John Deasy on How High-Poverty Districts Are Dealing With Coronavirus

  1. We are at the center of both school and community responsibility nearly 24 hours a day. This is exhausting and emotionally draining in a way we have never faced.
  2. The fact that decisions are now affected by so many external entities makes things very complex. We’re having to balance the advice of county and state health agencies, federal agencies, local emergency centers and their leaders, mayors and governors, and, as always, state departments of education.
  3. Unlike other crises — a hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, and worse, violence — here was no emergency plan, “playbook,” or set of well-practiced drills for a global pandemic. What’s more, amid concern about serious threats to physical health and safety, the guidance we’ve been given has been shifting constantly. And furthermore, this event, unlike nearly all other emergency events, had no clear beginning and does not seem to have a clear end. When there is an earthquake, it strikes, it ends, we clean up, and we move forward. Disruption is usually temporary, and we can typically count on things going back to normal in the near future. Not so with this pandemic.
  4. Finally, this is an invisible threat. All other crises can be seen. This kind of context is missing with the pandemic. Taken in total, this has led to a sense of existential fear and constant worry. The daily death rates and new case announcements are very difficult to wrap your head around. It is like the shock of 9/11 every week. We are being told that after the pandemic subsides dry up, we will face a historic shock to the economy. Leaders are being called upon to be models of assurance with positive and clear direction, and to create a sense of normality. Needless to say, this has and will continue to be very difficult.

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Frederick M. Hess

Frederick M. Hess

Direct Ed Policy Studies at AEI. Teach a bit at Rice, UPenn, Harvard. Author of books like Cage-Busting Leadership and Spinning Wheels. Pen Ed Week's RHSU blog.