How will school look different when we return?

May 15, 2020

When COVID-19 first sent us out of school students were excited to spend time with friends and to sleep in. Now that we are stuck at home, we can’t see our friends or even family sometimes and we don’t get to sleep in because we have to be up and ready for class at 8 am. We want to go back to the way things were but what we often forget about is school won’t be the same when we return. There will be extra precautions put in place to keep students safe. 

Just what these extra precautions will be is anybody’s guess. NUHS principal Mark Bergmann said, “I think the answer would be different – if you asked 100 principals, you would get 100 different answers.  The size of your student population, the number of grades in the school, each school’s technology capability, the community support and expectations, along with many other factors would be considered by each individual in charge of the planning.  The last thing anybody would want is to put students and the community in jeopardy of acquiring COVID-19. At this point, my plan is either to return to school knowing everyone is safe or to continue distance learning. This leaves little room for adjusting to a new way of doing on-site schooling. Nevertheless, things change daily and everyone will have an opinion on how we should start school.”

The last thing anybody would want is to put students and the community in jeopardy of acquiring COVID-19.”

— NUHS Principal Mark Bergmann

So what are we looking at if we do return to school in the fall?

The first thing will be extra hand washing and hygiene measures. Ideally, Bergmann said, this will be accomplished by widespread and frequent testing for the coronavirus. This would include wearing masks, temperature checks, hand-washing, frequent sanitization, and social distancing rules enforced even for very small children.

Next would be classes with fewer students. Still, in an attempt to balance safety with the impact on families and the economy, it is recommended to reduce social contact by putting children in the smallest groups possible. Assuming there is sufficient testing and contact tracing to reduce the spread of infection, it’s better if that student’s been in contact with one group of 15 students versus 100 students.

Then, staggering classes is an option to reduce contact. Reducing class size drastically would probably mean staggering schedules. By way of example, one group of kids might attend school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday one week, then Tuesday and Thursday the following week. Or even a morning and afternoon schedule can be put in place. 

Also, no assemblies, sports games, or parent-teacher conferences. Students can’t mix in large groups, and parents probably won’t be allowed in school buildings either.

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