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Aug 26

Back to School in the Time of COVID

By |2020-08-26T12:36:08-08:00August 26th, 2020|government, Local Government|0 Comments

This time of year, we see parents and kids planning for the new school year, doing back to school shopping, getting school supplies, and planning schedules.

This year however there is a new element that parents and kids need to plan for because of COVID-19. Most school districts are planning a combination of in-school and home-school learning, while other districts are going forward with in-school learning only.

Back-to-school anxiety is normal and understandable for kids. Many kids may feel anxious about going back to school after a long summer break. COVID-19 is contributing to increased anxiety and stress levels for this new school year. In fact, many kids and teens are experiencing feelings of fear, anxiety, stress, and uncertainty as they struggle to come to terms with in the pandemic. It’s not uncommon for people—including young people—to struggle with psychosocial issues during outbreaks of infectious diseases.

As of now, there is a lack of information and scientific consensus about the impact that school closures and re-openings will have on community transmission of COVID-19. There is considerable concern about the indirect effect of school closures on students and parents.  Nationally, there is no consensus on how schools should run this year.

Most models of school re-opening involve reductions of class size, increasing physical distance between students, and keeping students in defined groups with limited interaction between groups to reduce the potential for wide-scale transmission within schools.

Most districts that have re-opened schools have instituted some degree of in-school and home-school learning. For some schools that are doing in-school learning, they have staggered the start, stop, and break times within the school. Some districts are using alternate shifts (morning, afternoon) or alternate days, while a smaller number of countries have maintained relatively normal school schedules.

Some districts have re-opened schools only for younger or older students to accommodate the increase in resources (classroom space, teachers, etc.) required for smaller class sizes. And some districts have re-opened only for younger students.

As we start to observe and detail the health and socioeconomic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, some profound consequences are beginning to emerge. Social isolation and the unknowns are taking a toll on children.  The ‘new normal’ is harder for some to adjust to, especially not know how long this will last or if it will be the way of life from here on.  For kids this is particularly hard because they need consistency and routines.

And while children have not suffered from the direct effects of COVID-19 infection like older adults have, there is mounting evidence that their health and welfare are being adversely affected.

The debate to reopen schools or not is playing out with no clear answers and our kids are noticing.  The stress of going back to school, performing at the required level, worrying about getting sick themselves or their family, and absorbing the stress from their parents are all factors our kids are facing.

Signs of Anxiety

When kids are anxious, they may not know how to put their feelings into words so it’s important that parents know how to recognize the signs of anxiety. Here are some common indicators that a child might be anxious.

  • Displays changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Has bouts of unexplained crying
  • Complains of stomachaches
  • Struggles to concentrate
  • Appears more clingy than normal
  • Gets upset or angry more quickly
  • Expresses negative thoughts or worries
  • Appears restless and fidgety

Here are some tips to establish routines and help ease your kids’ stress:

  • Talk about it. Ask your child what he or she is worried about if they show concern, and talk about the fun and exciting things that will be happening throughout the school year.
  • Stay positive! If you show enthusiasm for what the new school year brings, your kids are sure to pick up on it, and the nervous energy will turn into excitement.
  • Get back on schedule. Before the school year begins, start establishing the “school year” bedtimes, and wake children up at the time they will be getting up for school. Also, eat meals on a more regular schedule before school starts.
  • Don’t over-schedule your child or family. Also, include your child in decisions regarding what or how many activities they are involved in. Ask him or her how much they can handle in addition to schoolwork.
  • Set expectations. Go through expectations ahead of time about getting dressed, eating breakfast, and appropriate grooming so that everyone gets out the door on time.
  • Stay involved with your child’s school and have regular communication with the teacher – even if it’s over email. Stay on top of how your child is doing academically, socially, and behaviorally.
  • Get organized! Establish a family calendar where all after-school events and important assignment due dates are easy to spot. Prepare school bags and clothes, arrange books and school supplies on shelves or in boxes or drawers, organize all paperwork by priority, and make a single to-do list of all the tasks you need to complete each day.
  • Plan the homework load. Make a plan for where and when homework will be done. Is it always done at the kitchen table right after school, or is there a desk your child uses and homework time will be after dinner? Stick to a schedule so it’s always part of the evening routine.

By taking some basic precautions, this school year can be safe and productive.

For more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), click here http://bit.ly/CDC_School_guidelines

Jul 22

Next Generation Wireless Service Is Coming

By |2020-07-22T09:04:12-08:00July 22nd, 2020|City Clerks, Court hearings, government, judicial, Live Streamng, Local Government, State Government, Technology Innovations|0 Comments

As we now enter the 6th month of quarantine and social distancing, our cell phones have been a lifeline to keep us working, in touch, informed, and provide a level of security. 

For local governments, this has put a strain on their wireless bandwidth as more business is conducted via wireless phones, tablets, and laptops. As city governments adopt a virtual council meeting environment, either in whole or in part, being able to keep connectivity with citizens, has become crucial.

What has quickly become clear is that many local governments are facing how to keep up with the technology demand by going virtual. Smaller local governments do not have the bandwidth necessary to work remotely and provide all the services mandated.

This is highlighted by recent events and political protests that typically overload available capacity on cellular networks.  To add to the stress on cellular towers, sudden peaks in data usage that takes place in disasters and crowed events further causes 3G, 4G, and LTE cellular networks to fail.

Public safety and emergency management are critical functions of the state government. In response to emergency and disaster events, access to reliable communication is vital.  In emergency events, cellular network operators (such as AT&T, Verizon, and more) request, “Customers to use text or email to free up voice capacity for public safety officials on the scene.”

Because current telecommunications networks simply can’t cope with the massive increase in call volume in a disaster or crowded event, first-responders and those in public safety and emergency management must be prepared to use alternative forms of communications.

Simply put, mobile wireless networks become unreliable during and after a disaster or emergency situation. There are several different places where congestion can happen. Networks consist of different technologies, different levels and different mobile switching centers that may cover a large area.

But help may be on the way.

The newest generation in wireless networking is called Fifth generation (5G) wireless technology and it can open the door to transforming and enhancing public services right at the time we need it most.

The fifth generation of wireless networks represents a major boost in both capacity and speed that will help ease the burden on current systems and offer vital improvements to public services. But this technology is both costly and controversial even as states and local governments begin to legislate and regulate around 5G.

It is hard to imagine how a business or government will survive without access to the technology we need to stay connected and informed. Virtual meetings have become essential to keep businesses and governments running. As we look into the future, it is evident that investing in building strong communication networks, in particular 5G, will be as crucial as ever to American safety. Fifth generation wireless technology has the potential to reboot how the U.S. government achieves many of its critical missions.

5G Benefits State and Local Governments

When any city faces an emergency, they must quickly communicate with the public. When you factor in the current virtual environment, more and more devices are consuming more and more data which can strain bandwidth, slow services, and drop connections.

The potential upside to greater capacity and network speed is huge. Surges in cellular network use during emergency events are less likely to slow or prevent vital communications between citizens and first responders. 5G will be the underlying infrastructure to help usher in fully autonomous vehicles, intelligent public safety cameras, and connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices used throughout city infrastructure. Jurisdictions with 5G networks are likely to attract tech-savvy residents and businesses that leverage those connections for new digital business models and reach new customers.

However, none of this happens without the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) streamlining unnecessary regulatory roadblocks to small cell deployment, as well as keeping its vital spectrum auctions on schedule.

AV Capture All provides a platform for local governments and its judicial branch to record and live stream city council meetings and courtroom hearings. Our platform uses a cloud service to store the audio and video files so no bandwidth is used on the government’s server.

AV Capture All is here to ensure the gears of government continue to work and the public is informed.

Contact us today to a Demo.

Jul 13

Local Government Spending

By |2020-07-13T12:11:20-08:00July 13th, 2020|government, Local Government, State Government|0 Comments

Every local government has to decide how to direct general expenditures.  Education and police top the list, followed by healthcare, transportation, and roads.  An issue that all state and local governments are currently facing is a substantial projected budget shortfall in revenue because of closures due to COVID19.

State and local governments spent $193 billion on law enforcement and corrections in 2017. Local governments were responsible for $129 billion, or two-thirds of that spending. Law enforcement spending ranks behind education ($684 billion) as the second-largest spending category for local government budgets.

According to USA Facts, governments in America’s largest counties tend to spend more money per capita on law enforcement than smaller counties, according to data compiled by the US Census Bureau.

Local governments spent on average $340 per person on law enforcement in 2017. That represents 9.2% of all spending, but priorities differ in counties of varying sizes and demographics.

The 9.2% of all local government spending is a fifth of what’s spent locally on education (48.6% of spending or $2,106 per person). It’s also more than twice that of public health (4% or $174 per person).

In the 25 most populous counties, local governments spent $573 per resident on law enforcement – which includes both police services and corrections. In the next 303 most populous counties, all with at least 200,000 residents, law enforcement spending stood at $388 per person.

For the next largest state expenditure, public education, spending per pupil ranges from $7,486 in Idaho to $23,091 In New York, the highest tally of any state, followed by the District of Columbia, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont.

Local governments spend far more of their budgets directly on elementary and secondary education than states. In 2017, 40% of local direct general spending went to elementary and secondary education compared with less than 1% of state direct spending.

Only in Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, and New Jersey did state governments deliver 5% or more of direct K–12 spending. Hawaii was an outlier because the Hawaii State Department of Education operates public schools and thus 100 percent of its direct educational spending occurred at the state level.

Overall, the United States spent $13,025 per pupil in 2017. Among the states, New York spent the most per pupil ($25,288), followed by Wyoming ($20,255), New Jersey ($19,364), and Vermont ($18,755). These states also generally had the most per capita spending in 2017.

One of the next highest direct general expenditures is in healthcare. In 2017, state and local governments spent $294 billion, or 10% of direct general spending, on health and hospitals. Health and hospitals combined were the fourth-largest source of state and local direct general spending in 2017 and roughly equal to higher education expenditures. And in 2017, 66% of health and hospital spending went to hospital services and 34% went to other health programs.

According to a Pew Research report on federal data released since the pandemic, education jobs have accounted for nearly two-thirds of the decline in state and local government employment.  It is not known how this will recover when school starts again in late summer.  Nationally, local education employment has declined by more than 9% since March.

As local governments face substantial projected budget shortfall in revenue because of closures due to COVID19, AV Capture All provides affordable tools for city councils and municipal courts to live stream meetings, keep agendas organized and help citizens stay engaged.  Click here to request a quote and demo.

Source: Urban Institute and usafacts.org

Jun 30

Jury Trials Remain on Hold

By |2020-06-30T13:32:46-08:00June 30th, 2020|Court hearings, government, judicial, Live Streamng, Technology Innovations|0 Comments

In most states, Superior and Municipal Courts, and jury trials are planning to slowly begin again over the next couple of months. 

In New Jersey, Superior and Municipal Courts resumed some in-person court services on June 22. A small number of judges and court staff will be working on-site each day. The rest will continue to work remotely to ensure safe distancing can be maintained. And new jury trials and in-person grand jury selection began June 28.

States that are still struggling with COVID-19 have delayed their plans to reopen courts later in the summer. In Texas, State courts have decided to hold off on jury trials until after August 1.

In Massachusetts, courthouses will start to reopen in early July, but jury trials in the state will not resume for at least a few more months. Jury trials for both criminal and civil cases are postponed to at least September 8. Grand juries are also not allowed to be empaneled before that date. Jury trials for both criminal and civil cases are postponed to at least September 8. Grand juries are also not allowed to be empaneled before that date.

As most Americans who work from home know, technology has allowed them to do their job. Our legal system is taking advantage of the same technology.

On June 26th and 27th, the Online Courtroom Project conducted a two-day demonstration trial entirely online to understand the challenges and opportunities of applying technology solutions in the current justice and court system.

With some courts reopening and a surge in new coronavirus cases across the country, public reluctance to show up for jury service is understandable, so different legal groups are trying to find workable solutions.

“We know we are facing unchartered territory and complicated issues, but there are a lot of available resources and practices that point the way to providing solutions to the current justice bottleneck, and even improving practices in the future. As an interdisciplinary group, we plan to bring thoughtful but expedited wisdom to researching and recommending best practices for online hearings and trials.” Richard Gabriel, President, Decision Analysis, Inc., and Founder of Online Courtroom Project.

Attorneys are facing issues about getting their clients a fair trial.

The other major concern is the backlog of untried cases in the criminal justice system, which of course has ballooned during the lockdown. In Connecticut, civil jury trials are backlogged by at least six months. And that delay could prompt attorneys to opt for bench trials, according to James Abrams, the chief administrative judge for civil matters in the Superior Court system.

But Abrams is optimistic about getting back on track, especially if jury trials begin in November.

“We will be able to right the ship within six months,” he said. “There would be a six-month backlog. That is a situation we will be able to manage.”

Attorneys have another point of view. Jamie Sullivan, at Howard Kohn Sprague & FitzGerald, said he favors bench trials in the short-term because “it will move business and will allow cases to be adjudicated.”

But Sullivan said, “Few people realize how important this system of having a jury is to the American democracy. It not only allows the most powerless to render judgment on the most powerful, but it allows citizens from different backgrounds to engage in principled debate and to lose that would be incredibly damaging for democracy.”

In New York City, the virus is putting incredible stress on its judicial system, creating long delays in criminal proceedings and raising growing concerns about the rights of defendants.

Since February, the backlog of pending cases in the city’s criminal courts has risen by nearly a third — to 39,200. Hundreds of jury trials in the city have been put on hold indefinitely. Arraignments, pleas, and evidentiary hearings are being held by video, with little public scrutiny. Prosecutions have dropped off, too, as the authorities have tried to reduce the jail population.

In mid-June, the state courts in New York City took a first small step toward physically reopening: Judges started returning to their chambers, though they are still holding court virtually.

AV Capture – Judicial Solution is used to record the Audio (and Video if desired) of courtroom hearings. The Court Calendar or Docket is synchronized to the recording, with an option to publish public hearings online. If published, the docket is then indexed and becomes immediately searchable, allowing Court staff to save time by directing defendants or other interested parties to the website to view or order their recordings. If not published, court recordings can be easily located, and burned to DVD.

AV Capture is here to ensure the gears of government continue to work and the public is informed.

Contact us today to a Demo.