An Embarrassment of Tables

I’ve decided that this is the term of art used when one finds oneself with not-one-but-two lovely antique dining tables and only one dining room.

To be fair, we didn’t buy two dining room tables – in fact, we have never bought a dining table. One was my parents’ – bartered in exchange for legal services – and the other was my grandparents’. The week before we moved to Jacksonville, we took the older table to be refinished by our very favorite furniture guy, Allen Thompson in Tallahassee. He does meticulous, period-appropriate, beautiful work, and he’s an absolutely delightful human being.

We received word that the table was ready in December, which sent us into a “if you give a mouse a cookie” spiral in the dining room.

The Plan:

  1. Get a Rug
  2. Recover Chairs
  3. Remove Chair Rail
  4. Add Board & Batten Wainscoting
  5. Paint Upper Wall
  6. Switch out Table

The inspiration for this room (and, let’s be honest, maybe my whole life from this point forward) is a fabric I found on Spoonflower. It’s the classic William Morris Strawberry Thief motif, in green. I had two side chairs recovered in that fabric, and may have the rest of the chairs done the same way down the line.

Next we tackled the floor. I love our parquet floors, but they need protection from chairs and traffic. I eventually picked an antelope-patterned rug from Ballard Designs (similar rug here).

I picked Sherwin Williams’ Arugula, which I pulled from the chair fabric, for the upper walls.

Boom. Progress.

And that’s about the point at which things went downhill.

Removing the chair rail destroyed the drywall underneath, so we lost a whole day repairing the damage.

Every single step of the board and batten installation was finicky and time-consuming (for us, as first-timers). We followed Young House Love’s tutorial, more or less. We had lively debates over how to space the vertical battens, how to handle the corners, whether to add a top lip, whether to modify the existing baseboards, and on and on. There was so. much. math. It took us several days of work, spread out over two weeks, to get it done. On the bright side, I got all caught up on podcasts.

And then we put everything together.

My favorite finishing touch was using the already-installed picture rail to hang some of the artwork.

And one more before-and-after:

Welcome home, dining room table.

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La-La-Laundry Land

In February, we had our old-enough-to-vote roof replaced, which (OF COURSE) revealed several sections of wood rot not noted on the home inspection. At one point the roofers completely removed our skylight while I curled into the fetal position and threw dollar bills into the fireplace. But after two very loud days, the roof is done and looks great. And our list of WDO repairs has doubled.

While that was going on, I decided the time had come to work on the laundry closet, which is at the far end of the kitchen, next to the entry closet we re-did earlier.

Unpopular opinion: I prefer side-by-side machines to stacking machines, and top-load washers to front-loaders. The latter requires too much maintenance to keep it mildew-free. Our last house had stacking units, and when the dryer died, we discovered that whoever bought the machines had teleported them into the laundry closet, as the doorway was a solid two inches narrower than the appliances. We ended up having to take off the entire door frame to get them out. Not cool, man.

Team side-by-side for life.

Since the laundry closet is next to the entry closet, I saved myself HOURS of fretting by choosing the same paint color (Sherwin Williams Indigo Batik) for the interior. I decided to keep the shelves in the same position but replace the rusted wire shelving with wood. Last, I planned to replace the depressing, uncovered fluorescent tubes with a low-profile LED fixture, and organize the space more efficiently.

Like the entry closet, I thought it useful to clarify what I needed the space to do as much as how I wanted it to look. I needed storage for household miscellany (lightbulbs, batteries, cleaning products, laundry products), a sorting container for whites, and a home for dryer balls and delicates bags. Currently, the whites go in a basket on top of the dryer, which obscures the dryer controls.

We started by decluttering the shelves (not pictured because it was embarrassing) and moving the machines out, then we dismantled the wire shelving. Thank you for your service, wire shelving, but you’re no longer needed.

After painting, we made a trip to IKEA for some helpful organizing supplies. There’s about a ten-inch gap between the dryer and the left wall which I wanted to make use of. I considered a narrow shelving unit like this one, but the bi-fold doors would interfere with access. Instead I got a skinny laundry hamper, which I will use to separate out the whites.

We also picked up a pegboard with hooks, which holds bags for delicates and a few implements like a duster and broom-and-dustpan set, and five open bins for top shelf storage. On the opposite wall, I hung a towel bar for spray bottles. And up top I chose this puff light to replace the sad fluorescent tube situation. Also because I find the term “puff light” to be irresistibly cute.

Because these shelves would need to support more weight than the entry closet shelves, I chose medium-duty metal brackets, which I spray-painted a champagne gold to match the hooks in the entry closet. We saved time and money by picking up white laminated closet shelving boards and cutting them down.

Here she is, ready to be laden down with supplies:

And all organized and ready for action:

Thanks to a thorough decluttering, I ended up with enough room on the shelves to store some rarely-used baking supplies, as well as the pets’ basket of medicines and tools.

While it seems a little silly to decorate a laundry closet, I do spend a lot of time in there. Working in an organized, well-lit space is vastly preferable to toiling in a dingy cave.

The plan for March is to have all the wood rot repaired, paint the siding and trim, and switch out the shutters.

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Roofs and Rodents

As I mentioned earlier, we’re starting 2022 with an update of the exterior of our house. The plan of action is as follows:

  1. Replace Roof
  2. Remove Defunct Electronic Detritus (including a satellite dish, exterior speakers, and miscellaneous wiring)
  3. Repair Exterior Wood Rot
  4. Paint Siding
  5. Replace Shutters
  6. Replace/Add Lighting

We started at the top. Jason and I have purchased four roofs for three houses in our time together, including the BOGO roof we got for the house that burned up. We’d replaced the roof right after we bought the house, and it was struck by lightning two weeks later. Fun!

When we learned our current roof had been put on in 2004, my first thought was, “Oh! That’s just a few years old! Excellent!” And then I realized that 2004 was eighteen years ago and got very sad indeed. Ideally, I’d want to replace a roof exactly 24 hours before it started leaking, but 18 years seems like a good long life for a Florida roof, so off it comes.

Which brings me to the rodents.

Turns out when you buy a house and leave it uninhabited for eight months, critters will be more than happy to inhabit it on your behalf. And so it was that we found ourselves with the lamest housewarming gift of all time – rodents in the walls. After a detailed investigation, it was determined they were entering the house through a hole they’d chewed in the soffit vent (the gray holey bit in the picture below). We have continuous vents made from wood that run the length of the roof at two levels.


So we replaced hundreds of linear feet of soffit vent with shiny metal rodent-proof vents, and our pest control professionals set out traps for the rodents.

That just wasn’t good enough for Ron the cat.

Sunday morning, I was getting out of the shower when Hazel bebopped into the bedroom and announced that Ron had caught a mouse.

“Did he kill it?” I asked.

“Nope! I scared him off before he killed it,” Hazel announced proudly.

“Where is it now?”

At this point, Hazel waltzed into the bathroom. “Right here in my hand!”

Oh God.

She had wrapped the mortally-wounded mouse in toilet paper, which was honestly a little bit adorable. I made her put it outside and then I made her wash her hands like she was scrubbing up for surgery.

The stone cold killer in repose.

Both the roof and the rodents should be handled in the next few weeks, and then we can move on to something a little less horrifying.

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The Girl and the GOAT

Tom Brady is 44 years old.

I only know that because Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels mentioned it approximately every two minutes during yesterday’s divisional contest between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams.

I have a love-hate relationship with Tom Brady. I went to college in Massachusetts, which meant four years of New England Patriots games on TV and approximately zero Jaguars games. I was living there when the Patriots drafted Tom Brady, and he won his first Superbowl just a few months before I graduated.

And, I get it. He’s older than most other players on the field. But the man led his team to the NFC Divisional Playoffs, and all they could talk about was whether a loss would trigger his retirement. Trevor Lawrence, first round draft pick and Subject of Much Hype, led the Jaguars to a 3-14 season. No one suggested that maybe pro football isn’t a good fit for him. He could have quite a career as a hair model.

Seriously, at the end of a football game, his hair comes out of his helmet looking better than mine does when I come out of the salon.

For what it’s worth, the Bucs were my pick to win Superbowl LVI. (That’s 56. You’re welcome.) Obviously I blew that pick – as well as almost every other pick for the divisional playoff games this weekend. I did choose the Bengals over the Titans – not because I had any logical reason to do so, but because the Titans are the longtime mortal enemy of the Jaguars. I fell asleep before the Packers lost Saturday night, but I was glued to the couch for both Bucs/Rams and Chiefs/Bills yesterday. It was an incredible pair of games.

I’m wondering if there’s a market out there for a podcast devoted to laughably inaccurate sports analysis and shoddy football picks, because I would dominate that field. I would be the Tom Brady of failing to accurately predict outcomes.

Jason reminded me that, since all my teams are out, we can enjoy the Superbowl as light-hearted entertainment with awesome food. He’s correct. (He picked the Rams and the Chiefs yesterday.) Of course, Jason is also the man who assembled his fantasy football team based on “heart” and not actual football ability.

P.S. – My revised pick for the Superbowl is Andy Reid’s walrusy mustache.

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Layers (You Know, Like a Parfait)

Buckle up, this gets a little spooky.

As I’ve written about before, I recently moved back to my hometown after a 20+ year absence, and to sum up my experience so far: I see ghosts everywhere.

Not literally, of course. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that the reality in front of my eyes is a palimpsest (thank you to the lady-novel A Discovery of Witches for introducing me to that word). I feel like I can’t see the thing in front of me without also seeing the ghost of the thing it used to be. I pass stores that used to be houses and houses that used to be vacant lots. Hazel’s school was my school – her classroom was my third-grade classroom. I see our desks in neat rows, overlaid by her class’ tables for four.

I walk through Publix as a 42-year-old, buying school lunch supplies and produce, and I pass the ghost of my teenaged self, ordering her first Publix sub at the brand-new store.

This happens most frequently at church, where I spent so much of my childhood and where generations of my family have worshipped. I process down the aisle with the choir and pass through the ghosts of my mother and grandmother walking that aisle as brides. I run my hands over the pew where my father always sat, and I wonder if any of his DNA could be lifted from the grain of the wood. On Christmas Eve, the smoke from my candle rose to the ceiling, where it became another layer in the finish of the building, another layer in the story of the church. It mingled, perhaps, with the smoke from candles held on Christmas Eves long ago, by men and women I never met but whose stories and objects reside in my home.

I am 42 and leading the Call to Worship. I am 37 and delivering my mother’s eulogy. I am 18 and preaching on Youth Sunday. I am 14 and reciting my confirmation vows.

I am assuming that my long absence has heightened this impression of overlapping realities, and that as I become re-acclimated the jarring sense of seeing through the present into the past will fade. For now, I find it comforting. It makes me feel firmly rooted and deeply connected to my community, after several years of feeling adrift. I am not revisiting my past; I am inhabiting it.

There are downsides, of course. It is unhealthy to dwell exclusively in the past, and I’m trying to be intentional about using my history as a tool to propel me forward and not a crutch to keep me back. One woman, on meeting me for the first time, gleefully exclaimed, “We’ve got our Winkie back!” It made me wince. But this, too, shall pass. The layers of personal history I am applying will obscure the ones laid down by my parents and grandparents, and the restless ghosts will go back to sleep.

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High Five for Friday

Welcome, welcome!

First up: This was our first Duval County Christmas, and we had great success establishing new seasonal traditions for our family. We sat on a sidewalk in downtown Jacksonville and watched a light-and-music show projected on the face of a cathedral. We set out luminaria with our neighborhood and hitched a ride with a neighbor for the golf-cart-and-bike parade. We attended the First Coast Nutcracker and St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights. Hazel and I baked gingerbread cookies, lemon squares, peppermint oreo truffles, and M&M bars.

Next: After Christmas we took a quick trip to New Orleans. It was supposed to rain most of the week, but the weather was beautiful – highs in the upper seventies with a nice breeze. I’ve been to New Orleans many, many times, but never between Christmas and New Year’s. Despite the delightful weather, I’ll never do that again. It was absolutely packed – gross.

(Our album drops next week.)

Third: I watched the video embedded in this article with a mixture of fascination and horror. Twenty four hours later, I still cannot understand why anyone would prefer this to either in-person or online shopping.

At first I assumed this ordeal took place at home, the shopper sitting alone in a dark room, connected by all kinds of wires to a virtual reality headset. But then came the bit about your car being in the Oil and Lube shop around the back, the bit about the TV being delivered via drone. No, there can only be one conclusion: The viewer has driven to Walmart and instead of simply doing their shopping in the real world, has been hooked up to a Metaverse VR station located, I don’t know, maybe somewhere near customer service.

Fourth: My grandmother was our family’s cemetery emissary. Before Christmas, she’d requisition my brother and me to help her set out wreaths at family graves, and then drag us back out after Christmas to collect the wreath stands. I thought it was deeply pointless, and yet this year on my dad’s birthday, I found myself at the cemetery, putting out poinsettias. My grandmother would appreciate the gesture, and my dad would appreciate the splash of color.

Fifth: I am a huge fan of Yoga with Adriene, and am enjoying her 30-day yoga journey for January. Particularly motivating is the feeling of being at one with the universe while my cat silently judges me from the couch.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

I did not make one of these Janus posts last year. Oops. Moving on!


I read 80 books in 2021. Sixteen of them were non-fiction. My favorite fiction books were “The Evening and the Morning,” by Ken Follett, and “Project Hail Mary,” by Andy Weir. My favorite non-fiction titles were “The Coddling of the American Mind,” by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, and “The Only Plane in the Sky,” by Garrett Graff.


I overcame my fear of preheating my oven to 500 degrees, and as a result turned out many delicious pizzas. I also learned the dark and dangerous art of garlic knots, and want to make them all the time. We also found a great fish market and ate a ton of fresh fish and oysters over the summer. My favorite way to eat raw oysters is with a mignonette sauce, and my favorite way to eat cooked oysters comes from Acme Oyster House. In December I was gifted a sourdough starter, so 2022 may be the year I go Full Hipster.

My favorite food blog this year was Half-Baked Harvest. Thanks to her, I made egg rolls for the first time, as well as using a metric ton of burrata and orzo.


I pulled way, way back on my social media presence this year. I am only on Facebook to post updates from the blog and check on my Tallahassee book club, and while I look at Instagram daily, I haven’t posted anything since September. While social media does have its high points (like when a Facebook post results in a lost dog finding its way home, or raising money for a family in need), on the whole I find it tedious and flat. All the screaming sounds the same.

I have been reading a lot more “actual” media this year, including Substacks by apostates such as Frederik de Boer, Bari Weiss, Glenn Greenwald, and Matt Taibbi, as well as more traditional outlets. I subscribe digitally to the Florida Times-Union and try to read a few stories every day.


2021’s unofficial word of the year was transition. Tyler transitioned from high school to college, and from (State Championship Silver-Medal Winning) rower to (middle school assistant) coach. I finished my term as president of the board of Capital City Rowing and peacefully transferred power to the next board, which is doing a great job. Jason and I moved houses and cities.


The word of the year for 2020 was refine, but it was just as applicable to 2021. At the beginning of the year, we had three houses in two cities. By the end of the year, we had one house – and everything we owned was under one roof for the first time in our life together. At the start of 2021, we belonged to a Presbyterian church but worshipped at an Anglican one. Now we belong to a Presbyterian church that incorporates some of our favorite bits from the Anglican church – liturgy and lectionary, compline and crucifer, psalm and creed.

2022: Home

I don’t like to make immediate changes to my house (unless it gets struck by lighting and burns up four weeks after we bought it). Having spent nearly seven months getting to know this place on a day-to-day basis, we’re ready to undertake some big projects. And, unlike our last house, we can skip the boring stuff. We’re planning several exterior upgrades, then tackling the kitchen (yes! another kitchen!) and downstairs bathroom. Plus paint.

The word of the year for 2022 is home. Creating a home, being at home – both within these walls and within my skin, and making others feel at home. Let’s do this thing.

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The Care and Feeding of Teenagers

In the usual flow of unfolding crime stories, I am a “wait and see” kind of person. It’s difficult not to form an unshakeable opinion early on, but often cases develop in ways that can – and should – alter our initial impressions.

That said, I paused at the news that the parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who shot and killed four students at his Detroit school, would be charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. I had not seen anything in the initial news reports that would substantiate charges like that, so I started digging. I found this explainer, from a Fox affiliate in Detroit, to be helpful.

At this point, I do feel that the charges brought against the parents constitute over-prosecution. However, I am open to changing my opinion as more facts are brought to light. I think it’s appropriate to charge them for their own negligent acts, such as insufficiently securing a firearm in a house with a minor child, but I am troubled by the manslaughter charges.

But that’s not what bothers me.

I have just finished raising a few teenagers – they’re in college now – and so I know a little bit about the conflicting messages parents of these kids are exposed to. On the one hand, parents of teenagers are encouraged to give their budding adults autonomy, to not snoop through their phone or backpack or bedroom, to listen without judgment, support their interests even if you don’t understand them, and in general to “be cool, mom.”

On the other hand, we are now seeing that a parent can be criminally liable for the actions of their child. And if that’s the case, then you’re darn right I’m checking my kid’s backpack and phone activity and Life360 location.

So which is it? Do we give them a bit of freedom to make mistakes, knowing that when taken to extremes those mistakes may prove disastrous? Or do we protect our own interests and avoid a criminal record by continuing to treat teenagers as little children, monitoring and directing them, protecting them from themselves?

Neither of these seems right. Parenting is always a balancing act, but for some reason, this development – charging parents of a school shooter with serious felonies – feels like it’s pushed the conversation in a different direction. Before, we parents were only worried about damage to our child’s life, reputation, and record. If we have to put our own record on the line every time we let our kids out of sight, does that change things? Should it?

There’s a somewhat rambling passage towards the end of the explainer piece, which I will paraphrase for clarity: One of the reasons Karen McDonald brought these charges is to send the message that if parents are not going to supervise their kids, if parents aren’t going to look for warning signs and do something about it, then yes, they can face charges.

This may come as a surprise, but teenagers are a sneaky bunch. Every friend I have who has raised a teenager – every. single. one. – has been caught off-guard by a behavior that they did not expect from their precious child. Most teenagers don’t spend a ton of time around their parents – they’re at school, maybe working their first job, maybe playing a sport, maybe just locked in their rooms for hours or off with friends. It takes a ton of bandwidth to maintain a relationship with this newly-tall, newly-sullen, and newly-smelly person who used to be your baby. It takes even more to maintain that relationship while actively monitoring for “warning signs” and then “doing something about it.” What, exactly, are we supposed to do?

One of the big criticisms of the Crumbleys is that they did not remove their son from school following a meeting about his behavior on the morning of the shooting, where they were given 48 hours to get him into counseling.

This is the part that really hit home. Several years ago, I got a call in the middle of the day from Tyler’s high school. The guidance counselor on the line informed me that, based on an anonymous report from another student that Tyler was self-harming, he would need to be removed from school immediately because he was “a danger to himself and others.” Further, he would not be allowed back on campus until he had established care with a mental health professional.

I have four kids. The high school sees thousands. This was my first experience with a mental health crisis. The school sees dozens, if not hundreds, a year. But once they identified my son as a potential liability, they washed their hands of us. They offered no guidance, assistance, or support, instead treating my child like a dangerous animal. The same school that proclaims itself to be a “family” abandoned mine.

Should the Crumbleys have removed Ethan from school that day? Probably. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that. It appears the Crumbleys made bad parenting choices, but I don’t think anyone can honestly say they anticipated the outcome that occurred. But based on my experience with my son, I totally understand their resistance to removing their child from school. It’s easy to see red flags when you’re looking back. It’s hard to see them in the moment. Emotions are high, you feel attacked as a parent and you just want to fix it. And if the Detroit school was anything like Tyler’s, they were in full CYA mode.

Parenting teenagers is hard. Parenting teenagers while under threat from schools and prosecutors to monitor for suspicious behavior and act on it – that seems like an overwhelming burden. Apparently “it takes a village to raise a child” goes right out the window when criminal and civil liability is in play. Children in crisis become hot potatoes; no one wants to get burned. This is, perhaps, the worst possible situation for these kids. They already feel isolated and freakish. The last thing they need is for their school to abandon them and demand that their parents be their wardens.

It is hard to have sympathy for Ethan Crumbley or his parents at this moment. But we have to look beyond the specifics of their particular case to the messages and precedents being set by it. And those messages should give every parent of teenagers some discomfort.

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The Blankety-Blank Jacksonville Jaguars

One of my favorite things about living in Jacksonville is the Greek tragedy of being a Jaguars fan. Every year, we get our hopes up, and every year, they are dashed upon the rocks. It’s like the tides – the rhythm becomes predictable, almost comforting. When we moved back in June, I prepared myself for an autumn immersed in the highs and lows of a Jags season.

Living in Tallahassee meant being awash in a sea of FSU garnet and gold. My husband went to law school there, and has been a big Seminoles fan since high school. He watched with devotion when they were playing well, and sulked in agony when they weren’t. We went to a few games over the years, but never had the rabid block-off-my-Saturday-the-tailgate-starts-at-dawn devotion of many Tallahasseeans.

But after 15 years of wearing my single piece of FSU gear, I was ready to embrace the teal.

Jacksonville’s official colors are teal, black, gold, and white. Their unofficial colors are animal print and whatever color chagrin comes in.

I started my sartorial tailgate with this completely fabulous find:

It features two extremely judgmental jaguars on the shoulders. And the best part? It absorbs a lot of tears. This sweater pairs well with black leggings, slippers, and clenched teeth.

When I’m out and about on game day, I like something a little less majestic.

This cardigan looks great with jeans and a white t-shirt as you rage-push your cart through Publix after yet another fourth quarter humiliation.

To finish any outfit, consider adding a cold can of Bold City’s Duval Light or, if things have gone horribly awry, a tumbler of something comforting from Manifest.

And remember: Every year is a rebuilding year, if you’re the Jags.


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Journalism 101

I try to give local journalists a lot of grace. I worked as a small-town newspaper reporter right out of college, and it is a thankless, low-wage job that will drive you to drink.

That said, this article from the Florida Times-Union deserves special recognition for sheer incomprehensibility. I have no idea how this got past an editor.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Number of Duval Schools students opting out of wearing masks jumps by nearly 8 percentage points

Great. This is a fine headline. There’s just one problem – at no point in the article is this “jump” quantified in a satisfactory way.

The first paragraph is a restatement of the headline. Which, okay, but you generally want to provide a little more information. I realize that many writers do not choose their own headlines, so this may be a lazy editor at work.

“The number of Duval County Public Schools students opting out of wearing a mask on campus has increased by nearly 8 percentage points since the district lifted its mask mandate, public records show.”

Did it go from 10% to 18%? 70% to 78%? 10,000 kids to 18,000 kids? Who knows? These are important distinctions. You can definitely scare readers into clicking your story with a headline that proclaims that something “doubles your risk” for a negative outcome. But if the initial risk is very small, say 1 in 100,000, then doubling that risk is not particularly meaningful. Without any context, it’s not clear whether an 8% increase is significant.

But wait! It gets worse!

“About 11,100 students have submitted paperwork opting out of wearing a mask at school, according to the school district’s records.”

I had to look up the total number of students enrolled in Duval County Schools, which is 130,189. So doing some quick math, I can determine that 11,100 opt-outers is about 8.5% of the total student population. Great, now we’re getting somewhere.

Or are we?

Duval Schools opened this school year with the same policy it’s observing right now — masks are “required” but can be avoided if a family submits an opt-out form online. About 12,000 students opted-out at the time. A month later, the tougher doctor’s note requirement caused a drastic drop in how many students were able to unmask on campus. Fewer than 1 percent of students opted-out with a doctor’s note under the mandate.

I guess the writer might be trying to say that there’s been an increase from the number of medical opt-outs (less than 1%) to the current number (about 8.5%); however, this is deceptive. When the positivity and case number targets were hit, and the mask requirement was loosened, any previous opt-out was reinstated automatically. If that’s what the writer is up to, it seems like a lame attempt to make this situation look sinister, when it is not. And I admit, I was an English major, but even I know that 12,000 is more than 11,100, and therefore the current number appears to be a decrease in opt-outs over the beginning of the year. Further, anecdotal evidence (aka Mom Network) suggests that some parents who filed opt-outs at the beginning of the year are choosing to continue masking their kids in the wake of the Delta surge – meaning that the number of opt-outs may not be directly correlated to the number of unmasked students.

“As of Nov. 8, the number of students with some type of opt-out form on file is 11,106, meaning the number of opt-outs the district has on file has jumped again.”

Jumped? From what? If this 11,106 is the same as the “about 11,100” in the first paragraph, then no jump has been established. If it’s not the same, and the number of opt-outs has increased by 6 in a student population of 130,189, it’s the most miniscule “jump” I’ve ever seen.

Here’s the best part:

“It’s unclear why the number of opt-outs on file with the district, which according to officials includes previous opt-outs, is lower now than the beginning of the school year by about 1,000. The Times-Union requested clarification from the district, but its office is closed until Monday to observe Veteran’s Day.”

Unclear, you say? Bit of an understatement.

This entire story could be written clearly in one paragraph, like this: According to school district records, at the beginning of the school year 12,000 students had mask opt-outs on file, representing about 9% of the DCPS population of 130,189. During the Delta surge, when opt-out provisions became more restrictive, that number dropped to 1,300, or 1%. Now that Duval County’s positivity rate is 2.1% and our average weekly cases are 29.2, the more restrictive mask mandate has been rescinded and the original 2021-2022 mandate is in force, along with all opt-outs previously submitted. The current number of students with an opt-out on file is 11,106, or 8.5%, which represents a drop of 900 students from the beginning of the year.

And then you pick up your phone and you find someone to explain the discrepancy, and you don’t publish your story until you have that answer. But from where I’m sitting, this is a misleading headline atop an incomplete story.

This reporter has one of the hardest beats at the paper, and she’s suffered through more school board meetings than is healthy. And while her reporting is usually lopsided, her stories generally convey necessary information in a concise way. I’ve e-mailed her a couple of times with follow-up questions (Always polite! Promise!) and never get a response.

At best, this is just sloppy reporting. At worst, it’s an attempt to make something out of nothing – or less than nothing.

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