Reopening Schools: Can we keep our Teachers and Students Safe?
Schools across the country are opening their doors this month. Some made the decision to go virtual for a few weeks while others let the children come into the building. No matter which decision was made by each school system, there’s doubt in many people’s mind that they can adequately keep the children and staff safe from the coronavirus. The measures are complex as most school districts work their hardest to ensure everyone’s safety. Read More »
Most people understand there is a huge risk to open the doors during a global pandemic. On the other hand, many people fear children will fall behind even more if they’re kept at home. Many people are forced to find ways for their children to even study from home as they must go to their job during the day, don’t have internet and/or dislike the idea of their child in front of a computer screen all day. When teachers, students and other faculty members coming into the school together, there is a higher level of exposure. The virus could go home to the children’s or teacher’s family members. The risks for each person might be different. Some family members have people with underlying medical conditions making the risk of going into the school building a larger one. This could lead to an increase in infection and even death. Though this is a scary risk to many people, there are many factors that influence the specific risks for each school district.
No matter which school district you attend, there will be safety measures put into place. Personal hygiene is always encouraged at school. There will be frequent hand washing. Children will continue to be taught to cough and sneeze into their elbows. At some schools, temperatures will be taken as children come into the building. Many students will be required to wear a face covering. While this almost impossible for lower grades, the students will still be required to wear masks while in the hallways or public areas. Most schools will sit the desks three to six feet apart. Schools will up their game when it comes to sanitizing. There will be frequent wiping down of surfaces with cleaner and/or antimicrobial wipes. There will be sanitizing stations throughout some schools. This will all require the entire school of students and faculty members working together to make it all work like a machine.
The Tough Reality
One of the biggest problems with social distancing at school is that it’s almost impossible for students to stay six feet away from one another. Young students especially love to hug their friends, and hang on their teachers at times. Hallways are usually packed with students as they go to and from different locations. The lunch room and playgrounds are full of children having a good time. This reality is a hard one to fight for many school districts. Some schools are staggering the times when students are dropped off and picked up. Other schools require children to eat their desk or rotate small groups through the cafeteria. Some schools are doing away with lockers so there is not as much interaction in the hallways. Each school is doing their part to combat the Coronavirus to ensure each student and faculty member is as safe as possible, but still able to go to school.
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Hygiene Starts At Home
Everyone must work together to combat the spread of COVID-19. Safety must start at home. You might not be able to control other families or the school itself, but you can control your own home. Parents can teach children how to be as safe as possible by covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze, wearing a mask for hours at a time and washing their hands frequently. They can talk to their kids about refraining from hugging other students. Their bag should be packed each day with hand sanitizer and a mask. It’s important to talk to the students about what is going on at school. They may be fearful. It’s important to ask them how they feel about the pandemic and their safety. Help them be open about how the school is handling these issues on a daily basis.
The Tough Questions
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There is no right or wrong answer to any question regarding the pandemic and safety. Each school district makes their own decisions. They must make a decision if they want to shut down the entire school if someone falls ill with the virus. Does the student just need a negative test to return, or do they need a week without symptoms? A teacher may need to quarantine. Does the whole classroom quarantine as well? Many school districts find it difficult to answer these questions. Each district now has their own safety protocols in place to address these concerns. There will probably be more questions as students flow through those doors.
Dealing With Skeptics
The health of students and faculty members could also be compromised by those that don’t believe in the pandemic. Some feel it is a hoax. They believe there is a virus, but it is nothing more than a cold. These people propose a problem to the districts because they may not be taking adequate measures at home to help their child stay safe at school. If they don’t believe in wearing masks, they could spread the virus more easily at school.
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One big issue with keeping kids out of school or away from one another at school is the loss of a social connection. There’s used to group activities and lots of socializing between tasks. Young children often cry the first few days. They’re hugged or able to hold hands with their teacher. It’s tough to build relationships in the school community without that social connection.
School is going to look different this year no matter what. Only time will tell if all of the safety measures put into place keep students, faculty members and all of the families well. This is a different time for education, and everyone is going to have to learn how to stay safe and learn together.
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