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What can Victorian schools teach America about reopening?

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We are waiting for an email every night. Sometimes it comes late in the afternoon, but many nights it didn’t hit my inbox until 22:00 or 23:00. Eventually he will come, wrote the head of the school, who is being harassed and who informs us that my son’s high school is still closed.

My family is in the same position as thousands of other people in Victoria, where about 1

00 schools face similar situations.

After months of distance learning, the 11th and 12th students in Melbourne returned to class on 14 July. For my 11th grade son, this personal training lasted less than a week – on July 20, we were informed that a student at his school was positive for coronaviruses and all people’s learning was suspended until the school was cleared and completed. contact tracking.

To date, July 31, the school is clean, but contact monitoring continues. Parents or students have never been provided with a timetable on how long the follow-up will last. Every day we are waiting for information on whether the school will continue the next day. The director is waiting for the Ministry of Health to inform him when the contact monitoring is over, and the overwhelmed Ministry of Health – I assume – is best, probably with some waiting for the results of the coronavirus tests.

When it comes to discussing in the United States whether schools should open after the annual summer break, there are some useful lessons in the struggles of our schools in Victoria. One opinion in the Times asked this week: “What happens when the Covid-19 case occurs at school?” Many schools here in Melbourne are already answering this question.

Today, I spoke with Times Times reporter Eliza Shapir as she completed a brief report on plans to reopen a school district in New York – the largest in the United States. It is one of the few districts in the country that has attempted personal education in the foreseeable future, with most large districts opting for distance education in the near future.

Eliza’s reports, along with Dana Goldstein, have shown that most major school districts risk expanding large coronaviruses in the community if they reopen, but New York wants to move forward and the plans Eliza has described to me are complex and ambitious with specific standards. when schools will be closed and under what conditions.

“It’s really complicated,” she told me. “We have so many vulnerable children, so many children with disabilities, so many homeless children, so there is great interest in getting as many children back into the class as possible. But once we actually open up – if we open up – real life will collide with these plans and it will be really hard. “

What Americans may not fully understand is what we already learned in Victoria: Plans can quickly disappear when the unpredictability of the virus begins to play out. Each case or group becomes its own secret, time and resource consuming, while taking anxiety to the next level.

To be clear: I don’t blame anyone for my son’s school situation. It is an exaggerated word in these bizarre times, but the situation is unprecedented and extremely difficult. Thank you to everyone involved for trying to keep the community as safe as possible. However, Victorian schools are in a much better position in almost every metric than many American school systems, and yet things are chaotic and unpredictable and often delayed for reasons that are unknown or not fully shared.

Like our night-time learning ritual, what our situation will be the next morning, the most dangerous thing about this virus is the extreme insecurity and perseverance it requires. What will it bring tomorrow? Or the next day, month and year? I hope that what we are experiencing can at least help inform and prepare other parents, students and school districts about what their future may have. And so far, it’s mostly expectation, followed by disappointment.

What are your biggest concerns about reopening schools in Australia or elsewhere? Let us know at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

Here are the stories of this week:

And for you …

Last week we wrote about pandemic reading, and they asked what you were reading. Here are some answers and suggestions from readers:

I read a novel that is not about pandemics, but I think it captures the spirit of claustrophobia in the home: “Gentleman in Moscow” by Cupid Towles.

– Kurt van der Walde

Nicola Tallis’ illuminating biography entitled “Uncrowned Queen” really helped me in my current situation when I am safe. This is Tudor’s maternal wife Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry V11 and her extraordinary life.

– Peter James

During the quarantine in Covide, I discovered Australian authors and enjoyed books that focus on life at stations in rural areas outside the hinterland. I considered authors like Fleur McDonald to be excellent at developing complex characters, relationships and behaviors that affect Australian rural areas. I quite liked a lot of books by Karla Lane, also based in rural Australia. I can recommend researching the books of Anne Rennie, Di Morrissey and Kate Grenville; all successful writers of Australian fiction.

– Wendy Williams

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