Schools Reopening? Things You Should Know and Consider

Everything is still in the air, and it remains unclear what exactly is in store for students and parents for the upcoming academic year. It will vary tremendously in different locations, but there are many more things to keep in mind.

Here's what you should know:

Last Monday (July 20), Gov. Phil Murphy explained that due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents will have the choice of sending their child/children back to school this fall. The all-remote learning option will be available. He stated, “The Department of Education will be releasing guidance allowing for parents to choose all-remote learning for their children,” Murphy said in Trenton Monday, July 20th during his press briefing. “Again, the details will be coming out later this week, but we wanted everyone to know now that we will allow for this step.”

With tension rising as schools plan to reopen in a little over a month, three NJ lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill that would encourage schools to keep their buildings closed. The status of COVID-19 and how it will affect students remains up in the air and in order to prevent unnecessary sickness and potential death, this is what they are proposing:

  • Public schools will start the year practicing online instruction exclusively

  • Districts would have the option to delay the reopening of schools in order to ensure its teachers are well equipped for online instruction

  • Allow schools to have outdoor events to encourage interaction with peers and teachers while adhering to social distancing guidelines

As for safety, this is a risk as we all know. Children may be carriers, or can even become ill. Betsy Devos, the US Secretary of Education who is in favor of schools reopening in the fall claimed that regardless, some children will die. Do any parents want to put themselves in the position to possibly lose their child? Absolutely not!

On the other hand, Dr. Fauci, a leading public health expert stated that if you're returning to school, "You're going to actually be part of the experiment of the learning curve of what we need to know. Remember, early on when we shut down the country as it were, the schools were in shutdown, so we don't know the full impact, we don't have the total database of knowing what there is to expect."

Since there were no outbreaks within schools, the return to school will be a learning experience for everyone.

We also have immunocompromised students and teachers who are at greater risk or live with immunocompromised family members, which becomes a factor when deciding whether or not to return to the school environment. Beyond this, students with immunocompromised parents will be at a greater risk of bringing the virus home and spreading it with others.

But it's very hard to gauge whether or not the risk is worth sending your child to school. Will teachers be required to sanitize everything in the room, if so, how frequently? How would bathrooms work? Depending on age, it can be very hard to adjust to a new way of schooling, and perhaps, unlearning things originally taught. For example, younger children will be taught not to share, not to talk to each other close, not to be welcoming to others, and not to work in groups. This can be a habit hard to change after teaching it. How can a 4-5-year-old wear a mask for 6+ hours? The students may be uncomfortable, take it off, cry, or even start to dislike school. This is not how school should be, however, there are children who are not gaining much through remote learning.

Remote learning can also become tricky when it doesn't necessarily get the job done. Waking up 5 minutes before class and opening a screen in the comfort of your bed is convenient, but will your child actually be learning? On top of this, it surely is difficult to keep both a 5-year-old and a 17-year-old engaged in online learning. Cell phones and other distractions make it easy to not pay attention- or even opening your screen and going right back to sleep. Some teachers may require cameras to be on, while others may not because of the privacy of children. During the spring when schools closed, some public school students in Jersey City were given packets to complete by hand rather than online zoom sessions- which could be helpful only if the students complete it, but who checks? The teachers said it would be checked when school reopened but what about those that would be starting high school? Other students in Jersey City had daily assignments to complete VIA Google Classroom.

Online schooling does take a bit of self-motivation, but of course, parents might be able to stay on top of their kids if they have the time to. Unfortunately, not all parents are able to because of the jobs they may work or other living circumstances. The truth is, children are falling behind. Some students may not have internet access or may share one device with siblings and others in their household. Some students may be living in toxic environments, or sometimes unsupervised. The circumstances and living situations vary tremendously for students, and it is hard to accommodate everyone. Many children are on social media (TikTok, Youtube, etc), or playing video games all day which may cause alarming consequences due to their inactivity and no time outside. The school promotes a healthier lifestyle with more movement, but will it be the same when school reopens? Will it have the same benefits?

Staying on top of your children remains a challenge for parents who are working remotely as well or parents who are working and are unable to be at home with their children. With remote learning, it becomes an additional task of parents to be a teacher/supervisor as well.

Colleges with students planning to return to campus, on the other hand, have other things to settle such as dorms, visitors, and more. For NYU, some things are still in the air, for example, testing accommodations. Dorms, however, have limited capacity and absolutely no visitors are allowed- unless they live in the same building. Most classes are blended, so in-person and online, but remote options are available for all students who may not be able to travel back to New York. Most extracurriculars will take place remotely, and Resident Assistants will only be paid for the weeks they work, and not if the university is forced to close again.

Constant COVID-19 testing and proper PPE would have to be mandated for every individual in a school because one COVID-19 positive person can spread the virus tremendously which would affect many more people than expected. In the situation of schools reopening, the administration should act as if each person were COVID positive in order to take maximum precautions to ensure the safety of all.

Without a doubt, it is definitely a hard decision for the administrators also when deciding exactly how to reopen schools. With the unpredicted crisis, it is hard to envision what the future may look like or how to go about our daily lives. It's a difficult time for everyone, but the best thing to do is to see what works best for your family, budget, and lifestyle. Good luck to all of the parents and students currently thinking of the pros and cons!

I found this post and thought it was worth sharing for a laugh because it's true that kids might not know what is acceptable and what isn't, even after explaining the virus.

Kids would have to be watched at all times.

© 2020 by JC Wonders.