Whistling Away

ref 0720Up until yesterday the notion of going back to school was an abstract concept to me. I know people all around the issue, but it wasn’t a decision I particularly need to make. I thought.

As I’m reviewing my friends, I think the last of them have retired from the faculty at Western Not State. Niecphews Ellie and Justin are college students. Ellie, a senior, has an off-campus apartment, and I believe CU has called for in-person classes until Thanksgiving, when everything will move online for the remainder of the semester.

Western under its current administration never feels compelled to let the broader community in on its plans, but I think the proposed schedule is similar to CU’s. Last I heard, which could easily be old information, incoming freshman Justin was still planning to move into a dorm with a roommate.

My sister Tia is the business manager for the Gunnison Watershed School District. She moved from Arvada to Gunnison just in time to remain mostly virtual at her job.

Late last week our school district issued a 63-page plan for school this fall. Parents of students kindergarten through 12th grade can opt for one of two tracks for the falll semester. Pathways, originally set up as the district’s alternative option for high schoolers, will now offer “case managers,” licensed teachers who will walk K-12 students through online learning, with specific curriculum models spelled out for elementary and secondary students.

Or parents can opt to send their kids to school, through a series of protocols pegged to the county’s “Coronameter” status. The county is still holding tenuously to “blue,” although we had another eight positives turn up on July 23 (people who tested on July 14 are still inexcusably waiting for results).

As long as the meter is green (we’re a long way from that), blue or yellow, students will attend class everyday. At orange the district will move a hybrid model of online and in-person learning, and if we end up in the red everything goes back online.

When we hired Vann at Pat’s back in February, he was already growing a little misty at the notion of his daughter going off to kindergarten. She was attending preschool/daycare, but kindergarten was a looming milestone for him. When I asked Vann, after reading about the district options, what they were thinking of, he seemed rather undecided.

I got an email recently from one of my many friends named Mark. This one has spent 32 years as a seventh-grade social studies teacher. Now, for year 33, he is moving to the high school to take on world history for juniors.

I have been part of his programming off and on for most of his career. He is insistent on getting community members to interact with his students, so many of us eventually find our way into his classroom.

He puts Christopher Columbus on trial every year, for instance (crimes against humanity), with his students serving as the prosecution, defense and jury. Many local lawyers have served as presiding judges, helping guide the students through the legal process. (I don’t have any sort of formal count, but my sense is that Columbus ends up guilty about half the time.)

I generally ended up in his classroom for the Renaissance years, judging student mini-plays highlighting various aspects of that post-pandemic period. At some point that project got phased out; now I usually come in to judge castle projects.

So I had been wondering, just a day or two before I got Mark’s e-mail announcing his big change, what he might be doing about community guests and if we would be Zooming in, if at all. I’m guessing for his first “new” year, during this not-the-black plague, he may go light on classroom guests.

But that still leaves my paid position with the district as a sports official.

I kind of assumed that might be moot this fall, but Mary, the middle school athletic director, came into Pat’s yesterday on a different mission. On her way out, she asked if I wanted to be left off her list for volleyball.

She said for now, the plan is for sports to take place. This surprises me as no less than the NFL is trying to figure out how to offer football, and there’s a tad more money there than at Gunnison Middle School.

Mary did note the situation is fluid, but as of now the plan is to offer interscholastic volleyball. Teams won’t change benches, and there was some notion about each team supplying its own ball, which sort of works in football but will never work in volleyball.

I had given this idle thought, but really had shelved the notion of officiating predicated on the assumption that sports weren’t likely to be on offer. Now I’m thinking about it more seriously. I told Mary I don’t know how blowing a whistle works with a mask, and now that I think about it, I’m not sure blowing one is a good idea.

Denver Public Schools may have changed its mind, but at the last report I heard they were planning for in-class learning, but choirs would not sing. So I asked my friend Carol, whose son is a middle-school band teacher in California, if the same is true for his classes.

She said that because so many brass instruments wind round and round, the thought is that they are not blasting particles into the air like singers do. She was less sure about straight wind instruments like flutes.

So I don’t know if that little hole in my whistle would be expelling particles at greater force or distance. I don’t know if I could fit a whistle inside my mask, and if it would be heard. (Based on the constant “what?” I am getting from every single person I try to talk to while I’m masked, I don’t think we have to worry about me spewing particles too far.)

As a referee, I am generally at least six feet away from every other participant, although I do have to go several times a match to the score table, which I bend over in close proximity to the scorekeepers, who I assume would be masked.

But I’m guessing the players on the court will not be, and now that the medical experts are reasonably certain kids 10 and older can transmit the virus just like adults, there’s that risk. I also don’t know how many people will be in the gymnasium, and what efforts might be made to provide healthy ventilation.

I know Japan told amusement park attendees to “scream in their heart” rather than out loud while on rides like roller coasters, but I’m not sure you can tell parents to “cheer in their hearts” for their kids who are often just starting out in interscholastic sports. If singing spews particles, hollering loudly for the Mustangs must be up there as well.

I told Mary to keep me on the list for now — this was going to be the year I made Tia come officiate with me — but this seems like every concern I have about the restaurants in town, amplified.

I want to be supportive of the schools, and I always enjoy being around the kids, watching them grow their skill sets both in sports and academics. But as I hear about a post-covid friend who is struggling with an on-going rash on her hands that no one seems able to address, and read in the paper about someone with a “mild” case whose symptoms have not resolved months later . . . Corona is not something I want.

I don’t know if I’ll be whistling while I work, or even if I’ll be working at all for the school district. Suddenly, school issues seem far less abstract.

One thought on “Whistling Away

  1. I too, saw the “screaming in your heart” news and I think it’s new and inventive. For sporting events, the school should have a rethink as having students in a learning environment is even a risk talkless on the fields playing sports. Schools in South Africa have been closed again because of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases and I’m sure the school authorities don’t want their kids adding to the statistics. They should have a rethink.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s