Reopening Schools: Can We Really Keep Teachers & Kids Safe?


We’re headed into the Fall and the coronavirus is still here. Many believed that by the summer it would be gone and things would get back to normal, like sending our children to school.

Parents and guardians have literally changed their lives because of the virus. Many have turned living rooms and dining rooms into make-shift “classrooms” and parents have become the teacher, the playmate, the counselor, to lunch lady and more while we shelter at home.

So now as we move into back-to-school season, the question that’s on everybody’s mind is should children go back to school? If they do, can we keep them safe?

Going back to school this fall will require schools and families to work together even more than before. Schools will be making changes to their policies and operations with several goals: supporting learning; providing important services, such as school meals, extended daycare, extracurricular activities, and social services; and limiting the transmission of COVID-19.

What some school districts across the country are considering:
Virtual/at-home only: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events for the entire school year.
Certain Day classes: Having some students on half-day or certain day schedule to keep class size down (i.e., Mon, Wed, Fri vs. Tues, Thurs schedule or 8:30am-1pm schedule vs 2pm-6pm schedule)
Cohorts: Dividing students and teachers into distinct groups that stay together throughout an entire school day during in-person classroom instruction. Schools may allow minimal or no interaction between cohorts (also sometimes referred to as pods).
Hybrid: A mix of virtual learning and in-class learning. Hybrid options can apply a cohort approach to the in-class education provided.

One example of a new “normal” school system is New York City’s public school system, the largest in the nation. They will only partially reopen three days a week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in early July. More than 1.1 million children will attend reduced-capacity classes at different times during the week, but this plan is still developing and may change again as the pandemic goes on.

In a webinar hosted by the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the country’s top viral specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci says the decision to reopen or close schools will depend on the circumstances on the ground.

“I think to say ‘every child has to go back to school’ is not really realizing the fact that we have such a diversity of viral activity. There may some sections of the country where the viral activity is so low you don’t have to do anything different, you can just send the children back to school,” Fauci said.

Dr. Robert Sanders, a pediatrician with University Health System in San Antonio, says we’ve got to look at both sides when thinking of bringing kids to either in-school or virtual learning from an academic and health standpoint.

Social Interaction

“The way the kids grow and the way they develop, it’s important to have those social interactions. To have those interactions with other students and teachers and to be able to learn in that environment, it’s important,” Sanders said.

He adds that there are resources at school that children don’t have at home, including social workers and other teachers. There are

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