Catholic schools and the pandemic

Catholic schools in Boston opened for in-person instruction in the fall without the dire predictions that opponents made (“How Boston-Area Catholic Schools Opened for In-Person Learning Amid the Pandemic,” EducationNext, Dec. 17). Despite a population of 35,500 students, teachers and staff, only a tiny fraction of one percent has been infected.

The superintendent attributed the results to adhering strictly to CDC guidelines.  If so, why can’t public schools in Boston and elsewhere do the same thing?  Is it because teachers’ unions are using the pandemic as the justification for higher salaries?  As readers of this column know, I support teachers’ unions.  But there is a limit to what I believe are demands that will backfire.

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5 Replies to “Catholic schools and the pandemic”

  1. How much testing was done in the Boston Catholic schools? In other words, how sure are we that only 1% of students/staff were infected? Was there any random testing? Testing costs $ — were the schools willing to put up the $ for testing? And, the Diocese, having decided to open the schools, probably had a pretty strong vested interest in ensuring that infection numbers stayed low.

    Also, what were the community infection rates during the time that the Boston Catholic schools were open? If community infection rates were low, then opening the schools would not trigger a large number of cases, even if schools were places that infections could spread easily.

    I’m not arguing for or against opening schools during covid. Seems that there are strong arguments on both sides. From what I’ve seen in the media, the scientific evidence tends to support opening the schools (at least for K-6) but that scientific evidence is still pretty thin.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: It’s not just Catholic schools that have reported very low rates of Covid. As a result, I wonder why public schools can’t reopen. Is it because teachers unions oppose doing so?

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    1. Teachers unions definitely oppose re-opening — at least to the extent that teachers who prefer to teach remote would be required to teach in-person. But, that’s not the only factor influencing school officials.

      My impression — from media reports — is that parents in general are sharply divided re in-person re-opening (particularly in-person re-opening w/o a remote option) + lower-SES/minority parents are also sharply divided re in-person re-opening (notwithstanding some media reports noting that lower-SES/minority students suffer more from remote than higher-SES students).

      So — staying 100% remote or going 100% in-person will be politically dangerous for school officials. Of course, the hybrid — where everyone has a few days remote and a few days in-person — will tick off everyone.

      Seems like the politically sensible — and probably scientifically defensible — approach is to re-open in-person while continuing remote with parents getting the option to do whichever they prefer. Of course, that’s probably the toughest approach administratively for the school officials and — if it meant that Teacher A had to teach simultaneously in-person and remote (as is happening in some districts) — would be totally unacceptable to teachers (as well as probably impossible to do effectively in the real world).

      I’d advocate re-opening in-person while continuing remote with parents getting the option to do whichever they prefer with teachers teaching either in-person or remote but not both + to the extent possible, give teachers the choice re being remote or in-person + if not enough teachers opt for in-person, then require teachers to teach in-person using seniority to govern who has to teach in-person + give teachers who refuse the against-preference in-person teaching requirement the option to go on LWOP (benefits continue but no salary) and they get first shot at recall when vacancies occur but no definitely promised recall date.

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  3. Labor Lawyer: I think most parents whose children are in public, private or religious schools want them to reopen because the risks seem acceptable. Why Catholic and other religious schools never closed to begin with is still unclear.

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    1. The surveys that I have seen reported in the media show parents roughly evenly divided re remote vs. in-person. My sense is that these surveys are in areas that are purple or blue politically, not red; would expect the strongly red areas to strongly favor re-opening (but those same folks strongly favor re-opening bars).

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