Recently, I ran across this video about how Germany is re-opening schools.
If you’ve ever taught high school, you’ll understand it when I told my wife that they need a disclaimer like:
“These are paid actors; your mileage may vary…”
Of course, we know that there will come a time when schools will re-open. When and how will depend upon government, parent, teacher, and student decisions. Just unlocking the door doesn’t necessarily mean that the masses of students will show up.
So much will be contingent on workplaces re-opening as well. Secondary school and university students should be in a better place to stay at home, take care of themselves, and even attend online classes. I’m sure that this went into the decision making in Quebec.
Those who have been primary and junior educators have expressed their thoughts loudly about this pointing out the bee-hive of activity that takes place in younger classes. And, by bee-hive, I mean all the activity and the desire to all be in the same place at the same time.
At the 30 000 metre level, the layout of the classrooms in the video make a great deal of sense. Kids are at a distance and there is tape between them so why not?
I think for concerned parents and teachers, more than that will have to be addressed. I’ll start a list. At the bottom, I’ll ask you to add to the list.
- buses – how can you assure that students will be seated at least 2 metres apart?
- bus stops – we’ll need to have a queue that extends down the block for appropriate spacing while waiting for the bus to arrive
- school crosswalk – there will be long lines waiting for the crossing guard to stop traffic and let students cross
- school crossovers – given the spacing needed between students, is the timer going to be long enough to get everyone in before school starts?
- car pooling – will those students fortunate enough to have their own cars be allowed to have passengers?
- checking – many places now do temperature checks and questions for employees coming into work. Do schools need to do that for every student entering? Do students need to be tested before they get on that bus?
- if a student or teacher happens to be sick, will there be an additional layer of checking before they’re allowed back in the building?
- lockers – right now, every student with a locker has someone right beside them or they share lockers. How do we adjust for that? How about cubbies?
- presumably classrooms will be disinfected over night. Do we stop class rotations or subject changes during the day because disinfecting between classes isn’t reasonable
- how about staircases? I remember my own high school where we had “up” and “down” staircases. Will that return? Will we have metered access to stairwells?
- maybe we could finally enforce the courtesy of walking on the right side of the hallway?
- how will communal equipment be used from class to class? – thinking computers, science equipment, shop equipment, toys, etc. here
- speaking of computers, how will we get all those loaners back?
- please, nobody think this would be a good time for a fire drill
- how will we handle students going to the cafeteria? Many schools dine on different shifts as is. Add another shift? Or do they dine Chez Math?
- will certain subject areas be postponed for now? Phys Ed, for example. Conceivably activities like track and field could be done outside, health education inside. Respect for distancing would have to apply to change rooms as well
- small group work won’t be so small with distancing rules in effect
- the common wisdom seems to be to cut classes in half for seating at 2 metre distances so a class of 30 becomes a class of 15. Will teachers be expected to work twice as long?
- how about Mom and Dad? What happens if a student brings something home with them? Or, what if they bring something back to school?
- washrooms are small enough to begin with. How do we ensure distancing happens in there? While on the topic of washrooms, presumably all classroom and building doors could be left open to avoid the touching with opening and closing but how about washrooms?
- but the fire marshall may have declared some doors as fire doors and they must be shut
- how about those classrooms without windows?
- will playground equipment be given the OK for use during class breaks?
- masks and gloves?
Some decisions like the cancellation of inter-school events and field trips are easily made. Others not so easily.
The end result would be a school day completely different from what we normally experience. Waiting longer before a return may minimize some of the issues but until we have a vaccination and everyone safe, there will always be a risk with the things that we have taken for granted for years.
What have I left out from my questions above? An awareness by the community of all of the issues and having workable answers is needed at this time.