These are certainly sad and trying times for sure. This certainly isn't the world's first pandemic though. Wikipedia gives that honor to the plague of Athens which in the 400s BC killed 75,000 - 100,000. In the 1520 Smallpox Epidemic, nearly 8 million died in Mexico. The Italian Plague of 1629 killed 280,000. And of course, there was the Black Death in the 1300s which killed 75 - 200 million Europeans, as much as 60% of the population. Don't they wish they would have had a Twitter account.
As district after district closed their doors, the Kern High School District waited until the Governor essentially made it mandatory. Whatever Kern High does, the elementary schools follow suit. I was glad that we were the last of the 25 largest districts in the state to close our doors. Today is our first day of closure.
For that first circle, I told them what our topic was, COVID-19, and I handed out a talking stick. It's really a plush pony that's easy to toss around the circle. I asked kids to share what they had heard, read on social media, or seen with their own eyes. That first day, the circle was 32 strong.
After talking, I asked each of my kids to visit the website Information Is Beautiful. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out, it is the most non-alarming thing you'll see on the internet today. Their COVID-19 #CoronaVirus Infographic Datapack is the best visual representation of the disease that I've seen.
In my own classroom, we finished each day by using Clorox wipes to clean our table tops and frequently touched surfaces like door handles and light switches. This is a practice we've done since the first day of school. My classroom also has a wall mounted hand sanitizer unit that the kids use whenever they want.
In preparation for a closure that involves 13 school days, my district quickly assembled packets and supplies to be sent home with each student at the end of the day. Fortunately, most districts around California already have a spring break scheduled during this time, so the number of missed school days will be fewer than what a 4-week closure makes it sound. For students who were absent, their packets were labeled and placed in bins in front of the school. Parents were messaged and asked to come pick them up.
Besides providing packets of grade appropriate schoolwork for each child, my district is also providing portable breakfast and lunch packs for any child under the age of 18. Between the hours of 11:00 am and 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, a meal pack will be available at most of our schools in the drive through for any child in the car. The meal packs are being offered free of charge, Meals must be consumed off site to discourage large gatherings.
So when the world looked to be falling apart right in front of our eyes, my students and I examined the data from what seems like the most reliable sources available. Does the Corona Virus merit the social media attention, social distancing, and societal shut down that we're seeing? I let my students decide for themselves.
Do I think pandemics in general are fake or contrived? Absolutely not, but I do worry that this one might cause us to become jaded toward the next one. A more deadly one. One like Smallpox but more contagious with a higher death rate.
I guess only time will tell.