While it feels like forever, the COVID-19 pandemic started to affect the education of all students in March of 2020. Spring Breaks were first “extended”, then extended again for a few weeks finally with many schools in late April deciding that the rest of the school year would be remote.
Educators and students adjusted quickly to an online format, mainly just trying to ‘complete’ the school year amid the changing healthcare crisis.
During the summer of 2020, many states considered a “Phase 4” allowing a return to classroom instruction. However, on July 11, 2020, the CDC reported that the United States had 62,918 new reported cases COVID-19. What should you be considering with COVID-19 and the classroom this fall?
Depending on which state you call home, the prevalence of COVID-19 can vary. It has been steadily impacting the United States this summer and shows no signs of slowing down, so chances are your state is seeing increased positive cases.
Guidelines for classroom return vary by state, and the latest CDC guidelines are written to help supplement, not replace, local state laws rules & regulations. Review more here on the CDC website regarding school considerations for this upcoming year.
Almost all states are encouraging to maintain social distancing, wearing masks while indoors and when outdoors and unable to maintain distance. Temperature checks, frequent hand washing and frequent disinfecting procedures should also be in place.
Most school districts this week across the nation have started to announce the plans to resume classroom instruction for the Fall of 2020.
The first step is to determine what options are your district offering for classroom instruction? The three most common options can include:
- 100% virtual learning
- hybrid instruction; 1/2 in-person partial days during the week, 1/2 virtual
- complete in-person classroom instruction with social distancing precautions in place.
Since most schools will give you a choice on how your student will attend classes, you will need to determine what is best for your student.
Questions to ask yourself
The next step is to ask yourself the following questions regarding each of your students, taking into account their age, grade, school setting and layout.
- Can they properly put on and/off a mask (don’t forget to avoid touching the inside!
- Wearing a mask for hours at a time (practice!)
- Washing hands (20 seconds)
- Avoiding touching face/eyes
- Able to reposition mask by grabbing outside layer or by ear loops (wash/gel hands before touching!)
- Use hand gel correctly
Even after those questions are answered, the next step is to review each school (or district) overall plan for the year, and are your kids ready for this?
Take into consideration that the concerns on sending a 2nd grader, a 7th grader and an 11th grader back to the classroom are very different. Keep this in mind when asking yourself these questions:
- Are your students up for wearing a mask, adhering to social distancing, and maintaining strict handwashing procedures, possible for 7 hours a day five days a week?
- Do you feel it is safe to do so given local current Covid-19 spread?
- What restrictions are in place for the schools? Gym? Outdoor time? Movement within the classroom? Lunchtime?
- Disinfecting policy planned for during school as well as each evening?
- What is the plan if schools have to shut down for outbreaks?
- What is the definition of an outbreak at your school?
- Transportation concerns? Bus routes?
- How is this going to impact them directly (increased anxiety? not take it seriously? needing time with friends?)
- Are you comfortable with the risks involved of transmission risk between students, teachers, and staff?
Questions to ask your students
While input and feedback is important, ultimately the final decision is in the hands of the parents and guardians of the students. Their input can be valuable (and maybe even surprising) in how they view the upcoming school year.
- Are they comfortable wearing a mask throughout the day?
- Do the understand the risks of catching the virus and how to prevent spread?
- Would they be ok with a virtual learning environment?
- Do they understand that “school” will not look like it did last year prior to the shutdown? This can include limited classroom movement, stationary classrooms (in schools that rotated rooms), and different gym/recess procedures.
All in this together
Remember, with all the stress and frustrations that you might be feeling, every parent across the country is facing the same concerns.
Most importantly, keep in mind that there is always a risk that the plan will have to change. Students returning the classroom may have to return to virtual learning if the number of COVID-19 cases in your area increases, or an outbreak occurs at your school. Planning ahead can help ease some anxiety about the year ahead.
While there are no easy answers, and each family can have additional concerns, we do have each other.
Find local support groups (online!) to brainstorm plans and help think of creative solutions. Take the time now to speak with your support group of family, neighbors, friends, and devise a plan.
In the end, this will be a learning experience for all of us. The best lesson we can teach our kids is how we all worked together to help solve our problems.