Returning to school in the fall has been on my mind, a lot. We are in the era of the unknown, and trying to plan for the unknown. No one seems to know, understandably, how to plan for in returning to school.
Should it be the return of what we had before? Should we just go ahead and make it distance learning until there is a stable vaccine that everyone must get? Do we do a hybrid of school, and if so, what does that look like for students and for teachers? (See a previous post with questions about school in the age of COVID-19: What Will School Look Like in the Fall?)
A middle and high school plan seems a little easier in terms of academics, but quite a bit harder when it comes to extracurricular activities, especially contact sports.
Because students of this age are, for the most part, able to be a little more independent in their studies, I think the following would work well for almost all students. The plan should be to give them, and their families, a choice to a certain degree, or a requirement in some instances.
If a student, based on their grades and participation for the 2019-2020 school year demonstrate they are motivated enough to learn at home, let them do so. They have already proven they are mature enough to do the work in a distance learning atmosphere. This would reduce the number of students on campus enabling schools to practice social distancing. If there aren’t enough students choosing to learn from home, then there may be a need to, again using the same above criteria, to require a certain number of students to learn from home to help keep a manageable number of students on campus.
To provide instruction, one teacher per subject could be dedicated to strictly distance learning, and I would go so far as to say teachers could teach from home if they so choose. If there are a large number of students learning from home, the number of teachers could increase. Any student choosing to learn from home would still count towards the enrollment numbers of the high school so funding would not be reduced.
Students who choose, or must, attend classes on campus would need to practice social distancing. As much as I’d like to say masks should be required for the safety of all, I’m not sure it is realistic. That is unless mass media can make it into a fashion or social statement to wear a mask and make masks unique.
For students on campus, they would all be in the same classes together throughout the day as they move from one class to the next, just like in elementary school. Lunch would also be with the same cohort. Electives would have to be done via computer lab as having the cohorts split up to go to the different electives would defeat the purpose of having cohorts. It might be possible, but not probable, to group students with the exact same electives to serve as a cohort together. It would depend on the number of students on campus.
The harder decision is in regards to extracurricular activities. Contact sports would have to be out, such as football, wrestling, and basketball. Baseball and swimming would be debatable as they aren’t exactly contact sports, but the athletes are in pretty close proximity to one another. Track and field, tennis, and color guard would most likely be fine as they are spaced, or can be spaced apart from one another. Band, marching or concert-style, would also be iffy. Concert-style band might work because spacing could occur and they don’t really move around. Marching band might be more concerning as the performers would be walking through one another’s spit spray since their breath is what helps produce the sound from the instrument. Spectators and audiences would be another challenge in order to practice social distancing.
This will be more controversial, but I do think any adult on campus, or any adult attending school sponsored events, should be required to wear a mask in the short-term— again until a vaccine or other cure/prevention is available. For the good of the commons, the public, this would be mandatory. If a family member chose not to comply, they would not be allowed the privilege of attending school sponsored events, or to be on campus. Schools can limit or specify who can, or cannot, be on campus already—this would just be an extension of this policy.
Those are some of the ideas being bandied about in my mind.
I’ll tackle PK-5th grade later in the week.
What are your thoughts and ideas for schools to reopen?