Well-meaning parents and schoolboards have been working remotely to determine how to safely reopen schools, but these plans are filled with uncertainty. Many of the changes make schools unrecognizable.
The Coronavirus has involved conflicting information. Now we’re seeing an uptick in cases.
It’s not what anyone wants, but fall doesn’t seem like a good time to reopen schools.
1. Illness and Russian Roulette
According to the CDC, the risk might seem low for children, but they still get sick, some seriously. Children and teenagers have died. Questions still surround the disease. It’s not worth the risk. Maybe the situation will improve by January, or next summer. Currently we’re experiencing a pandemic and safety is the number one concern.
Some children develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), called Kawasaki disease. This can lead to life-threatening problems with the heart and other organs in the body. Everyday we learn more about this disease. It doesn’t seem like we know enough to protect children and teachers for a return to school.
2. How Will the Flu and Covid-19 Tango?
Maybe Covid-19 alone doesn’t affect children as badly as adults, but what if you mix it with the flu? Every year the flu kills children. Last January, before Covid-19 became well known, 27 children had died of the flu. What will the dance of these two illnesses look like in the fall?
3. Adults Matter Too!
A large concern with children is that they can spread the disease to teachers, parents, and grandparents who could be vulnerable. It isn’t fair to risk their health by reopening schools. Teachers and staff should not have to fear their workplace.
4. Lacking Consensus
Adults can’t agree on recommendations surrounding Covid-19, so how can teachers protect children brought together in the classroom? Some students will want to wear their masks, others won’t. Some students will take the virus seriously, others won’t.
5. Serious Issues Besides School
Children from low income families who face hunger, possible abuse, mental health difficulties, and other issues have been hit the hardest during this pandemic. Local communities including religious organizations, social workers, and mental health specialists, along with educators and school officials, are needed to continue to help those struggling.
6. Online Connection for All Students!
School districts should ensure that all students have access to remote learning. Students from low-income households should not feel pressured to return to school because they are not online. Black communities have been the hardest hit with this virus.
7. Students With Disabilities
Students with disabilities need more support during this time. It’s wrong for school districts to shirk their IDEA responsibilities. Teachers and school districts should come up with unique ways to address student needs. Teachers need to be able to connect with students and their parents online.
8. Cost for Safety
The Council of State Chief School Officers estimate that schools will need $245 billion to safely reopen. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander estimated $50 billion for K-12 and colleges and universities. Use the money to help teachers teach remotely, ensure that all students have online connection, and plan for schools to reopen better later when the virus is contained.
9. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been diverting public school monies to private schools. Who trusts that money will go to public schools for safety? Remove DeVos from her role. She has shown her contempt for public education at a time when students and teachers need federal support more than ever.
10. Social Distancing
Social distancing is necessary, but it creates an unnatural environment for children in school. Bringing children together is a large part of what school is about. How will teachers enforce separation and isolation? How will this affect children long-term?
11. Exposure to Cleaning Products
Disinfectants and strong cleaners will be used to continuously kill the virus on surfaces. Many schools have poor ventilation or classrooms without windows. The fumes from such cleaners could be toxic for students to breath, and harmful if the solution gets on a student’s skin.
Masks are important to protect yourself and others. But is it healthy for a child to wear a mask for a long period of time? How will students with disabilities, or those who rely on facial cues, be able to adequately communicate?
13. Lunch and the Cafeteria
If you’re a Covid-19 carrier you may wear your mask all day only to spread the disease when you take it off to eat lunch.
14. School’s Scary!
Parents can help contain a child’s fears about the virus at home. But a dystopian school environment with scary rules and strict protocols could be a nightmare for a child. How will young learners react? So much of their learning is about play and socialization. What if a child carries the disease home to their grandpa, or believes they do? How will they feel?
15. Mental Health
Many schools lack counselors. They lack nurses too! Teachers are not prepared or equipped to be nonstop mental health providers.
What will the effects be of children spending so much time in a sterile environment? Will they still build immunity for other diseases?
With this disease it’s necessary to wash your hands well. How much psychological harm will be done, and time spent, making children repeatedly wash their hands in school? How much time will this take?
18. School Restrooms
Much concern and conflicting information exists about the spread of Covid-19 in public restrooms. School bathroom conditions have always been a source of concern. Using the restroom at school should not be dangerous.
19. Teacher Qualifications
There are not enough teachers for smaller classes for social distancing. Experienced older teachers may not want to get sick. Will schools hire a glut of teachers without qualifications?
Outside is safer, but recess and outdoor activities mean children will come in contact with each other. How do children play if they can’t use balls, jump ropes, and toys? How do they avoid the swing set and other outdoor equipment? Many community playgrounds remain closed. Why would school playgrounds be safer?
How legally protected are school districts if a student or teacher catches Covid-19? What protections exist for teachers and schools?
Students are close together in school buses even if they’re socially distancing. Transporting a small number of students is not cost efficient.
23. School Infrastructure
Many schools have poor ventilation systems.
Teachers are being asked to risk their lives in the classroom. Some are writing their wills. There might not be enough teachers. Nor will anyone want to sub for a teacher who gets sick. No teacher should be fired for refusing to return to work.
25. Schools Open and Close
If schools open and someone gets sick they will close again.
26. Tweens and Teens Spread the Disease
27. Betsy DeVos Says that All Schools Must Reopen
Betsy DeVos has never been a friend to public schools and teachers. She says all schools must reopen. Here she is being interviewed by Dana Bash on CNN.
28. Will Serious Cases of Covid-19 in Children Go Up if Children Return to School?
Some wonder if the cases of Covid-19 in children are lower because they have not been in school. Will the country see a spike in illness if children return to the classroom?
29. Teachers are Retiring Early
Teachers are retiring early because they fear being exposed to the virus. Forcing teachers into early retirement means schools will have fewer teachers when schools come back safely. Without real teachers, students will fall behind, hampering their ability to attend college or prepare for their future careers.
30. Teacher Blame
There are those who criticize teachers for not wanting to return to school for fear of the virus. These individuals will likely blame teachers if schools reopen and students get sick. Teachers must remain calmly focused on the safety of their students and themselves.
Instead of Reopening Now….
This disease is too bizarre and there are still too many unknowns for Americans to risk their children’s health by placing them in school. It isn’t worth it, especially when schools are a shell of what they should be.
While I’m not for technology to replace teachers, teachers teaching remotely is different. Funding at this time should go towards ensuring that all students have efficient online access to their teachers and schools in the fall. Students are not going to become zombies if they miss school for a little longer. The economy is not going fail if children miss some school.
Religious organizations, local support groups, and school officials and teachers should find ways to assist parents with child daycare if parents are essential workers. Maybe small groups of children can meet in safe surroundings.
School boards, parents, and educators might use this time to reconsider the educational needs of students in their local communities.
This is an unprecedented time. This crisis can be used for good, for Americans to come together to rethink and bolster the nation’s public school system. Children are resilient. They will catch up when they return to better, brighter, and safer schools in the near future.
Feel free to email me your ideas about Covid-19 and schools or comment below. Feel free to disagree. I understand this is a heated topic. Just please be polite.