FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 31, 2020
Expect many changes for health safety as you go back to school – if your classrooms reopen
What does your district's administration say?
Share a quote from a student, teacher or parent in your area or state.
Look for an article about the impact on sports or another non-classroom part of school.
Get set for a school year unlike any other. Teachers and students across the country are returning to in-person and virtual classrooms shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. Administrators in each district use guidance from the federal government, state agencies and public health experts. "This is a risky proposition no matter how you do it, let’s be honest," says Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. "We've seen schools open — we've seen colleges open — and get into trouble in one week. So there's a lot of questions to answer. . . . We have 700 school districts and I'm sure we’re going to have 700 different answers in New York."
Many large districts plan to start the academic year online, while others are trying a mix of in-person and online instruction, or a full reopening with staggered schedules to reduce crowding. Some are erecting large tents for outdoor classes as long as it stays warm enough. Health safety concerns also mean no team sports or field trips in many areas.
Face masks, morning temperature checks and six-feet spacing floor markers are part of the new routine at reopened schools. Classrooms have hand sanitizer, separated desks and lots of partitions or plastic shields. Cafeterias also have distancing rules, protective screens and spread-out lunch schedules so not everyone eats at the same time. Similarly, library users and school bus riders must leave empty seats and rows to reduce risks of catching Covid. Sharing supplies in labs and art classes is a thing of the past.
Teachers' unions in some cities raise fears and consider strikes. "We're still mystified how they're going to bring 20 students into an elementary school classroom and keep them six feet apart,” says Wendy Donat, a high school history teacher and union officer in Summit, N.J. "I've been to student funerals. I would prefer not to go to any more." At the same time, some parents are concerned about children's social skills and mental health if they stay home, as well as their own job challenges if pupils have to learn remotely. The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing doctors who treat children and adolescents, recommends that students be "physically present in school" as much as possible and sees major health, social and educational risks to keeping them home.
Teacher says: "I want to be in school with the kids, all of them. You feed off their energy, you get to be goofy with them and get excited. But I'm also a little terrified, for myself and my co-workers." – Molly Mullin, eighth-grade language arts teacher in Littleton, Colo.
Parent says: "There are no good choices and there are no bad choices – there are the best choices we can make in a tremendously difficult situation. . . . For too many in this economy, the need for school comes down to I need my child cared for during the day so I can work and support them." – Cathleen Lewis, blogger and mom of two girls in Lawrence Towenship, N.J.
Superintendent says: "This is the biggest adaptive challenge in my career, and in the history of public education." -- Cindy Marten, San Diego Public Schools
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