The Indicator from Planet Money - Opening Schools: Mission Impossible

The question of whether to reopen schools or educate children at home is medically sensitive, logistically complicated and politically fraught. How one superintendent is handling it.

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it is back to school season. Of course this year. It's more like back-to-school season that back to maybe maybe a lot of schools are still wrestling with the question of just how to have school. Will it be online classes only? Will there be in person teaching some kind of mixed and it is a really emotional topic every state is handling it differently. There is a ton of pressure from every side in Indiana for instance State lawmakers really wanted to see kids back in school parents were saying we need this we need to so we can go back to work also to get the best education for our kids start getting back to normal a little bit state law schools. Hey, you need to open for in-person learning or otherwise you could see your state funding cut my 15% doctor for I cannot remember this moment very well. She is a superintendent of schools in

Indianapolis for Pike Township. We are a majority minority District. We have 85 different languages spoken in our schools 85 languages and 11000 kids in grades K through 12 to lot this mandate from the state IRL in real life or else but then also over the summer Flores School District gets hit really hard by covid-19. We saw a spike in positivity cases are which is why the Marion County Health Department closed bars recently again more than 10% of the residents in her area. We're testing positive for covid-19 in the parents were freaking out. So where the teachers like it's not safe for these kids to go back to school. If you cannot put people's lives in Jeopardy schools need to be online to complicate things virtual learning is really tricky in Florence District because more than half of her students do not have access to a computer for many of our family.

The only device that they had available was a cell phone.

And if you have multiple children using a single cell phone or to be honest learning from a cell phone is not an ideal situation. This is the indicator from Planet Money. I'm Stacey Vanek Smith and I'm Cardiff Garcia. Dr. Flora Ricon daughter found herself in the kind of Mission Impossible situation. She had to find a way to educate thousands of students in a way that make sure that they all have the best education and keep them safe and do all that with no money actually less than no money. Remember there's the 15% budget cut. This kind of pressure would have most people are not Flora Florida native plant where made a plans spoiler alert who jumping out of an exploding helicopter unlike most Mission Impossible plans. That is true. Although I would argue metaphorically they did ya

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Dr. Flora Rekha daughter runs the pike School District in Indianapolis. She's in charge of 11000 students and most of them do not have ready access to high-speed internet or devices. That would make remote learning possible. Also, is she opted for remote learning it might mean losing 15% of her State funding 4.4 million dollars to be exact and so, of course, then you have lots of sleepless nights thinking what am I going to do? What has to go when you lose 4.4 million dollars, not only that Laura needed to spend money to get the equipment and internet access to thousands of students in case virtual learning needed to happen and also to get equipment for the school itself in case school open back up and social distancing needed to happen before making any plans Florida needed to deal with the money situation. So the first thing she did was prepared for that 15% cut. We will have to make some significant cuts.

By either increasing class sizes reducing the number of course offerings like related arts and things like that, which would be so devastating because it's what makes a child well-rounded but something has to give in the meantime floor wrangled a few hundred thousand dollars from the cares act and from a city fund and she took out a loan. She shoot a school bond for 5.3 million dollars and Florist District was already in debt from a bond issued a few years ago. So now her district is more than 15 million dollars in that but someone was ending in Florida was still waiting to see what the state would say and what would happen with kovacic Aces and eleven thousand students are counting on her for Education safety meals up safe space. So she developed her plans for an A and A Plan B and a plan C and A Plan D trying to work forward with what are all the what is

Plan a going back to school IRL classes in session but sir in the seats and that meant making the physical schools as safe as possible for the kids coming back. We have social distance markers stickers that go on the floor. We've also invested in what we call our classroom barriers. They're actually plexiglass and they're clear barriers that go on top of the desk. So that is plantae the Other Extreme that floor had to prepare for a hundred percent virtual learning. That means every kid needs a computer and Wi-Fi and remember where that's half of Florida students do not have a computer and a lot of them do not have proper Wi-Fi which meant that if the school shut down these kids would have no way of attending class the district had already invested in Chromebooks that students in need could check out they just made the check out longer and bought

For Chromebooks at this time every student who needed a Chromebook has one Plan D soaps to come in alternating days a week by blast name or my classroom and they go to class online the other days so it's kind of bows and then floral weighted with all of her plans the ready to see what the state would say and what would happen with Kobe cazes that has been a very emotional roller coaster in in just the last two weeks. The verdict butts in seats go. So we're going to plan a and plan B. Also the elementary students are back full-time all the kids middle school and high school students have a choice of cases are still a little high in the area. So students could Ops 4 virtual learning for this semester in about 40% of the students.

Apps for virtual learning the other 60% are coming to school unless of course there is an outbreak of Kobe and horse floor has a plan for that tooth course. She has a plan again. She has a plan. Yes, she does.

This episode of the indicator was produced by Brittany Cronin and Fountain the indicators edited by Patty Hirsch and is a production of NPR.

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