The two big questions on the minds of most K to 12 students and parents in the U.S. is – “Will schools reopen in September” and, if so, what will “school” look like?
Journalist Hilary Brueck writing for the June 10, 2020 issue of Business Insider summarized the school reopening dilemma as follows:
“As coronavirus cases surged in hotspots around the US this spring, 55 million kids were sent home, to avoid spreading more infections through their classrooms.
- As schools weigh how best to reopen with the coronavirus at hand, the CDC recommends keeping classes small and isolated.
- They recommend staggering pick-up and drop-off times and encouraging telework for coronavirus-exposed students and teachers.
- Reopening schools will not be one-size-fits-all, because not every family or teacher’s coronavirus risk is the same.
- Experts warn schools should be prepared for a ‘hybrid’ approach of virtual and in-class teaching if there is another coronavirus spike.
- Reopening considerations are going to vary widely, depending on the location and size of a school, the ages of the children who attend it, and how well pupils can truly learn at a distance. Keeping student cohorts segregated will become an important disease prevention technique.” (https://news.yahoo.com/schools-look-reopen-despite-coronavirus-192200396.html.”
A PARENT WEIGHS IN
Although parents are struggling with their own work-at-home schedules alongside their new duties to be homeschool teachers, the question of whether to send students back to public school in September is still open for discussion.
On the one hand, parents are anxious to allow their restless and sometimes-discouraged children to get back into the classroom as soon as possible. On the other hand, safety considerations prevail and parents are not willing to send their kids into school situations that may not be practical or safe.
Caila Smith, a self-named “mommy blogger,” wrote on June 9, 2020 that “There’s literally no way to reopen our schools safely and here’s why.” She summarized the situation as follows: “In addition to students needing separate supplies, it’s also been suggested by the CDC that masks be worn when able, cafeterias and playgrounds remain closed, children sit six feet apart, sneeze guards are installed, buses follow social distancing guidelines, and students stay inside of the same classroom all day long.”
Ms. Smith went on to say that “The problem is, American schools aren’t structured to accommodate these recommendations for COVID-19 safety. Schools will need to reopen eventually, and we all need to prepare for that foreseeable reality. On the other hand, if they are to reopen this fall, many schools will be doing so without the resources, space or faculty needed to fully comply with the rules of social distancing, simply because they lack and time and funding.” (https://www.scarymommy.com/reopening-schools-safety/)
WHAT SCHOOL MIGHT LOOK LIKE IN SEPTEMBER
Dennis Thompson, writing for HealthDay on June 11, 2020 pointed out that, according to Dan Domenech, executive director of The School Superintendents Association, “Schools planning to reopen in the fall are weighing what’s called the ‘pod’ approach, in which middle and high school students remain isolated with their peers in the same classroom all day.”
“It’s one of the many ways that schools might operate differently in the days of COVID-19, if infection rates in their communities even allow them to reopen next school year,” says Domenech. “Staggered school hours would make sure hallways remain relatively empty as students enter and leave the building. There’s even talk of keeping the cafeterias closed and serving the kids lunch in their classroom ‘pod,’ so they remain in the classroom nearly all the school day.”
The June 11, 2020 Charlotte Observer’s T. Keung Hui noted that “North Carolina’s new plan for reopening public schools this year could cause students to attend school on half days or alternating days if the state doesn’t see enough improvement in the number of COVID-19 cases.” (https://news.yahoo.com/nc-releases-details-3-plans-144744972.htm)
Other variations being proposed by some school districts include:
- Use of alternating week schedules where students attend school in a one-in-school-one-at-home arrangement,
- Students spending half of each school day on campus and half the day learning at home,
- Limitation of the number of students allowed on campus at one time,
- Teachers video stream all day for live remote learning, or
- A hybrid of the different scheduling options.
STATE BY STATE REOPENING PLANS VARY WIDELY
For a May 11, 2020 look at what state boards of education are dealing with, William Bredderman, writing for The Daily Beast, offered a state-by-state summary of opening plans. To check out the list, go to: https://news.yahoo.com/kids-back-school-082225394.html.
For updates from as early as one month ago to as recent as 4 or 5 days or even just 10 hours, YouTube is a great source. Three current examples include:
“Houston County Schools Enrollment and Budget Plans for 2020-2021 School Year,” posted 5 days ago
“Oregon Department of Education ‘Ready School, Safe Learners;’ Schools Set Fall Guidelines,” posted 3 days ago
“Jeffco Public Schools Release Plan to Reopen Schools in the Fall,” posted three weeks ago (NOTE: Jeffco [Denver, CO] was the first district to announce reopening plans.)
Other state plans easily found on YouTube include Washington, Virginia, Central Florida, California, New York, New York City and Arizona.
Overall, many states are waiting until after the July 4 national holiday and the two-weeks following the celebration, before making final decisions about Fall 2020 public school openings.
Although the overall emphasis is being placed on public schools reopening in September, education planners are preparing for the possibility that remote learning may continue well into the 2020-2021 school year. In Indiana, educators “are beginning to prepare for remote instruction to go into the next academic year” and “are now recognizing that they could be shut down indefinitely.”
In Washington State, school is expected to open this fall, but “[schools chief Chris] Reykdal…urged educators to prepare for the possibility that schools could remain closed”…saying “we know we have to be significantly better at this distance model in case we find ourselves in that reality.”
“To sum all of this up, there’s a lot of hopeful optimism that schools will be reopening in the fall but beneath that here’s also some awareness that the situation could change and distance learning my need to continue for some part of the fall semester. All of that will be dependent on …..whether or not we’re facing a second wave [of the virus] this summer.” (https://hotair.com/archives/john-s-2/2020/04/15/will-schools-reopen-fall-will-look-like/)
OPTIONS FOR PARENTS
Global Student Network – offers multiple online homeschool curriculum programs to fit any learning style.
International Virtual Learning Academy – an accredited online private school offering school-at-home with real teachers.