It’s officially August. Most American schools usual open by the end of the month. News reports are showing some school districts preparing to welcome students back while incorporating the social distancing guidelines, increasing cleaning protocols, online teaching options and staggered classes. Teachers and administrators are expressing both support and concern about returning to these environments generally rich with germs even before COVID-19 (just ask any teacher how common colds spread in most elementary classrooms.) Under a world-wide pandemic, most people are questioning whether the potential loss of human life is worth risking. Are we really prepared for America’s children and their caretakers (teachers, bus drivers, classroom aides, mom, dad, nana, grandpa, etc.) being exposed? After all, children are still learning the basics of reading, writing and mathematics in addition to self care, hygiene and team work.
Most parents and teachers know that it is virtually impossible to supervise or “police” children 100% specifically related to social distancing, not touching surfaces or objects, hand washing, no facial contact, etc. As a former second grade teacher, I can recall students seeking oral sensory input (due to possible dental, speech therapy or sensory issues, etc.) making it difficult for to me to stop them from putting inedible objects in their mouths (one student ate crayons periodically and another student picked his nose and … you fill in the picture). Trust me, as a certified germaphobe even before COVID-19, I did my absolute best to keep them both safe but it was difficult and stressful in a classroom comprised of 20-28 students.
I’ve advocated reforming the educational indoctrination system, for a number of reasons, prior to COVID-19 but now find myself dazed and stunned by current events. I could not have imagined the incredible quandary we, as a society, would be forced to contemplate. I do not have a good solution to this complicated public health crisis especially since some form of educational indoctrination is needed for any modern society. Children also greatly benefit from socially interacting with other children including special needs students. The importance of receiving a good education cannot be refuted but the current choice between sending children to school during a pandemic and the potential loss of life is not a reasonable option. At a minimum, all other educational options should be prioritized (such as remote learning options etc.) until the health of all America’s (children and teachers alike) can be secured.
Our schools have always served as the backbone and safety net for both children and families in this country. America’s school daze won’t be the same in 2020. American leadership have seemingly failed to establish a national agenda to halt the progression of COVID-19 before the start of the new school year. Prior to opening schools, our national infection rate should have been on the decline but inept leadership has seemingly prevented this from happening. Perhaps our political leaders failed science class or have never been around innocent children. Whatever their reasons for advocating schools opening nationally during a pandemic, educators, parents and teachers are now faced with very difficult decisions.
Science is real.
Human lives matter.
Children are our future.
These are not just clichés or slogans. If the national school reopening strategy is not handled responsibly (no one approach fits each community or state), this situation has serious risks and potential consequences. America’s school daze won’t be the same in 2020. Regardless of what happens, both teachers and parents need to prepare COVID-19 lesson plans for our children based upon the NU world reality.