Envisioning The Next School Year

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It’s Time to Start the Discussion

With over a month of distance learning done and one more to go before the end of the school year, many are already looking to the future and the likelihood of an open, but socially (physically) distanced, school facility. We do not yet know the impact of distance learning on a holistic education, but we do know that children must continue learning in order to access opportunities, economic mobility, and build healthy, whole lives. 

What will the “new normal” for New Orleans teachers and students look like as we plan for the 2020-21 school year? How will it affect our unique population? Some groups locally are already clamoring for the shelter in place order to be lifted and, globally, some nations have already reopened schools. 

What others in the US are saying

PSA wanted to find out what policies and precautions have been implemented elsewhere in the world as schools reopen, recognizing there are no easy answers, but with the fuller understanding that the impact on the communities we serve are compounded because of systemic racism and widespread poverty. We recognize these examples are from mostly homogenous communities where the impacts are felt much differently, but it’s a starting point.

DENMARK: Last week Denmark became the first European country to reopen schools after over a month in lockdown. About half of elementary schools in the country are now open and others will follow, operating under strict rules aimed at limiting the risk of infections. These regulations include:

  • Schools are to be disinfected two times a day, including of toys, taps, toilet flushes, tables, door handles, handrails, light switches and other surfaces
  • In classrooms, desks must be 2 meters (6.5 feet) apart
  • Only up to 10 children allowed in a classroom, so schools are using other rooms, including sports facilities for teaching. 
  • Children who have a family member with Covid-19 must stay home. 
  • Children can only play with a limited number (3-5) of others during recess.
  • Schools must provide instruction on the importance of hygiene
  • Staff to supervise the children washing their hands at least every two hours, including after coughing or sneezing, before and after food
  • Food not to be shared
  • Staff meetings to be held outside or via telephone/video callOn school-provided travel, students to sit six feet apart, thus requiring more buses
  • Staggered drop off and pick up times   

CHINA: Where the pandemic originated and spread across the world, China started reopening its economy in mid-April, but schools have yet to reopen in most parts of the country. In Beijing, authorities said courses would restart for high-school seniors on April 27. When they do, teachers and students will have to wear masks at school. One northwest province (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region) has reopened and some of the precautions their schools have taken include:

  • Before opening, teachers and staff carried out many drills, including taking temperatures, disinfection and mask-wearing. Teachers played the roles of students and simulated multiple processes such as entering school, attending classes, washing hands and dinning.
  • Doors automatically take the temperature of each child before entering school
  • Children assigned lanes by which to enter school and walk to class
  • Children of all ages to stand at least three feet apart
  • School ventilation, especially in classrooms, to be improved
  • Staggered dismissal times to prevent student gatherings
  • Classroom access to disinfection sprayers, thermos bottles, cleaning cloths and other daily necessities
  • Fewer students in each class All students and teachers must wear masks 
  • Assignment to desks, restrooms and lunch tables by number 
  • Partitions to separate lunch tables
A graduating student gets temperature checked at the entrance of the school building of Hohhot No. 35 Middle School in Hohhot, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, March 30, 2020. (Xinhua/Lian Zhen)

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea has received international accolades for how well they have handled the virus. They began their school year on April 9 with online classes. No reopening date has been set yet, but schools with more than 600 students are setting up thermal cameras and are procuring face masks for their students

An unidentified teacher gives an online class amid the new coronavirus outbreak at Seoul girls’ high school in Seoul, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

We are in somewhat of an advantageous position in that we have some time to see what others are doing as they reopen. But this does not mean we can be idle.

Watch: See how two New Orleans School Leaders are thinking about this.


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