School Report Card: College students outraged that schools are canceling spring break, teachers call for sick-out

Korin Miller
·10 min read
A child has his temperature checked as he rubs his hands with hand sanitizer before attending class at PS 361 on the first day of a return to class during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A child has his temperature checked as he rubs his hands with hand sanitizer before attending class at PS 361 in New York City on the first day of a return to school on Monday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Students are headed back to class amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to keep you posted on what’s unfolding throughout U.S. schools — K-12 as well as colleges — Yahoo Life is running a weekly wrap-up featuring news bites, interviews and updates on the ever-unfolding situation.

A teachers’ group is calling for a nationwide strike next week to call attention to inequities in standardized testing during the pandemic

A group of teachers who call themselves Teachers for Good Trouble are calling for a National Teacher Sick Out on Dec. 15 in an attempt to end standardized testing during the pandemic. “We are educators focused on reforming schools to build safe, nurturing, and justice driven school communities by eliminating standardized testing as a tool to measure performance during a pandemic,” the group’s website says.

The organization is also offering “premade lesson plans” for teachers to share with their classes if they decide to work on Dec. 15, “so that you are using this time wisely in your classroom to create positive change with your students,” the website says.

Teachers for Good Trouble did not respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment. In a video posted on the group’s Instagram account on Nov. 22, a teacher, whose name was not given, said, “Nobody is concerned about the safety of teachers, students and our families, all they care about is [standardized] tests. We know that it has everything to do with Betsy DeVos.”

In the video, the teacher says he received an email from his school district “saying we are all required to return to the building to proctor and administer standardized testing in person, even though we’re 100 percent virtual. Even though our district said that we would not be returning to the building.”

He goes on to say that data from the results of the standardized tests will be used to “help justify privatizing public education.”

The organization also has a Change.org petition addressed to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education that had earned more than 17,000 signatures as of Friday morning. “It’s time for America to pay attention to the concerns of teachers! It’s time to put a stop to standardized testing during this pandemic!” the petition says.

“Standardized testing has to go. Period,” one person wrote in the comments. “Students and teachers do not need the additional pressure of standardized testing during a pandemic,” another said.

First child in L.A. County dies from COVID-19-related MIS-C, appears to be the 1st in California

A child in Los Angeles County has died from MIS-C, a serious complication from COVID-19. The child, who has not been publicly identified, had a “complex preexisting cardiac condition,” Lauren Song, a publicist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where the child died, tells Yahoo Life.

The hospital has treated 32 patients suffering from MIS-C, ranging in age from 4 months to 17 years, Song says. Of those, 31 have been “successfully treated and discharged.”

The child’s death from MIS-C complications is thought to be the first in California. As of Monday, there had been 145 cases of MIS-C in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health. In California, 162,504 children ranging in age from 0 to 17 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Tuesday data from the state department of health.

California has 1,485,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Friday data shows.

Song urges families to be cautious. “With COVID-19 numbers at critical levels, it’s crucial that families exercise caution and remain vigilant,” she says. “If parents think that their child has MIS-C, it’s important that they contact their child’s doctor or pediatrician immediately.”

College campuses are canceling spring break en masse. What impact will this have on mental health?

Schools across the country have canceled spring break in an attempt to keep students from traveling and potentially bringing more COVID-19 cases to college campuses.

San Diego State University, Florida State University, Ohio State University, Boston University and the University of Michigan are among those that have canceled the rite of passage — and students aren’t happy. Many have taken to social media or started petitions to try to change the status quo.

A Change.org petition to bring back spring break at San Diego State University (SDSU) has received more than 16,000 signatures. “Spring break is an essential time for us to recollect ourselves and maintain our mental health,” the petition says. An op-ed published in the school newspaper, The Daily Aztec, encourages students to take a leave of absence for a break. “If students are struggling, regardless of the reason, they should be encouraged by the university to take time off and return under more optimal circumstances as well as stressing the psychological value a leave of absence can provide them,” opinion editor Trinity Bland writes.

However, not all students agree. The decision to cancel spring break at SDSU was supported by the university’s School of Public Health Student Council, which wrote in a Dec. 1 letter to the University Senate that “a traditional week-long break could be detrimental to the health of our campus community.”

What does this mean for students’ mental health? It’s tough, Alicia H. Clark, psychologist and author of Hack Your Anxiety, tells Yahoo Life. “Of course the reasons make sense, but not being able to leave campus will be another loss for many students returning to campus this winter,” she says. Students will have to face a “longer slog of academic pressure during a time that has already been long and stressful for students.” She notes that “stress is most effective when it is punctuated with periods of rest.”

Students who are on campus are likely dealing with a hybrid learning situation and restrictions on their activities, Clark points out. “All of this adds stress and pressure that is traditionally relieved with breaks and holidays,” she says.

“Students will be disappointed, so this is a loss, a hurt for them,” clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Life, adding that “some students may become depressed by this in the short term.”

Clark says that “mindset and flexibility are critical tools” for students at this time. “Flexibility grows from keeping expectations fluid and minimal,” she says. “Knowing this is a year like no other, and keeping expectations minimal, can help manage disappointment when uncertainty strikes and plans change.”

New York City ends its 1st week after partially reopening schools

On Nov. 29, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza announced a plan to partially reopen their schools after shuttering them due to COVID-19. That reopening began this week.

Under the plan, students in 3-K and pre-K programs, as well as those in kindergarten through fifth grade who opted for in-person learning, returned to schools on Dec. 7. Students with the most significant disabilities returned to in-person learning on Dec. 10. Middle and high school students remain remote for now.

“Reopening our buildings is paramount to our city’s recovery from COVID-19,” de Blasio said in a press release when the reopening was announced. “That’s why we are doubling down on the safety and health measures that work to make in-person learning a reality for so many of our students.”

The move back to in-person learning comes as the city appears to be on its second wave of COVID-19 cases. Currently, cases in the city are on the rise, with 15,083 new confirmed cases in the past seven days, according to Friday data from the New York City Department of Health. Hospitalizations and deaths from the virus are also increasing.

But COVID-19 cases in New York City public schools have remained relatively low. The largest public school system in the country, which enrolls around 1 million students, has seen roughly 190,000 students return to in-person learning this week, the New York Times reports. The New York City Department of Education did not immediately respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.

From Sept. 14 through Dec. 10, there were a total of 4,590 students and staff with confirmed positive cases, per the NYC Department of Health, leading to 2,313 classroom closures, 221 24-hour building closures and 252 14-day building closures. On Thursday, there were 113 confirmed positive cases in schools.

However, the city is seeing some of the largest increases in percent positive COVID-19 testing among younger populations. Currently, children in the 13- to 17-year-old age group have the highest percent positive rate, at more than 8 percent, while those who are 5 to 12 years old have a percent positive rate of nearly 7 percent, according to Dec. 5 data.

Under the new plan, parents and staff must sign a consent form for testing, and every school will participate in weekly random testing for 20 percent of their in-person population.

School districts across the country are seeing increases in failing grades

After the first marking period grades were issued, reports flooded in from across the country of jumps in the number of failing grades that students received.

In Boston, the city’s prestigious Boston Latin Academy saw a 4 percent jump in failing grades for grades seven through 12 from last year. Boston Latin Academy Headmaster Gerald Howland tells Yahoo Life that the school features “highly motivated” students, many of whom are doing well. “We are thrilled that in the midst of a pandemic, 95 percent of our 1,800 students are showing up every day and passing all their courses in a rigorous college-prep curriculum,” he says.

But, Howland says, not everyone is succeeding — and the school is taking action. “We have a team of counselors and administrators reaching out directly” to the struggling students, he says.

In San Diego County, Calif., the Grossmont Union High School District, located in El Cajon, has also seen a large number of less-than-ideal grades. According to data shared with Yahoo Life, the first quarter saw the following breakdown of grades among high school students, with nearly as many students receiving D’s (3,759 students) and F’s (10,089 students) as those receiving A’s (15,978 students).

Superintendent Theresa Kemper tells Yahoo Life that her district is working to fix the issue. “We are addressing grade repair and credit recovery for students receiving D’s and F’s during the current quarter,” she says. That includes providing additional outreach and support classes for students who are struggling, tutorials and a winter session. “We’re doing everything we can to understand the challenges our students face in this difficult environment while ensuring there’s enough accountability and support to keep them engaged,” Kemper says.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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