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spires from Carfax

A Phoney Normal? School and Work

Helen's been back at school for three weeks now and I've started going in to work two days a week, and that's all gone very smoothly. Old routines have come back quickly, and the most remarkable thing is just how normal everything seems.

The school now has a one-way circulation system for parents, and staggered drop-offs and pickups, and the playgrounds are festooned with makeshift barriers dividing year group play areas. That all seems to work reasonably well — at least there's no real crowding and it's reasonably easy to keep a distance from other parents. It's harder to know what's changed within the classrooms, but from what Helen says pandemic changes seem to have largely been subsumed into the normal changes of moving up a year. School dinners are now in the classrooms, each year group has access to only part of the playground at break (they rotate the areas weekly), and so forth. They've even worked out a system for some individual music lessons to resume, and Helen has been having piano lessons.

So far no classes or years have been closed, but I suspect that's only a matter of time given rising community infection rates. At least three of Helen's classmates have missed weeks of school while waiting for test results, which took a week to come back — when they did at all. And the school has been scrambling to maintain staffing, with teachers and other staff facing the same problems. (If the government is serious about prioritising keeping schools open, they really need to prioritise testing for teachers and get test turnaround to under 24 hours.) And, given the likelihood of partial or full closures, the school has also had to plan how they will provide online teaching. This is happening behind the scenes, but places a further burden on the staff.

And going back into the office also seems very normal.

We've staggered things so only one person is in the IT Office each day (it's quite large, since it's designed for three people). Hand sanitiser stations have sprung up everywhere. Going out the front door doesn't require pressing a button any more, just waving a hand in front of a sensor. The toilets are limited to one person inside at a time. And so forth. This all seems pretty safe to me. My desk is also right under a window, which I'm keeping open — it could be a chilly winter, though I have my doubts, as with the school, about how long this Phoney Normal will last. The teaching spaces (mostly in the neighbouring building) are likely to pose a bigger problem, as are some of the labs downstairs.

My computer is still occasionally springing surprises on me, when I discover browser tabs with news stories from March in them! (I have two monitors, four workspaces, and multiple browsers with multiple windows and multiple tabs.)


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