Throughout the country, schools are out for the rest of the year. What will education look like in the fall? Will kids attend classes in school or online? If schools reopen, how many students can be in one classroom? Will staggered schedules be necessary? How will teachers and staff keep classrooms clean? Will everyone have to wear masks?
It will be a fierce debate. While many parents are eager to end remote education so they can get back to work themselves, other parents are scared any return to school would expose their children to a deadly disease.
Most scenarios in which schools reopen in the fall, while limiting the risk of COVID-19, involves staggered schedules. Some kids might attend school Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week, then Tuesday and Thursday the following week. Or students could alternate mornings and afternoons. Staggered schedules could force calendar changes – starting school sooner or continuing through next summer.
Maybe we let some grades back in schools before others. China started with older students who can maintain social distancing and carry phones that show they haven’t been exposed. Denmark reopened schools for lower grades only, as kids stay in the same classroom instead of switching classes all day.
Kids who test positive for COVID-19, and anyone in contact with them, will have to stay home. Schools will have to maintain a full curriculum online so students can keep pace in the classroom and at home.
Another component of education this fall, should schools reopen, will be social distancing. Some of the changes we might see include one-way hallways for students to walk to class, buses that run half empty, having to take students in more trips, and lunches in classrooms or large gyms instead of the cafeteria. Desks would be spaced at least 6 feet apart, forcing smaller class sizes. Visitors, volunteers and parents would not be able to enter the building.
Also, students could be prohibited from gathering in large groups, eliminating assemblies, extracurricular activities and possibly fall sports, or at least having families and friends in the stands cheering them on.
If federal, state and local governments allow schools to reopen in the fall, expect strict disinfection procedures to be enforced. Those measures could include students washing their hands before entering each classroom and teachers and staff wiping down desks and other surfaces between each class.
One of the concerns for reopening schools is that while kids appear to have minimal risk of dying or getting seriously ill from COVID-19, they can spread the disease like anyone else. Expect kids to get their temperatures checked entering the school each day and some sort of regular COVID-19 testing to ensure kids stay disease free and avoid spreading it to others.