There has been much written about how schools might look like if/when they re-open in September. The CDC has listed the following common sense measures. Ontario school districts are to look at one of these three plans.
Like shopping malls and supermarkets (or any store, for that matter), movement of patrons is a key to how they function. Schools are no different. Unlike shopping malls or supermarkets though, lining up outside the building, socially distanced, before a math class isn’t going to work. Before school start entry to the building itself will have to be made to work. Schools love rules.
But inside the four or more walls, it’s going to be a different story. From the Ministry or the Board Office, having students sitting in the same desk, socially distanced, and subjects integrated seems to be the plan. Many elementary school teachers do the integration piece already so are undoubtedly visioning how it might work. Of course, kids can sit for six hours in one spot focussed on their work!
Discussion is difficult to find about how a secondary school might work. Over the weekend, I read about one suggestion that the secondary school year might look like a series of summer school sessions. You go to school, in one classroom, and you work at the same subject for day after day until the credit is earned. Then you move on to the next subject. In theory, that would get rid of the need to get up and move between classes. In my old school, students had five minutes to socialize, er, transition between rooms. That transition was always a challenge and we were all supposed to be out in the hallways keeping the flow moving.
But I can’t imagine taking one subject for an entire day. To revert to four or more classes results in four class movements which isn’t ideal either. This, in addition to the movement to the buses or parking lot bookending the school day.
There might be value in, as they say on Pawn Stars, meeting in the middle. Saw the current schedule in half and do one subject in the morning and one in the afternoon. With a bit of creativity, the classes in each half of the day could stagger to minimize the number of bodies in the hallways. The classes would be a mixture of teaching, reinforcing techniques and would take 150 minutes rather than the traditional 75. It’s still a long time but appropriate pedagogy could ease the pain a bit. Keeping the class sizes small enough for suitable distance between students remains a challenge. The concept of a mix of at-school and at-home work would undoubtedly have to suffice. With schools already requiring portable classrooms, it’s not like there’s any extra space lying around.
Lunch remains a wildcard in any vision I have. Unlike elementary schools where students bring their own for nutrition breaks, secondary schools typically have a vibrant cafeteria where you get the nutrition from the starch food groups – french fries, pizza, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips. … (OK tongue in cheek here … there are salads too). Are we talking the end of the cafeteria or will we see the educational version of touch free delivery? – orders emailed in by 8, pick up in the hallway by 11 with your name on it. Cafeterias would stop being cash only places.
Oh, the mind hurts. We haven’t even talked about busing, sanitizing washrooms, courses with shared instruments and work spaces like shops or music rooms.
There are so many different things that go into a solid academic experience for students. The logistics must be so heavily weighing on the minds of those in charge of a district.
Oh, and then there’s this announcement about de-streaming Grade 9. My initial thought is that this may well be the best thinking to come along in a long time. I need to read more details.