First, let’s look at what some other countries are doing and how it’s working for them.
China has set plans in place for social distancing, mandatory masks, customized routes to limit student interaction, hallways with temperature monitoring equipment and extra staff at lunch breaks to ensure social distancing remains enforced. With China it’s hard to say if what we are hearing is accurate or not, but they say that they have not had any large outbreaks thus far.
Germany reopened schools with no restrictions back in May and after a few outbreaks that spread quickly forced some regions to go back into lockdown and virtual learning. Social distancing, PPE and sanitizer/ soap rules/supplies are being provided to help prevent future outbreaks. Many parents are concerned these measures don’t go far enough and would like to see smaller class sizes, less interaction between the students and mandatory PPE.
In Denmark after 5 weeks of closure, schools reopened with no particular guidelines or rules to follow. Initially, there was a social media campaign encouraging parents to keep their children out of the schools, ultimately 90% of students returned to the classroom. They encouraged social distancing the most prominently, cutting class size to 10 or 11, creating subgroups at recess to minimize exposure and encouraged hand washing every two hours even during classes. They did not, however, institute a mask policy, at least not yet.
The country of Taiwan seems to be having the most success when it comes to controlling the virus spread in schools. What are they doing? They all wear masks, they practice social distancing including partitions around the desks to separate the children and ventilation is key! Making sure the vents and windows are open and fresh air is flowing has helped to keep the spread low in their schools. Also, if a school has 2 confirmed cases of the virus it must suspend in-person classes for a quarantine period.
In Sweden they took a very relaxed attitude to the virus overall, schools did not close, although gatherings were restricted to 50 or less. Currently, they are trying to practice social distancing by splitting up classrooms into smaller group, staggering classes, cancelled all class trips and restricted gatherings to less than 50. They do not wear masks, nothing about hand washing or sanitizer.
Spain and Italy have similar plans for their reopening, some of which has already occurred. They both reopened in June on a limited basis, but without any restrictions other than social distancing. They both intend to reopen fully in September, with no talk of mask usage or hand washing/sanitizer.
Now what about us? Many schools across the country are looking at a phased in reopening. How this will look is going to vary from school to school as there is no national guideline to follow at this time. There are some good parts of plans that are currently being used and some that have been suggested that haven’t yet been put into practice, so they remain untested. Is it going to be difficult and incredibly frustrating for everyone involved? You bet! Will there need to be modifications and adjustments made? Absolutely! The primary concerns for a safe return being the health of the children, staff, families and anyone associated with the care and maintenance of the facility, getting the children to and from school, if meals are served, the team that will prepare and serve those meals.
Many experts, parents, and students feel they need to go back to school in at least a hybrid kind of system. There have been options discussed and as we have seen in other countries some of those options work and others have not. Whether it’s Group A in school Mon, Wed, Fri on week one then week two in class on Tue and Thur, with virtual learning on the days they are not in class. Group B would have the alternate schedule. Another option is that the kids are in class with partitions around their desks, masks wore by everyone and the teachers rotate from class to class instead of the kids moving around the school. That way if there is a positive case only that class must quarantine. Lunchtime, is lunch offered or must everyone bring their own? Do they eat at their desk in the classroom? (meals being delivered to the room and the teacher hands out?) Whenever possible do they eat lunch outside so there can be proper social distancing and fresh air? Another big question is what about mass transit? Busing to school, can it be ensured that kids would wear their masks on the bus, if they are going to comingle on the ride to school, then does it really matter if we limit their interactions at school? Have people continued to social distance throughout the summer or have they relaxed and allowed their kids to play with their friends in small groups? Should there be polling of parents to find out and then having those groups become pods that move together around school?
There are a lot of questions to be answered yet and I’m not sure we can say anyone is truly an expert on this virus since no one has ever seen anything like this before. With decision dates rapidly approaching and no real plan even in place, concerns for the well-being of the teachers, school staff, bus drivers, students and their families are valid and looming.
This virus has created a lot of uncertainty and confusion of our regular routines and the very way we track time. If you think about it, most of us track the year by the holidays and what is going on outside the window, this year has been weird all the way around! We haven’t been able to partake in the annual traditions that signal those landmarks during our year, St. Patty’s Day was a no go, then Easter, then Memorial Day, 4th of July and assuredly, we will be restricted for Labor Day as well. It’s important to try to maintain a regular routine as best we can, getting regular exercise, eating healthy and staying in contact with friends and family. Don’t be afraid to reach out if it becomes too much, there is zero shame in wanting or needing to talk to someone. One of the places you can reach out to is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or the website www.betterhelp.com are just a couple of the resources, there are many, many more. These times are not normal, and we shouldn’t be ok with what is happening right now. But can we learn to process it and look for ways to deal with the stresses these circumstances create? Yes!! Remember to be kind to one another, always, wear your mask, wash your hands, and maintain social distancing and we will get through this together!
This article generated more questions and things to ponder so check back in a week to see part 2 of Heading Back to School?
By Diane Krueger, Sales Manager at Accent Property Restoration www. Accent24hr.com