school week by having students with last names A-K attend school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays while last names L-Z students go on Thursdays and Fridays. The school district also provides lunches for students who need them. However, many parents are concerned about how schools will cover the material in syllabi. The district isn’t on top of their game in terms of conference calls. Teachers have trouble using Canvas, Google Classroom, and other platforms for online learning. Some students do not have a stable internet connection at home, nor do they have devices to use to complete their assignments.
    The best way to go about this is to practice distance learning. School districts across the state should provide laptops to students who needed them and also open up classrooms on school campuses if students need access to a stable internet connection. They should provide tutorials to both faculty and staff AND students on how to use Canvas or Google Classroom.
    As mentioned by students in earlier posts, there is no “right way” to go about this. However, this plan seems to have the potential to help prevent the spread of C-19.

  5. Nicholas Djedjos says:

    We are between a rock and a hard place in this education crisis.

    Being first in coronavirus infectivity is a disaster waiting to happen, especially as testing has been decreasing, but the infection rate of 20 percent still remains the same. This means that there is insufficient testing in Mississippi, which results in widespread cases through asymptomatic carriers unknowingly transmitting the virus. Those cases go unreported due to lack of testing, and the cycle begins again.

    Yet the benefits of a traditional reopening are evident. Elementary students in particular need social interaction and face to face learning. No kindergartener can stay in front of a computer screen all day and receive the education they need. How can first graders learn how to read through a screen? Likewise, how can one teach a first grader that being closer than six feet to their best friend is bad? These are pressing problems, and they must be addressed, as younger students are at a critical point in their educational life.

    As for older students, we have the understanding that distance learning saves lives. It sounds simple. Stay home, and we don’t get sick. But mental health, lack of focus and anxiety from being cooped up in a house for several months takes a toll. Thus, I propose that all schools should provide the option of either hybrid or distance learning. It makes no sense to open up traditionally. It’s as if school leaders would rather do damage control than damage prevention. In any case, traditional reopening should only be considered if hybrid seems to be working safely. At least with hybrid, the chances of infection go down drastically, and students can still retain slight normalcy in their lives. Furthermore, teachers should not be asked to put their lives on the line for students that aren’t willing to work from home. As older students, we are strong enough to learn from home and make the best of this dark time.

  6. Vineel Vanga says:

    Mississippi is always near the top of statistics of bad things. Like we are well known of being “that state”, and are always portrayed in a negative connotation. Seeing that we are first in another negative aspect just adds more fuel to the fire about how Mississippi is as a whole. But going back to the original question, I believe that the tipping point mentioned is something that varies between the different counties in Mississippi. Counties with the high populations are more prone to reach that tipping point quicker than less populated counties. Also, counties that are more developed are better able to get the resources to defend off this pandemic. I live in Madison, Mississippi and we are a pretty funded area of Mississippi and pretty developed also. We have a high population which accounts for the high number of cases that we see in Mississippi. But if you compare that with some of the underfunded regions of Mississippi then you can see a stark difference in the amount of preparation and resources that both places have.

    In regards to whether we value education over safety is highly debatable. I value education over health to an extent, because many people have important exams at the end of the school year that is important to colleges to see and some are needing to learn the basic fundamentals of what it means to become a student in lower level grades. If we were to put that issue on the backburner then we are just weakening our foundation as well as the hard work that we are trying to accomplish. Though the circumstances in which I don’t see education trumping health would be in the case of our interactions. If people are of a weak constitution or live with others who are similar in that aspect, then I highly advice them to abstain from going out because of the various people they meet can cause them to spread the virus further. Sure in those moments those people are losing a strong hold on their education, but at the end of the day they are living. To quote something that I heard in a video today that relates to this notion “There is life. So as long there is life, there is a future. So long as there is a future, there is hope. So long as there is hope, there is possibility. So long as there is possibility, people can be saved.” Though the education that they have received may not have been optimal, there is always a chance for success in the future as long as they are alive to relieve that future. Those who face the struggles of the issues of leaving their children at home or in a difficult situation at the present moment should look on far ahead instead of the present to weigh out their differences and see which path is the best to follow. What they consider should be considered an investment to their future. Though this path is treacherous, we sometimes have to sacrifice something in order to attain it, but we value as sacrificial is up to us to decide.

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