Schools are the topic of conversation lately. Kids want to return to school, and teachers want to teach. However, whether it’s safe or not to do so remains a political debate at this point in the pandemic. Reopening schools is likely not the safest option — even for states getting a handle on COVID-19. Though, if states do reopen schools, what will that process look like?
When Will Schools Reopen?
When exactly will schools reopen? It’s difficult to say. Some colleges already stated that this upcoming fall semester will be online. Other universities are looking at a hybrid model — where classes are both online and on-campus. Students will come on some days and not others. That still leaves elementary and high schools, though.
With enough progress on a coronavirus vaccine, reopening schools in the spring of 2021 may be a safe bet. However, outside pressure is building. The Trump administration is demanding that United States schools reopen in the fall. Trump himself has threatened to cut off school funding for the institutions that don’t reopen. Whether or not he has the power to do so is still unclear.
These demands come at a time when COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are peaking, again. Some states opened prematurely and saw drastic spikes — like Texas and Florida. If these trends continue, schools in these states won’t be safe enough to open in the fall, which is fast approaching.
Tech has significantly changed the education industry. Distance learning has also taken off, which is not helping the case for reopening schools so soon. Students of all ages — kindergarten through college — have been using computers to connect with teachers and friends.
Ultimately, the dates for schools reopening will depend on each state.
How Will Schools Reopen?
While some states are seeing record case numbers, others are containing the virus effectively. These states are the ones that will have a safer time reopening schools. Cases are stable or declining, which means they have — for now — flattened or come close to flattening the curve.
Other states aren’t following the safest procedures. For instance, Florida announced that in-person learning will resume in the fall. This announcement comes at the same time that Florida marks record spikes in COVID-19 cases.
Regardless of which states are handling the virus well, though, they must all follow the best safety practices for reopening.
Safety Practices for Reopening Schools
- Health, hygiene and sanitation: The typical school day may include getting your temperature taken as you walk into the building. You’ll be wearing a mask, social distancing at all times throughout the day and washing your hands a lot.
- Reduced class sizes: Having large gatherings of people in one location is dangerous. To reduce the risk of transmission, teachers would need to decrease their class sizes. This step, though, could lead to scheduling issues if teachers need to increase the number of classes they instruct.
- Staggered scheduling: Kids may have to have classes on different days, and school years may be shorter or longer to adjust for this scheduling. Some kids may need to come in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while others come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for instance.
- No events: No large gatherings should happen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised against large gatherings since they are a hotspot for spreading the virus. This step means no sports gatherings or assemblies.
- Remote learning: In-person learning may come and go if states can’t get a handle on the pandemic. Educational institutions must prepare to instantly switch out classroom learning for tech-based, remote learning if necessary.
Concerns for Reopening Schools
Since schools hold hundreds to thousands of people throughout the day and night — students, staff, faculty and visitors — they can quickly become a hotbed for the virus.
Before any outbreaks, though, you may see strikes. Teachers have a hard responsibility in the coming months. If their states pressure them to return to in-person teaching, they risk contracting the virus – or worse. Their number one priority is the kids and keeping them safe. If teachers strike over reopening, it won’t come as a surprise.
In states like Texas, as well, a protest or walkout is likely. Texas is seeing record spikes, similar to Florida, and yet, the state government is planning on reopening the schools. This move could lead to strikes or resignations.
With the back and forth and the stress, students are going to need help through it all. Whether it’s academia, finances or mental health, students will struggle. They will need resources that can help them work through the pandemic.
To ease these concerns and tensions, here’s what needs to happen:
- An increase in COVID-19 testing in all states
- A decrease in daily cases and mortality rates
- The transmission rate must decrease
- Mask-wearing must become the norm for everyone
- An increase in sanitation practices
- More federal funding for schools and education
- More contact tracing to detect outbreaks quickly
- Some form of increased financial aid for students and families
With these steps as a basis, the country can reopen schools and keep them open in the long run. Until a cure, vaccine or herd immunity comes along, these steps must be the new normal.
Education Endures COVID-19
With the help of technology and distance learning, education will withstand COVID-19. However, governments must focus on protecting students and faculty in schools. When cases decrease, schools can reopen, and people can adjust to a new education standard.
What do you think? Will you return to the classroom in the fall? Will you opt for online classes if offered? Do you want your children to attend? Let us know in the comments below!