Amid the coronavirus pandemic, educators are turning their sights to the fall, looking at what it could take to welcome K-12 students back to school in-person.
“Across our state and across our nation, kids are going to be able to return to school in the fall. It’s just not going to look like any other school year,” Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado told Fox News over the weekend.
The CDC this week released recommendations schools should follow for reopening. The guidance encourages school officials to put now-common refrains into practice: face coverings, hand washing, increased cleaning and social distancing measures.
But the federal agency stresses those tips are meant to supplement local and state regulations. Reopenings will vary from place to place. One small school in Montana already reopened earlier this month.
“Kids won’t be able to get on the bus until they have their temperature taken, and if they have a 99 or better temperature, they won’t come that day," she said.
There’s also talk of continuing to use digital learning in some way, along with a potential shift of scheduling.
“Students may come in a morning shift, and then another group in an afternoon shift. That may be a way to accommodate the need to have much smaller class sizes so that school campuses can reopen with social distancing provisions in place," California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said earlier this month.
But how do you implement social distancing in schools, places that are intrinsically social?
One Georgia superintendent admits it’ll be tough to encourage young kids to stay apart. While he thinks it could be easier for high school students, that age group may come with challenges, too.
“But the truth of the matter is, most of them have boyfriends and girlfriends and they're with their friends," said Bibb County School District Superintendent Curtis Jones. "The hard part is, if they're not practicing that in a great way at home and on the weekends, they're really not going to think it's really necessary. And that just creates a different discipline issue for us.”
And implementing any new changes could come with a price tag.
“Where is the money coming from to do that?" asked Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. "Particularly in an economic environment where we’re already seeing that states are saying that the budgets they have developed for this coming school year are not real, they're losing billions of dollars, and therefore school districts are not going to get the kind of support from the state that they were counting on.”
Many states are convening task forces to create strategies and offer guidance on reopening. Officials in places like Arizona, Virginia, and New Hampshire are set to release information over the coming weeks.