Are schools opening, what are the procedures in place to protect the children and teachers, and what to expect when we are expecting COVID-19 to affect learning? There is no definitive answer, but being informed is the first step in moving into the 2020 school year.
Types of School Reopenings
In a perfect world, children would start their day with a nutritious breakfast, say goodbye to their parents or guardians who would send them on their way to school. They would show up energized, sit in the classroom with peers and look forward to learning and, of course, recess.
Unfortunately, this scenario will not be happening for most this fall, nor is it expected to be anytime soon. Teachers are expected to do more with less -now more than ever, and this time, health is a significant factor in the classroom. As schools open up, we need to evaluate the policies and environment that our education system is installing today.
Let’s dive into the array of options that have been presented and implemented all over the country.
Full Reopening – Face Coverings and Social Distancing
This is the traditional education approach where students are educated within a physical building. The benefits of this include social engagement, access to learning for all. While this may seem like all is normal, expect some additional precautions at school. Schools that are opting to open their doors this fall will be requiring mask-wearing while entering the school and in public spaces. Many schools are allowing students to remove their masks while in their classroom and outside.
This model will typically have students remain in one room for all sessions of the day, including lunch. Students will also have limited if any, intermingling with other students and faculty in the building.
Hybrid – Virtual and In-Person Education
A hybrid approach to education combines both face-to-face classroom instruction with online activities. The hybrid model reduces the amount of interaction time there is within the school classroom, and hopefully reducing the chances of being exposed to COVID-19. The student body will typically be broken up into smaller groups and each group will report to school 2-3 days a week.
100% Remote Learning
Remote learning depends on technology and essentially what became the “norm” during the pandemic’s peak. Some of the systems used include video conferencing, online discussion boards and chat rooms, and cloud-based classroom files. If this is the plan for your children this year, make sure you are prepared to start/resume the homeschool environment.
How Schools Will Keep Your Child Safe?
There are many best practices that the CDC geared towards student safety, but to highlight a few:
Rearranging desks, tables, and even cafeterias to be 6 feet apart are some of the proactive ways schools are promoting social distancing.
All students, faculty, and staff of schools are required to wear facial coverings when inside the building. For younger children, teachers should reinforce no touching of the face and keep masks on as much as possible – this sounds like an uphill battle, so we are rooting for all the teachers out there!
Increased Cleaning Schedules
No different than businesses, schools must increase their cleaning frequency. Throughout the day, teachers and students should wipe hard surfaces down and wash their hands.
If weather permits, schools are taking the classroom outside. The thought is that students will enjoy the change of the learning environment, but it will also help keep people safer than being enclosed together indoors.
As mentioned above, schools are doing their best to minimize contact with the full student body and staff. Using cohorting in schools means keeping a single classroom and limited staff in one group. This technique is being used in case someone contracts COVID-19 a smaller group of people will need to quarantine and/or get tested for coronavirus.
The Emotional Effects on Children Entering the 2020-2021 School Year
This pandemic has been hard for us all, and it is important to note that children may not understand what’s going on, or for example, why they were unable to go to their friends’ houses anymore.
We need to be sure to explain that things are going to be a little different going into this school year, and it’s going to be a balance of prioritizing both their health and education. Parents may be required to step in to help more at home with classwork due to school restrictions, but if that is what keeps us all healthy, it’s worth it.
We’re in this together. For those directly impacted by the changes of the 2020-2021 school year, some great ways to stay motivated and involved are:
- Making sure your contact information is up-to-date with your child’s school.
- Joining your school district’s newsletter or virtual social groups.
- Remembering to schedule time to give your child extra support emotionally and with school work.
- Stay positive! Things are always changing and we never know when the next breakthrough with coronavirus prevention will come.