Updated: Sep 23, 2021
I am proposing a number of reasons why schools can’t open effectively right now. Less we forget, schooling has always been composed of group activity i.e., classes, group counseling, morning line up, auditorium, physical education, student government, cafeteria time, school clubs, teams, busing and more. Couple these situations with basic school trafficking entering and exiting the building and moving from one classroom to another. Schools have right and left side hall movement and up and downside staircases. This has always been a safety issue and is doubly so during this pandemic time. One must also consider fire drill operations and emergency school safety plans. Measures for homeless students and students having underlying conditions and the plan for their well-being will need attention.
Due to the apparent covid-19 pandemic a number of teachers and school personnel have opted to retire or simply not return. The Department of Education and School Principals will need to surmise how vacancies will be filled and how the use of substitute teachers and their professional development training will impact the new environment.
Significantly, keep in mind that Black students, students of color and many students in general have been traumatized by the experiences they have witnessed regarding “Black Lives Matter” and the horrific incidences that have occurred surrounding policing of their communities. Young people have demonstrated their outrage and frustration all across the country and around the world. What effect will this situation have on schooling during the midst of the present corona virus pandemic? More guidance counselors will be necessary to help students cope and connect families with social services. More nurses will be required to address symptoms stemming from the crowds of young people that gather. Aggregate this need with the requirements of regular general medical services for students and you will see the tremendous stress that is levied on the school environment.
Additionally, how will periodic covid-19 testing for students and staff take place? Five to seven days to wait for results of a nasal swab is inadequate. How will the rate of transmissions in schools be checked? How will PPE materials and supplies be managed? What procedures will be in place for those testing positive? What alternative plans will be put in place for the various outcomes? How will school spaces be utilized and what type of ventilation systems will be required? How will outreach for parents take place in view of the new situation? School districts, schools and parents will need to work within a team concept to tackle these questions.
Note that students under ten years old are the least tested for covid-19 and there is limited data for this population. More information is vital for testing, tracing and tracking this group in particular. Now the covid-19 virus is traveling from young people to older more at-risk people. Roughly one third of teachers in education are over 50 years of age nationwide. Remember, it only takes one student or adult to test positive then everyone to which that person was in contact will be quarantined for 14 days after which time they must be retested.
Busing routes will also need to be refigured to address transportation service for the constantly shifting homeless population and some parents may opt out with their children in favor of virtual learning which impact school schedules for hybrid learning (in school classroom vs remote learning). This will be cause for major change in bus routing.
We know that social distancing is important. What we do not know is exactly how it will be implemented. Space has become a scarce resource. How and where to get it is a sobering endeavor. Part of the consideration on this matter may need to be addressed in available community institutions, churches and organizations. These spaces may exist as alternatives and if the need arises should be considered.
Obviously, virtual learning and hybrid learning is the way to go. The costs associated with preparing schools appropriately is astronomical. States, cities, school districts, schools and parents have to be of one accord on how to proceed, follow up and invoke oversight. It requires more effective communication and teamwork than we have ever witnessed previously. This is part of the “New Educational Paradigm” which is title of my forthcoming book set to be released this fall.