Teachers, staff and students used to have to only worry about and prepare for an active shooter or a drill for a natural disaster, such as a tornado, but now another worry comes into play – the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many schools have been preparing to reopen for the new schoolyear, as many schools are already into their first week. However, there will be nothing usual about going to school this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. From riding the bus to lunch in the cafeteria, what will going back to school look like for many?
Each school has a different plan when it comes to reopening. Some schools are planning to go 100% online, while some schools may go back five days a week, and others presenting a hybrid model of some days in the classroom and some days online. For those schools that plan to have in-person classes, things will be looking nothing like before the pandemic began.
For example, riding the bus to school, students are used to being able to sit with their friends on the way to class, but now with social distancing measures in place, this won’t be an option. Many schools are also encouraging parents to try and car-pull with others to limit the number of students that will be riding the bus, and the bus isn’t the only situation that raises concerns.
When students enter the buildings, they will be checked for symptoms such as a fever, by getting their temperatures taken. If any student presents any types of symptoms of the virus, he or she will remain isolated until picked up, and then asked to quarantine at home for two weeks. When it comes to any medical issues with students, many schools, about 60%, do not have nurses on site due to budget, but many schools are hoping to receive government aid in obtaining one.
Another concern for when schools open up is the idea of social distancing. While this may be something that is easy to do and understand for older students, younger students tend to have more energy and less regard to social distancing and may not follow this guideline. The ratio of students to teachers also makes it hard for this to be enforced.
Recent research shows that teens may be at more risk from the coronavirus than younger students, so the guideline of social distancing is more crucial amongst this age group. Some schools are spending tons of money on plexiglass desks in classrooms where students are unable to socially distance.
Some guidelines that have been put into place in schools include:
Limiting the number of students in the classroom
Repurposing large areas, such as cafeterias and gyms for academic work
Disinfecting public surfaces multiple times a day
Keeping classroom windows open for ventilation
Having classes outside when possible to prevent the airborne spread of the virus
Dissolving the ‘bell system’ and instead sending students to switch classes at different times that require walking in different directions
Designating specific bathroom break times
With all these regulations and more in place, along with the high risk of spreading the virus, is it really worth opening schools up? Does the risk really go down with these regulations? This is something that each school will have to figure out and hopefully not when it’s too late.