The reasons for returning to school might sound good, but those reasons always bump up against the enemy, the coronavirus.
Here are concerns that deserve attention, but they are the wrong reasons for schools to reopen.
1. President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos say SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!
Neither the President or Betsy DeVos consider details of how the virus could affect children and their families in states and school districts across the country. The President has turned the virus into a political dispute. Until the President, Congress, and scientists get their act together, it is irresponsible to put the nation’s students in the crossfire.
2. We must get back to normal.
Reopening schools with plexiglass barriers, social distancing, nonstop cleaning, and masks is hardly normal. Nor do we know if such safety precautions will be funded, or if they’ll work. Also, if state and local leaders can’t reopen beaches and indoor seating in restaurants safely, why do they think schools will be safe?
3. Parents must work.
Parents who must work need assistance finding or creating small, safely controlled groups for children, where contact tracing can occur if students get sick. If schools do reopen, it should only be for parents who must work.
4. Students will fall behind.
Students have missed some learning, but they were almost finished for summer when schools closed. A few more months at home will hardly destroy their progress, especially if teachers help from afar.
5. Online learning is terrible.
Teachers have struggled to reach students, and there are problems galore. But educators and parents need to work out learning challenges with or without online instruction.
6. Students will have their temperatures taken at school.
It’s possible to be infected with the coronavirus and have no fever, or a very low-grade one, especially in the first few days. Covid-19 might present few if any symptoms. Also, children might run a slight fever and not really be sick.
7. Children experience food insecurity.
Community food banks must continue to get nutritious meals to children and families who experience poverty. School officials and staff can help. Children should not have to return to unsafe schools to be fed.
9. If online learning continues, schools will never reopen.
Parents and educators worry that online instruction will become normalized. The reality is the longer students rely on tech, the more they miss school and their teachers! The virus has demonstrated that online instruction will never be an adequate replacement for face-to-face learning.
10. Students need testing to find academic losses.
Students have only missed some school. Education reformers are already assuming they have fallen behind. More testing is a ridiculous reason for students to go back to school.
11. We need to assess students for trauma surrounding the virus.
The best way to help children is for parents, caretakers, and teachers to listen to them talk about their concerns. Returning to school for trauma assessments is unnecessary.
12. Poor students don’t have access to online learning.
School administrators should ensure all students have access to broadband and a computer. If not, students should connect with their teacher by phone or other means of communication.
13. Children are being abused at home.
If parents or caretakers fear harming a child, there are abuse hotlines they can call to get help. School administrators, counselors, school nurses, social workers, and teachers need to check on children and families and identify high risk situations. Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
14. Students face anxiety and depression at home.
Engage with children and teens to make sure they’re O.K. Hotlines exist for this too. Anxiety and depression can also occur if children go back to school and are afraid. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
15. Students with disabilities aren’t getting assistance.
Parents fear Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will end IDEA. School administrators and teachers must build trust with parents. Teachers and support staff, speech pathologists, audiologists, counselors, and psychologists are needed to help families remotely. Students with disabilities might be more vulnerable to illness. Ramp up services from afar. Don’t reduce or end them!
16. Teachers need to go back to work.
Teachers don’t need to be physically present in an unsafe school building to work. School administrators must trust teachers and support their efforts to reach students.
17. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s safe.
Doctors don’t understand the difficulties schools face reopening.
18. Other countries have done it.
Veteran educator and award-winning administrator Carol Burris makes a good argument for looking at school reopening plans around the world. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos should be doing this and isn’t. That’s the problem. America currently has poor leadership concerning this disease and schools.
19. We’re reopening schools based on up-to-date science.
Everyday there’s something new reported about this virus or its spread. Dr. Fauci just stated We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this.
20. Ask parents, teachers, and students if they think schools should reopen.
The virus doesn’t care what anyone thinks! Good science should rule.
21. Schools will be flexible.
Changing schedules to have fewer students is difficult to do with consistency, nor will it mean there will be adequate social distancing or that students will wear masks judiciously.
22. The economy will be ruined if schools don’t reopen soon.
Quit blaming the problems with this virus and the economy on children, schools, and teachers. Don’t put children’s lives in danger for the sake of the economy.
23. Let’s do hybrid.
A part-time hybrid schedule might lower class sizes, but the coronavirus isn’t going to hide part-time. Which teachers get to work online, and who risks their lives to work in person?
24. Teachers are courageous.
Teachers shouldn’t be put in the position of having to put their lives on the line for their jobs.
Too many uncertainties exist about this virus. Its connection between schools and communities is complex.
Let go of the time-consuming and expensive debate about returning to school in the fall.
Concentrate on small group instruction for working parents and better solutions to help teachers reach students at home.
Focus on reopening schools in January. Reassess what’s happening at that time.
The country should work together to do what’s right for children from afar until there’s a safe solution for students to return to America’s schools.
Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferré-Sadurní. N.Y. Officials Halt Indoor Dining, Alarmed by Virus Rise in Other States. The New York Times. July 1, 2020.
Deb Perelman. In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both. The New York Times. July 2, 2020
Valerie Strauss. Why schools must find a safe way to reopen for the most vulnerable students — by a veteran educator. The Washington Post. July 6, 2020.