Readin’ and Writin’ and ‘Rithmatic

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Do you know how many students attended public schools in the United States in the 2019-2020 school year? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/, about  50.8 million – 35.5 million in prekindergarten to grade 8, and 15.3 million in grades 9-12.

About 3.7 million students graduated from high school this spring, in the strangest ending to a school year anyone can recall. I’ve heard stories from my parents of “depression years” and school schedules revolving around “cotton-picking time.” My Dad was double-promoted in high school during hard times and wound up graduating at age 16. “Daddy had been a school teacher, and he made sure I got my studies done first. So I’d go to classes in the morning and then put in a crop in the afternoon,” he told. My Mom was dealt a reverse blow – her father held her back for two of her school years; once due to a lengthy illness and once when she simply needed to help support the family. My grandfather was a carpenter, and she dug clay from the riverbank to make bricks. But both parents persevered. They made it, despite the odds.

This year’s high schoolers were hit with an unexpected, unpredictable crisis along about March. In a flurry of fears and fumbles, as the COVID-19 virus began to creep across the country, schools shifted to stay-at-home, online classes. The methods varied from state to state, even within school districts. “Let’s stay home till this passes,” was Plan 1.

It didn’t pass. Virus cases continued to go up and state governors were tasked with issuing mandates to protect their citizens. What a thoroughly depressing “rock and a hard place” to be between. We can’t let 3.5 million kids miss a senior year! But also, we can’t let 50.8 million kids sit side by side in a classroom when the danger of illness, or death, is entirely possible.

So what to do?

You know what happened, it’s past now. My two high-school-senior-grandchildren toughed it out, sitting at home with their laptops; certain hours for online classtime and individual study. Yes, you can STUDY at home (that’s normally called “homework”) but how the heck do you complete a welding class online? They missed the senior prom, the cross-country meets, the camaraderie with school chums. It all went flat.

I applaud the effort their school officials made to create “virtual graduation ceremonies” so they did get to WEAR those caps and gowns; they did get photographed with smiling faces and feted with “immediate-family-at-home parties.” And cake, of course, cake. I’ve heard stories from friends in different parts of the country that told of similar, and some very unusual, solutions for “how to make it SPECIAL for the Class of 2020.”

Life goes on, and the virus isn’t letting up as the fall “school year” fast approaches. The daily news is mostly daily arguments and accusations; we MUST do this; we CANNOT do that. The impact of school closures extends far beyond “educational concerns” or “health concerns.” Financial, emotional, practical, common-sense issues are topsy-turvy; our structured way of life is no longer certain of its footings.

I analyze COVID-19 cases every day on the CDC site; today’s totals are 2,982,900 with 145,663 deaths so far in our 50 states, the District of Columbia, and our US territories.

Top Ten List

Sometimes, I noted, it isn’t good to make the TOP TEN LIST. Today, the ten US states dealing with the highest sheer numbers of COVID-19 cases are:

  1. 399,925: New York. Capital City Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democrat
  2. 277,724: California. Capital City Sacramento, Governor Gavin Newsom, Democrat
  3. 210,594: Florida. Capital City Tallahassee, Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican
  4. 210,585: Texas. Capital City Austin, Governor Greg Abbott, Republican
  5. 173,878: New Jersey. Capital City Trenton, Governor Phil Murphy, Democrat
  6. 149,574: Illinois. Capital City Springfield, Governor J B Pritzker, Democrat
  7. 110,338: Massachusetts. Capital City Boston, Governor Charlie Baker, Republican
  8. 105,094: Arizona. Capital City Phoenix, Governor Doug Ducey, Republican
  9. 100,470: Georgia. Capital City Atlanta, Governor Brian Kemp, Republican
  10. 92,148: Pennsylvania. Capital City Harrisburg, Governor Tom Wolf, Democrat

Andrew Cuomo, Gavin Newsom, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, Phil Murphy, J B Pritzker, Charlie Baker, Doug Ducey, Brian Kemp, and Tom Wolf, governors of these hardest-hit states, have some tough decisions ahead. So do the governors, and health departments, and school boards, of ALL our states and territories.

There are more than 50 million children out there whose future rocks, and rolls, on the decisions you make.

Tomorrow: Colleges