School days in the era of coronavirus

20 percent cut

school daysAll summer, the issues of whether my wife, a teacher, and my daughter, a high school student would return to their traditional school days were up in the air. My wife and I have been watching the seemingly endless stories about the perils of colleges and other schools that have already begun their semesters.

In the city of Albany, there was a big push to allow students and students a choice. The Albany School District had an August 24 enrollment choice deadline. Leading into that, the district held several “virtual forums to provide families with the most up-to-date information and the opportunity to ask questions.” Some were building-specific; these would explain the protocols in those particular spaces. There were also district-wide forums.

To be honest, I didn’t attend any of the events. My rationale was that I was all Zoomed out. I did, however, vote in the enrollment choice poll. We voted Yes to in-class learning. The infection rate for Albany County has remained less than 1%, despite a few stupid college parties.

Also, my daughter wanted to go back to school. She thrives as a social being and hated whatever ersatz learning the school was forced into in mid-March through June.

Plan I

Virtual student orientation for students and parents and guardians were organized. The topics included orientation to the new classroom environment, and health and safety protocols. Also, they provided orientation to Google Classroom and a virtual learning environment. Students would hear about appropriate social distancing protocols, and the use and requirements for masks and face coverings.

After virtual instruction for all students for a week, the schools would begin to “implement identified instructional model (in-person, hybrid, or virtual), with early dismissal each day. By Tuesday, Sept. 29, all schools would “implement full days of instruction” by the preferred mode.

The budget surprise

Oh, geez. Schools Hit with 20% Cut by Governor Cuomo Right Before Start of Tumultuous School Year. “New York State budget office informed school districts statewide that it was temporarily withholding 20 percent of the State’s payments. This presents a major challenge for all New York school districts,”

Cuomo and labor leaders have written to New York’s congressional delegates urging them to provide $59 billion to the Empire State “to avoid what the governor predicts will be devastating cuts on state and local services.”

And suddenly, after all of the planning for options, Albany High School will be all virtual in the fall of 2020. My daughter is not happy. Moreover, she complained that I hadn’t told her the news. Hey, she was just getting up when I was going off to work at 10:30 a.m…

Back to school

Meanwhile, my wife IS going back to in-person teaching. Protocols are in place, but they seemed to be tweaked on a thrice-weekly basis. As a teacher of English as a New Language teacher, she’s hoping to get a face shield. It’s difficult to show visually how to enunciate while wearing a mask.

My wife was less worried about herself than bringing something home to her somewhat older husband. We’re just crossing our fingers. And our toes.

This bit of satire is essentially true.

Lydster: the summer job, finally

quarantine

Last year, my daughter had a summer job through the city of Albany’s Summer Youth Employment Program. It was her first actual job. She had taxes and Social Security taken out of her paycheck.

This summer, there was a pandemic that shut down the program. It’s not so much the money as it was something organized for her to do. Yes, she did some protesting and created some art. In fact, she combined the two by making a number of signs for the protests. She tackled some yardwork and power washed the front porch. But it’s better when she has a regular schedule.

She helped with a group of six to eight-year-olds in a program that my church contributes to. I’m of the opinion that friends and acquaintances of ours somehow created the position for her. It was only for two weeks, so she didn’t get too burned out by that.

It’s better than having her watch television all day. She watches some crime shows I actively hate.

why is this summer different from all others?

Of course, one of the elements that are different this summer is that we didn’t go on the extended family vacation. We had gone to a timeshare in Massachusetts, usually, for the past decade. COVID certainly affected that, to some degree. One of my daughter’s cousins is off to college and hasn’t even been home. Of course, the family dynamic has changed in no small way with the death of my FIL this spring.

And the three of us haven’t even gone on a nuclear family vacation. If we were to do so, it’d almost have to be in New York. The state has travel advisory. So if we were to travel to one of those 30-odd states, we’d have to follow a 14-day quarantine. so the longest trip we have taken is to see my MIL, 75 minutes away, and in New York State.

Obviously, we did not add to my daughter’s – or my – list of new states visited this summer. Maybe next year, if all goes well, we’ll travel to Minnesota for a family reunion.

Lydster: creating another Jesus

collage

JesusI was quite unclear what my daughter’s specific motivation was. Suddenly, she needed to cut up magazines, and sort the pieces by color. Bye bye, old, unread copies of Vanity Fair.

Then she did a couple of drawings on 8.5″ by 11″ paper, one in green, the other in blue. She added digits as though she were creating a paint-by-numbers. And she was, of a sort. She was creating a code for the different colors, and the gradation within the hues. Using the copier, she made the primary image larger.

Our church had disposed of some old hymnals a couple of years ago, and we had three or four copies. One of them died for her art, as she arranged the pages as her background. There was no musical theme involved, BTW.

The living room was quite a mess as she glued pieces on the image she had hand-drawn. Here’s the result of her collage of another Jesus portrayal. It is roughly 30″ by 40″.

Is heaven segregated?

I found an interesting interview from NPR in June 2020. The Rev. Lenny Duncan is a black preacher in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. his 2019 book is Dear Church: A Love Letter From a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US.

A couple quotes: “One of the things I talk about in the book is [the symbolism of Advent] — painting blackness as always in darkness, always as evil and bad, further away from the light of God and all that kind of language we use in our worship.”

And: “I believe that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America wants to be better. They just don’t know how. One of the things that we often underestimate with the power of white supremacy is that the people who are the sickest from it, often do not know that they are infected with it.”

The philosophers of the 18th and 19th century codified that notion. In Philosophy of History (Chapter 2), Voltaire argued that blacks were a separate, lesser species. Europeans felt the need to justify their discriminatory treatment of non-Europeans. So-called “empirical methods” readily allowed them to conclude that Indians and Africans were inferior people.

At some level, my daughter, who was in her confirmation class only last year, must be intuitively aware of all of this. We haven’t had specific conversations about what Jesus looked like. Her rendering of another Jesus is her truth.

The Lydster: an American patriot

making the signs

The article in Nation of Change explains Why the George Floyd Protesters are American patriots. My daughter has been one of them. I am pleased.

We have always talked about societal issues with her, pretty much since she started watching the news about seven years ago. I wondered at the time whether she was too young to take on such difficult conversations. The trouble is that the issues were out there whether or not we talked about it.

She and most of her friends were at least aware of the shootings of 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, CT in December 2012. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when she and some of her classmates walked out of school shortly after the killing of 17 mostly high school students in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day 2018.

And they were bitterly disappointed when there was another school mass shooting with double-digit deaths and wounded in Sante Fe, TX two months later. I know from long experience that the demonstrations don’t always seem to work.

A grounding

The former youth director of the church, Christy, had helped ground the youth in issues about gun control, violence, racism, and a number of other hot-button issues. This was usually done in a musical theater setting.

My daughter has not only help organize peaceful protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death, but she’s also made many of the signs. She was a bit distraught when she turned her ankle, which swelled up and hurt greatly for three or four days. But she’s now back in the fray. In fact, when a group of protesters hijacked her group’s event, she and a friend went to some of the local restaurants the next day to distance their actions from those of the other group.

Naturally, I, and especially her mother, are a bit nervous about her activities. But I’d be a hypocrite to complain. When I was her age, I was protesting against racism and a far-off war.

She’s also been keeping track of which businesses we should boycott – e.g., Home Depot, whose co-founder backs IMPOTUS. But she also suggests which ones to support, such as Lowe’s, because of its $25 million in minority small business grants.

Some friends suggest that we must have raised her right. We’d like to think so, but, like most parents, we still have no idea what we’re doing.

Lydster: balancing act- what to share

more photos!

The primary balancing act in this here blog involves my daughter. When she was really young, I would put photos of her. Eventually, though, that seemed to be potentially unwise because people are strange.

Even early on, it was also true in the written content. I wasn’t about to write something that would potentially embarrass her years later. Of course, it’s always tricky to ascertain what will mortify a teenager.

I have several photo albums of my life prior to getting married in 1999. But I have none of the pictures from this century in books. However, I do have the pictures. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands.

My daughter was allegedly helping me to clean the office when she got distracted by the photo books. My, she could be brutal about a pose I made, or a look I had back in the day. It was humbling, to say the least.

But she can be rather unforgiving of the way she looked when she was younger. I think she’s very cute. So does her mother. But she seems to think otherwise. Who’s right here, her or her totally unbiased parents?

Clean up time

In the months before I left work, I found a treasure trove of emailed photos there. I sent them to my personal account. Now, in the midst of purging said emails – from 10,7000 down to 4,000 so far – I’ve decided to use some of those pictures here, each month because I can. They’ll be in no particular order.

The photo below is from July of 2007. We were visiting a married couple in the Binghamton, NY area. She was in our wedding in 1999. We were in their wedding in 2002. That’s our kids playing in the sprinkler, my daughter to the left.

I think the picture above was in Oneonta later that summer. Perhaps at Brooks BBQ? Maybe somewhere else? It doesn’t much matter. The kid’s cute, though, right?