Re-opening Schools: Think About This

As the coronavirus continues to surge across the country, schools are moving forward with plans for a fall reopening. Following is a roundup of recent news about the pressing issues related to this topic for all involved—kids, parents, teachers, and school staff.

American Academy of Pediatrics Endorses School Re-entry

Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits. Beyond supporting the educational development of children and adolescents, schools play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequity. As such, it is critical to reflect on the differential impact SARS-CoV-2 and the associated school closures have had on different races, ethnic and vulnerable populations. Read the full AAP Report: COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry.

Teacher Concerns: It’s Not Just About the Kids 

Across the country, schools are planning a return to at least some in-person instruction in the fall—but teachers say they still have many unanswered questions about how it will all work. If a teacher is exposed to someone with COVID-19, will they have to use their sick days to self-quarantine for two weeks? What extra responsibilities will teachers be tasked with to ensure the safety and cleanliness of the classroom? What accommodations will be made for teachers who are high-risk, or who live with a high-risk person? Will they be guaranteed their jobs if they opt to teach remotely? What options will teachers have if they can’t wear a mask for medical reasons? Many of these details have not been hammered out yet, despite the initial guidance released by many states. And while teachers say they miss their students and the normalcy of school, many are apprehensive—and scared—about returning to in-person instruction amid so much uncertainty. Read the full story: Worried Teachers Say They Have More Questions Than Answers

Distancing Challenges

Classrooms. Hallways. Buses. Schedules. Extracurriculars. Every facet of the school day will have to be fundamentally altered when students eventually return to school. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, school leaders must ensure social distancing—limiting group sizes, keeping students six feet apart, restricting non-essential visitors, and closing communal spaces. Those measures run counter to how schools usually operate, with teachers and students working together in close quarters, children socializing throughout the day, and the buildings serving as a community gathering space. Anyone who’s been to a school knows it will be difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee “absolute compliance with any social distancing measure,” said Mario Ramirez, the managing director of Opportunity Labs, who was the acting director for pandemic and emerging threats in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Ebola epidemic. The goal, he said, is to “drive as much of the risk down as you can.” Read the full story: The Socially Distanced School Day

Options Under Consideration

If your school opens in the fall, chances are the format will look like one of the following, most of which present challenges for families that don’t have a stay-at-home adult. Read the full story: 6 Ways to Bring Students & Staff Back to School.

  1. Phased Reopening: Schools bring back only some students at first to avoid crowding buildings and make it easier to adhere to social distancing. For instance, schools could welcome back only one or two grade levels, while students in other grades continue to learn remotely. As conditions with the virus improve, schools can gradually welcome more students until they reach full capacity.
  2. Multi-Track System: Schools operate on a track schedule, with groups of students in school buildings on different days and engaging in remote learning when they are home. For example, one cohort of students comes to school on Mondays and Wednesdays, another cohort comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and everybody stays home on Fridays.
  3. Staggered Schedules: Half of students come to school in the morning while the other half comes in the afternoon. Schools divide the students based on grade levels or alphabetically, in order to keep siblings on the same schedule.
  4. Bubble Strategy: The same group of students stays together for all or most of the day, with the same teacher or teachers.
  5. Cyclical Lockdown Strategy: School buildings regularly alternate between being open and closed, with students staying home for a minimum of 10 days during closure periods. Students attend school one full week, followed by two weeks of remote learning at home.
  6. Year-Round Schedule: The school divides students into groups—one cohort attends school for a set period, roughly nine weeks, while the other cohorts participate in remote learning. The groups would rotate at the end of each period. Breaks from schooling would be more frequent, but shorter than the traditional 10-week summer vacation.