Some good old golden rules may no longer be welcome in schools when it is safe for them to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three-quarters of U.S. states have closed their schools for the academic year and turned to remote learning, but federal officials say that having kids return to classrooms is one of the top priorities for getting the nation back to normal.
Many educators and parents have expressed concerns, the biggest of which was voiced by Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union:
“Is it safe and healthy for my kids to pack them into that classroom?”
According to public health experts and educators polled by NPR, certain changes must be made that could alter the landscape of what schools will look like after reopening:
- Improved health and hygiene measures. In New York’s centers that provide child care for front-line workers, employees and children alike already wear masks, have temperature checks, and follow frequent sanitation and social distancing rules. In Denmark, where schools have reopened, children line up next to traffic cones spaced 6 feet apart. There are only 10 students to a classroom. Experts recommend reducing class size to 15 children or less here in the U.S.
- Staggered schedules. By reducing class size, schedules would have to be amended. Some officials recommend having some students report to classrooms on certain days, say Monday, Wednesday and Friday while others attend Tuesday and Thursday, to ensure schools do not create a health hazard by having too many people in buildings, according to The Washington Post.
- Adjusting the school calendar. Some options recommended by teachers’ unions is to end the current academic year early and give students summer instruction, according to the Post. Another suggestion is start school earlier next year.
- No assemblies, sports games or parent-teacher conferences. Because students should not mix in large groups, parents shouldn’t either, says NPR.
- Remote learning continues. Every expert polled said that the need for remote learning will continue because of staggered schedules, precautions schools must take for future waves of infection, and remedial instruction for many students.
- Social and emotional help for children. According to NPR, developmental experts say that the pandemic has been “an adverse experience” for American kids. “I think there is a need for us to focus on social and emotional learning for students,” said James Lane, superintendent of public instruction in Virginia. “and not only how can we provide the academic support, but how can we provide the mental health support and the wraparound supports for students when they come back, to help them recover and bring back that safety net of schools.”
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