What reopening schools could look like in the fall

Madisyn Groth, staff writer

In December of 2019, China experienced its first case of the new Coronavirus, COVID-19. Since then, it has become a global pandemic. Laws require countries all around the world to stay home and quarantine. Streets are empty, everyone wears masks when you go outside, and stores have run clean of supplies. Since the start, this pandemic has caused worldwide panic and continues to determine how our future will look.

As our country tries to determine how we will come back from this, one of the biggest questions being asked about is schools reopening. Already, Illinois and many other states have canceled school for the rest of this school year. It has left many devastated, but it is also needed in order to ensure safety. This brings us to the question though, what will it look like in the fall when schools are to reopen?

Although there is no exact answer on when schools will be opening again, here are some changes schools might have when we go back. Most states are looking for options to create socially distant environments for schools in the fall. Some ideas are staggered start times and schedules, possible requirements of face coverings, class sizes cut in half, and changes to assemblies, sports, lunchtime, and bus rides. All scenarios involving large groups in schools need to be re-thought. 

Along with the physical aspects of social distancing in schools, officials say schools will need to re-think their healthcare and sanitation methods. For example, how buses and buildings are cleaned, how to protect custodial staff, and how food and health care are delivered. Robert Hull, president, and chief executive of the National Association of State Boards of Education says, “Everybody says we hope we return to normal. It’s not going to return to normal anytime soon because the new normal is going to be different.”

While officials track the rate of the COVID-19 spread, the education system is questioning what the long-term effects may look like. Social distancing could become a part of our daily lives for the next school year. “You’re making battle plans,” says Hull. Schools need to plan for a variety of possibilities: What if the virus is contained? What if the curve is flattened but there are still infections in the community? What if a new wave is starting? Schools need “not just Plan A and Plan B, but it may be Plan C and Plan D.” Nothing is set in stone as the future of this pandemic is unclear. At least for now, remember to stay home, wash your hands, and practice social distancing. Stay safe everyone.