Notebooks? Check. Pencils? Check. Face Mask? Check.
Back to school season will look a bit different this year. As the United States comes up on nearly four months of being in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents and children are beginning to wonder, how will schools open back up after coronavirus?
As a country and the collective human population, we run the risk of causing a second wave of coronavirus by reopening society too early. With many more people becoming frustrated due to either the economic or mental health challenges caused by quarantine restrictions, the cry to reopen the economy continues to grow louder. But – what is the right answer, if there is one at all? To add onto the mountain of complicated decisions people will have to make, many parents find themselves wondering if it is worth sending their children back to school in the coming fall.
Medical experts seem to be divided on the topic. One particularly important medical expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States top infectious disease doctor and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, voiced his concerns about returning to school in the fall by saying that we may face consequences. But many state governments are cautiously encouraging schools to return to in-person classes in the fall. How will it be any different? With each state devising a careful and strategic plan of action, of course.
Are Teachers Staying Home from Coronavirus?
Another looming concern as schools plan to reopen their doors is: Will the teachers show up? Their reasoning is simple and understandable – being that they are in constant close contact with dozens of students each day, they run the risk of being both infected and spreading infection. Teachers, faculty and staff are concerned that being in their school environment could potentially lead them to contracting the coronavirus. It’s been widely agreed upon by medical institutions and experts that the coronavirus disproportionately impacts those 65 years or older. Of all public and private school teachers, over 18% of teachers and 27% of administrators are above this age.
It goes without saying that teachers are passionate about their students and providing them with the education that will provide foundation for the rest of their life, but their own health is a priority too. Schools, teachers’ unions, and other organizations are scrambling to propose solutions to the issue. Some ideas include offering teachers above a certain age early retirement or allowing some teachers to conduct lessons remotely while students are in the classroom. Despite the proposed ideas and efforts, many teachers who are older or have underlying health issues are concerned for their jobs and their livelihood.
Are Students Still Learning at Home?
The coronavirus caused forty-six states to shut down in-person schooling for the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. With that many children out of school, the impacts on children’s learning capacity must come into question. How long can we keep children out of school without seriously inhibiting their future success and development?
The good news, however, is that we live in the age of technology – which makes distance learning possible. Technology makes it possible for teachers to communicate with their students, conduct lessons, and assign homework. With the never-ending supply of educational tools, software and games, e-distance learning is made relatively simple – but at what cost?
Social Distancing at School? Nope.
Even with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishing guidelines for childcare, schools and youth programs to follow upon reopening, there are concerns about enforcing social distancing at schools. Schools are meant to be collaborative environments where children and young adults can forge their identity, so what does enforcing social distancing at schools really look like?
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks enforcing social distancing at schools will be easy to implement – especially for young children. Some proposed strategies to help enforce social distancing include opening schools in a phased manner, strategically planning when children arrive to the school, and limiting class sizes to the least amount of students as possible.
Personal Protective Equipment At School? Yep.
You’d probably agree that implementing social distancing at schools will be quite hard. However, requiring students to wear personal protective equipment may not be.
To lessen the likelihood of causing a spike in coronavirus cases by reopening schools, it may be necessary to require students to wear personal protective equipment, such as face masks while at school. With younger children, it’ll be up to the teachers and faculty of the school to ensure that personal protective equipment is being worn by the students. Older students may understand the severity of the situation and willingly wear personal protective equipment without much pushback.
For teachers and parents worried about their young ones not willing to wear masks, there is some good news. At MediViCo, we make masks just for kids! The key to getting children onboard with wearing masks is to show them that it doesn’t inhibit all the fun they can have. Despite the pandemic, children still need to be children! Playing is part of being a child – and doesn’t have to be taken away completely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What to Expect When Schools Reopen
With schools aiming to reopen this fall, we’ll be walking into a drastically different school environment. Some schools may implement a phased day, where students will attend school only a few days out of the week, and students will be required to wear personal protective equipment such as masks. Teachers and faculty who are at higher risk of contracting coronavirus will opt to teach from home, or possibly be retiring earlier than planned.
Small steps are being made in the right direction to reopen the economy and bring it back full-force – and reopening schools is one of those steps. Schools reopening will allow many more parents to go back to their jobs, rather than having to attend to their kids at home. Governments and schools are pulling their hair figuring out the best way to safely reopen schools in the fall, but there is an enormous number of factors to consider. This article is not meant in any way to be a suggestion of what to do regarding schools in the coming fall, but rather to inform you on what to expect and how to safely prepare.