2021年10月1日 星期五

The Daily: A Third Pandemic School Year

We called our sources in Odessa, Texas to check in.

Welcome to the weekend. Britney Spears, abortion, Haitian refugees: We covered a lot of ground on the show this week. Was there an episode that stood out to you — or one you'd like us to follow up on? Let us know. We always love to hear from you.

As the Northern Hemisphere settles into a third pandemic school year (whoa), our team has been thinking about school reopenings and how the Delta variant is affecting children. In the process, we've wondered: How are our sources in Odessa doing?

Our producer, Soraya Shockley, called some of the people you met in our four-part series on one West Texas high school's reopening. Here's what they said.

A third pandemic school year

Naomi Fuentes, a teacher at Odessa High School.Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

The first day of school, always a momentous occasion, had added weight this year: In many school districts, it was an attempt to return to in-person instruction after multiple school years of disrupted teaching.

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But one preschool class in West Texas had the "Groundhog Day"-like experience of reliving that first day three times. Scott Muri, superintendent of the Ector County Independent School District, said that on the official first day, one of his preschool students tested positive for the coronavirus, sending the entire class to quarantine for 10 days. After, the class returned to campus, only to have another child in the class test positive. And so it went again.

"I think about that 3-year-old," Scott said. "It's his first school experience. And, you know, it's been a bit chaotic for him and for many of our kids."

The reality of another disrupted school year in Odessa, Texas, is a sharp contrast to the hopefulness of early summer, when President Biden announced "Independence Day" from the virus, masks came off and travel picked up.

"We were excited because everything was back to normal, the kids were showing up," Jimmy Olague, assistant band director at Odessa High School, said. "We had a full summer band like we always do."

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But in the months since, the number of children admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 has risen to the highest levels reported to date. Nearly 30,000 of them entered hospitals in August as America's children began returning to school, overwhelming children's hospitals and intensive care units in Texas. At least 45 districts in Texas have shut down in-person classes because of Covid-19 cases, affecting more than 40,000 students. And one school day at Odessa High School saw 110 positive cases among students and staff members, Scott said.

"We haven't had 100 percent attendance in our band since the first day of school because there's always somebody out, there's always somebody quarantined," Jimmy said. "I feel like the virus is worse. I feel like it's around us a lot more."

At the same time, Gov. Greg Abbott has barred mandates for vaccinations and masks in Texas. (He tested positive for the virus last month and has since recovered.) This means that teachers and administrators have limited options in mitigating the spread of the virus.

"I wish I could say in my class, you have to wear a mask, but I can't," Naomi Fuentes, a teacher at Odessa High School, said.

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Absenteeism has affected students' performance in class and in the band. "Our playing is not up to par right now," Jimmy said, adding: "It's been tough. My drum line is a lot smaller."

And while Scott, Jimmy and Naomi said the pandemic had also negatively affected their students' mental health and class behavior, they each noted students' resilience and positivity.

It helps, Scott said, that "the football team is having a great season." As students come and go from class and band practice, one thing is constant: the annual rivalry game with the Permian Panthers, the subject of the book "Friday Night Lights." This year's game is next Friday night.

Recommendations from 'the pod club'

Lucille Ball in the Broadway show "Wildcat."Everett Collection

Every Sunday on The New York Times Podcast Club Facebook group, we ask our members to share what shows they have been loving.

Here are some recommendations from our pod club for you to listen to this weekend.

Let's Talk to Lucy: This SiriusXM podcast unearths recordings that were once lost to history: Lucille Ball's 1964 CBS Radio interview show "Let's Talk to Lucy." It's a slice of old Hollywood, with a legendary guest list that includes a 22-year-old Barbra Streisand and Bob Hope.

This Land: This year, Crooked Media's "This Land" returned for a second season. Its first followed a murder case in Oklahoma and the potential impact on a reservation there. Two years later, it is taking on a different Indigenous story: how some conservatives have used the rules surrounding the adoption of Native American children as part of a culture war.

A Wish for Afghanistan: Fronted by Lyse Doucet, the BBC's chief international correspondent, this explores the conflict in Afghanistan through interviews with sources on all sides — a U.S. diplomat who negotiated the withdrawal, a founding member of the Taliban, and Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's former president.

On The Daily this week

Monday: An exploration of the Biden administration's response to the increasing number of Haitian migrants at the U.S. border.

Tuesday: A conversation with Brig. Gen. Khoshal Sadat, a former Afghan deputy minister for security, about the Taliban, his career and Afghanistan's future.

Wednesday: A look at the details of Britney Spears's conservatorship, before a court decided its future.

Thursday: The Democratic discord over President Biden's infrastructure plan.

Friday: A visit to an Oklahoma clinic after Texas' abortion law.

That's it for the Daily newsletter. See you next week.

Have thoughts about the show? Tell us what you think at thedaily@nytimes.com.

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