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Reopening School: What it Might Look Like


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I don’t need to give you much background here: As you all know, schools have been closed worldwide in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the same way that cities are at various stages of reopening businesses, schools are doing the same thing, or at least thinking about how it might work. 

We all know that unless someone develops a vaccine soon, school just can’t be run the same as it was before. There’s reinfection to consider, second and third waves of cases that could cause new shutdowns, and on a more distant horizon, the stark possibility that new viruses could take us down just like this one did.

I figure right now, educators everywhere are trying to decide the best course of action, or at least wondering what their district leadership is considering. Since I have access to a lot of educators all over the place, I believe the best way I can help with that process is to ask you all what you’re doing, then curate those ideas so they can reach more people. So about a week ago I tweeted out a request for ideas. I got some from there, some from my own searching, and some from the legwork that Larry Ferlazzo already did on this topic.

Reading through all the proposals was overwhelming, especially when I clicked through to look at the densely-packed documents that detailed all the different distancing and disinfecting protocols that had to be considered. I would give each one about thirty seconds, and then I just wanted to run away. The words just swam together after a while.  I’m guessing you may have experienced something similar at some point. I guess I just wanted to validate that for you: Yes, it’s overwhelming. 

So in the spirit of contributing something of value here, rather than adding to the overwhelm, I’m going to do three things.

The first part will be practical. I’ll very quickly run through seven different ideas people are considering for reopening schools. I was kind of excited about one idea in particular, because it’s something a little different and it might actually work. 

The second part will also be practical, but more random. In this section I’ll share other thoughts and ideas I’ve seen floating around that connect to school reopenings but aren’t necessarily tied to specific plans.

The third part will be more of a pep talk. I’m not sure how much good it will do, but I want to talk a little bit about what I would be doing right now if I were a classroom teacher bracing myself for the upcoming school year. My hope is to offer something that will help you get through this.

Alrighty then. Deep breath.

Part 1: Ideas for Reopening

Before I start on all of these options, I just have to acknowledge something: All of these ideas completely suck compared to pre-pandemic life. They are depressing and repressive and in a lot of schools, not even realistic. In a post published this past week, 3rd grade teacher Paul Murphy floated the idea that reopening schools under the proposed constraints may not be worth it at all:

“Why should we assume that placing young people in an environment of masked peers whom they aren’t allowed to approach will result in an improved mental state? And if adults are going to be serious about restrictions they’ll have to enforce them. It’s my deep suspicion that punishments for hugging friends, admonishments for encroaching on six-foot personal bubbles, vigilant surveillance of hand-washing and line spacing, daily temperature checks that send a recurrent message that everyone else is to be feared, and possible repeated school closures when someone inevitably catches the virus will not produce an atmosphere conducive to improved mental health.”

I agree with him to a large extent. But I also think it makes sense to try something, to try some kind of arrangement that gets more teachers in rooms with more students at least some part of the week, because among all the lessons we’ve learned from this pandemic, one has certainly been that videoconferencing just isn’t the same as face-to-face.

With that said, here are some ideas that look like they might sort of kind of work. This is not an exhaustive list: I saw some ideas that would only work in schools that have very low numbers—where all students return full-time but everyone just spreads out. This doesn’t seem like a realistic option for most schools. I’m also not going to get into all the handwashing, disinfecting, and testing protocols, nor will this post address transportation; we’ll just focus on how schools might arrange the instructional component. Also, some schools are looking at hybrid models that combine some of these solutions or set up a plan where they toggle in between them depending on how infection stats are looking in their region at any given time.

Solution 1: Alternating Days or Half Days

Schools would run A/B schedules, where some students come on A days and others on B days. Those not at school would be doing remote learning at home. Another variation of this is doing half days, like kindergarten used to be in a lot of places, where half the student population goes to school in the morning and half goes in the afternoon.

Solution 2: Cohorts

Students are put into small groups that stay together all day, thereby mixing students with each other as little as possible. For changing classes or subject areas, the teachers are the ones who would move throughout the building.

Solution 3: Selective Return of Grade Levels, Students, or Teachers

In this arrangement, a limited number of students and teachers would return to in-person schooling, while others would continue doing school remotely. 

Solution 4: One Course at a Time

This idea kind of blew my mind: Students stay in the same class, with the same teacher, taking a single course for a few weeks, then rotate to another course for a few weeks. So instead of changing classes once an hour, they’d change once every two weeks or so. This was shared by science teacher Sam Long on Twitter, and I think it has real potential.

Some people pushed back on this idea because they hated the thought of students sitting in the same class for so long, but if a teacher is mixing things up, delivering instruction in an engaging way, providing good breaks, and not requiring long periods of sitting, it could work.

The only thing that could still stand in the way of this working would be social distancing requirements—you couldn’t have classes at full capacity. But maybe this combined with an A/B or half day schedule could be something to try. 

Solution 5: One-Room Schoolhouse

In this arrangement, students would stay in one room all day, studying multiple subjects with the same teacher. This could work in some elementary schools, where teachers are already somewhat used to teaching more than one subject and only rotate for a few subjects, but again, social distancing protocols would still have to be kept, so you couldn’t operate at full capacity. To make this work instructionally, teachers might need to shift to more of a Project Based Learning approach, where students are engaged in long-term projects that incorporate learning from multiple subject areas. Kids could still interact with Ts from other rooms—maybe through the phone, videoconferencing, or just by standing far apart out in the hall?—but those teachers would need more planning time to be available for those kinds of conferences. 

Instruction could also be delivered in this kind of scenario via video mini-lessons. A few years ago I interviewed teachers at the Apollo School, where students spent a block of three hours each day in a combined English, history, and art class. Each teacher offered daily mini-lessons on relevant topics, and students attended these voluntarily based on their needs and projects.

If schools were to try the “one-room schoolhouse option,” it may be possible to do something similar, where a group of teachers “shares” a larger group of students, but each teacher actually stays with part of the group in their classroom and students can “attend” video-broadcast mini-lessons being given by teachers in other rooms. If all students in this arrangement were working on cross-curricular projects, this could ultimately be an improvement over the kind of traditional instruction they had before.

Solution 6: Individual Learning Plans

At first, I thought this was just not realistic: The idea of creating separate plans for each student, depending on the individual situation, learning needs, available technology, and home resources seemed an almost impossible task. But I’m starting to rethink that, because it might be accomplished with maybe five or six basic plans.

So for example, you have some students who are on plan 1, which is full-time home instruction with no technology. Those students would need to be on some sort of paper delivery system and the school might need to set up weekly face-to-face meetings between the family and an assigned teacher. Other students might be on plan 2, which is full-time home instruction with reliable technology. Plan 3 might be coming to school some days. For each subject area and grade level things might need to be further individualized, but I’m realizing that while every student has different needs, there may be groups of students whose needs are similar, so these individual plans may be something that can be batched.

Still a lot of work, obviously, but maybe not as much as I initially thought. 

Solution 7: Keep Distance Learning

Amid all the discussion of how to reopen, I think keeping things the way they are—with 100% distance learning—is an option. Many schools have already done a trial run and there may be some lessons that can be applied the next time around. Obviously, getting all students connected is a must, or at the very least finding good, workable ways to stay in touch without the internet, but if that’s possible, it may be the most realistic approach at least for the start of the school year. Again, like all of these other options, it’s not great, but at least it’s a known quantity, unlike the other arrangements that could potentially result in everyone bouncing back to distance learning anyway.

Part 2: Other Considerations

These are some other ideas that have been mentioned in conversations about reopening that are worth considering, regardless of what plan you end up with:

Part 3: Facing the Unknown

Probably the only thing that’s certain right now is that no one knows for sure what the next school year is going to look like. And this may very well be putting you in a state of paralysis, waiting for someone to tell you what the plan is so you can get moving with your own preparation. 

Here’s what I would do in your shoes: 

Prepare for a full year of 100 percent distance learning.

No matter what the specific plan looks like for next year, there’s a good chance that at least some of your instruction is going to be delivered remotely. Even if your school manages to get kids into the building, social distancing will likely require students to get their materials and do much of their work on devices.

With that in mind, you’re going to be better off if you have shifted a good part of your instruction into an online format. Once it’s there, you can still use it in a face-to-face setting; you’ll just have more opportunities to interact with students in real time.

Here are some things that can help you with the process:

Create Contingency Plans

When organizing your lessons for the upcoming year, build in contingency plans for different scenarios. So maybe you set up all your lessons for remote learning, but mark places where, if things work out to allow face-to-face teaching or even a situation where social distancing is no longer required, you could do something different, like a lab or group activity.

Give Yourself Space to Grieve

Throughout this process, it may be helpful to occasionally stop and just let yourself grieve all the incredible experiences teachers and students won’t get to have right now and for the foreseeable future. Although dwelling on this for long periods of time won’t be terribly useful, it also doesn’t help to pretend any of this is normal. Acknowledging the loss will allow you, your colleagues, and your students to feel validated, and this could free you up to move on and do what you can under the current constraints. 

Push Back on Unreasonable Expectations

Speaking of acting like any of this is normal, I get the sense that there may be some in leadership who are plowing ahead as if instruction is going to continue at the exact same level of quality as before. Although high-quality instruction is obviously the goal, sending a message that denies current challenges can crush teachers’ spirits. If you happen to be working in a district where expectations are far beyond reality, push back. Find others who you can join forces with, compose a letter or a document that offers more reasonable alternatives, and present it to your administration. It can and has worked. For more thoughts on this, read my post “We’re a Family” and Other School Norms that Can Cause Teacher Burnout

One More Thing

I want to add this last thought: When you really look at this situation we’re in, what makes all of this so hard to do is that we want to be together. If we were okay staying 6 feet apart for the rest of our lives, this wouldn’t be such a challenge. But good teaching is an intimate experience and most teachers are at their best when they can stand close to examine student work, give hugs and high fives, have private conversations. Good teachers know how important relationship-building is to the process—not only the teacher-student relationship, but relationships between our students. Our students want to bump shoulders, bend their heads together in whispered secrets, hug each other, mess around on the playground or at the bus stop, dance and laugh together. 

We still want and desperately need this connection. This physical connection. I think it’s important to stop and recognize that, because it’s good news.

Over the last ten years or so, as smartphones took over and we got more and more addicted to screens, we’ve all collectively shaken our heads at how disconnected we had become. But this pandemic has demonstrated that we weren’t actually disconnected. Yes, the devices made things different, but the whole time we were still finding ways to be close, to touch each other, to share physical space. It turns out we really do need that, and I think this is wonderful news.

In 2013, Coca-Cola produced a Super Bowl commercial I never forgot. It was a montage of footage captured by security cameras all over the world, quick clips of people hugging, kissing, doing kind things for each other, celebrating together. In every clip, people are physically close together in ways that are starting to look shocking to me within our current context.

The reason that commercial was so popular then, and why it resonates with me even more deeply now is because this is is who we are, the “normal” we long to get back to. It’s that longing that’s making all of this so difficult. I believe we’ll get back there someday, and I think we’ll be much less likely to ever take it for granted again.

Until then, we do the best we can, giving lots of grace to each other and to ourselves.

Come back for more.
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  1. Evan France says:

    We have been back at school for a week(12-18 years). The students have been fantastic. Very happy to be back. We are running the school with our normal timetable. Sanitize tables and chairs twice a day. Sanitize hands when they enter rooms. Controls on walking in corridors when moving class. Seating plans.
    First week was just for catching up with each other. No assessments. Amazingly we had about 96% attendance. Some students have reason to stay away and we support them online. Anyone with a cough etc must not be at school and should get a test along with their family.

    • Pam beltran says:

      So glad to hear that! I think we need to get students and teachers back in school quickly and we can do so responsibly just as you and your site are doing! It can be done safely! We are armed with knowledge and know the necessary precautions to take. There is no need for Distance Learning unless you have underlying conditions or you are just so fearful to resume! Let the rest of us make that decision!

  2. Bonnie Benjamin says:

    Although I am retired, these issues are complex and thought provoking!
    When I think of children without music, integrated arts, nature, art, movement, eeks!
    Maybe I can make a difference! Thinking about what makes students
    whole and learning for a lifetime!

  3. Thank you for this. You’ve given us some good points to ponder. I’ve been thinking PBL is a real solution. It’s a lot of upfront work, but if teachers work in teams and share the responsibilities, it’s doable.

    I also liked the looping idea. It offers continuity. It would also play well with spiraling the curriculum. I think it would work K-8ish.

    I completely agree that ALL the players need a seat at the table for any of the ideas to work. Crazy times.

    • Dina Baalbaki says:

      Very interesting and thorough explanation of ideas. Thank you to everyone in here for sharing your thoughts/experiences.
      I teach World language classes, including an AP class in HS.
      El-learning was quite an experience for teachers and students for sure.
      The 2 weeks idea seems taunting, hoping students don’t forget what they learned:)
      But then how about this idea? They might forget what they’ve learned for those who aren’t in AP courses😎 I don’t think it’ll be wise to eliminate AP classes, there’s a reason for those students to be there.

      Im thinking how would it look like if schools switched to 2 semesters where in each one a set of classes are taken daily (No A/B days).
      My only concern is the AP class, as they need constant exposure. Maybe then AP classes should be the exception and be taught both semesters.
      How about this:
      design students schedule according to their classes:
      a: if you’re not in an AP class, you’ll have a set of subjects to take for semester 1, then another set for semester 2. Subjects will be taught daily for a certain period of time (increments of 45 minutes in HS )
      b. if you’re an AP student, according to how many AP classes you have, you’ll have the block schedule (a/b – 4 classes on aday and 4 on bday.
      c. If you only have 1 AP class, your schedule could be a blend of a and b, meaning for all other classes take them daily, and one day out of 2 you take your AP class.
      * We should keep in mind the amount of hours students would be at school for. Classes would run way shorter than 90 minutes to allow students to go home early enough and study for next day, plus get to rest a bit to avoid frustration.
      For elementary and middle school maybe option a wouldn’t be bad.
      There’s also the consideration of Blended Learning (Few days in school/the rest would be online learning)
      Whatever the outcome is going to be, we need to think of the following:
      – safety for ALL
      – analyze different scenarios, ask schools/districts who had a different schedule how it worked, what didn’t and why.
      Just a thought…

      • Rebecca Jackson says:

        I graduated in 07 from a small school in South Carolina.

        My school did the semester block schedule

        4 classes a day
        90 min a class

        Then the next semester it was the other 4 classes a day
        90 min a class.

  4. John Raby says:

    Thanks for a great piece on such a difficult topic. I like the creative ideas There are a few things that stand out about it for me. One, there is no one solution for different levels of schools: elementary, middle, high, or higher ed. Each will have to come up with something different that suits them. Really what it comes down to is each individual school will need their own plan; there is no one right answer to this. Two, I don’t think we can try to create a school experience that mimics what we had before. That model was developed to use resources that are no longer available. We have to let go of some of them for the time being. For example, I like the one class for two weeks at a time idea but I have no idea how that would work with the AP class I teach. We may have to let go of something like AP classes in order to make the entire experience work. And even in that model how do students access supports? That destroys the idea of them being isolated to one room. Lastly, can people keep this up? That includes teachers, students, parents, administrators, staff, and I’m sure others that I am forgetting. I know in my situation with a pregnant wife and two young children at home that our current model is not sustainable. Sometimes I think that if I were still single and living on my own this would be easy but I also know that it’s still hard for my colleagues in that situation. It was one thing to end a year in this model. It will be entirely different trying to complete an entire year in whatever format we choose.

  5. Cheryl Mizerny says:

    As I’ve come to expect from your work, a clear, concise post on a complex topic. Thank you so much. The only one of these that concerns me is solution number one. I understand the desirability of the concept of half the students in school on any given day and half at home. What worries me is in the iterations I’ve seen, the expectation is that one teacher does both the in-person and remote teaching. Each of those is a full-time job and I’m not sure how one person can be expected to teach in the building all day and then attend to the remote learners in the evening. That is a recipe for burnout. I’m trying to keep an open mind and be positive, but I know schools can’t afford to hire more teachers to do this hybrid model, and it is not as simple as just “record your lesson” and broadcast it to homes. Have you seen a scenario where this works with existing staffing levels? I’m looking forward to new ideas on this model as it is fleshed out.
    Again, thanks for such a great post. I rely on you and Larry Ferlazzo for informative posts.

    • Holly says:

      This is my concern as well. My teachers spend 10-12 hours answering emails and managing remote learning.

    • Karen Lyon says:

      Cheryl: You made some great points. I think, though, that while doing a “hybrid” model will be difficult, it will not quite be two full time jobs. For one thing, with two groups in the class half the day, half the week, even alternating weeks, you are going to be teaching the same lessons twice that week. I’ve taught both half day and full day kindergarten classes, the approach for half day is nothing like setting up a full day curriculum. It would be similar in a hybrid setup; the prep would be already done for the second group. I could see myself planning and prepping the on-site materials for the following week every Wednesday, for example, setting up the digital activities every Thursday, and catching up, adjusting, or finishing up on Friday in between Google Meets with small groups, should our district decide on this model. The other thing that comes to mind is, plenty of teachers have taught combination classes. The schools they used to organize that go a long way toward dealing with a hybrid model of instruction. Just my two cents on that!
      My final thought is just on this post in general: very well thought out. My district is considering all these options, you clarified it all beautifully. And I completely agree with you — one of the things we are discovering through all of this is exactly how important it is for us to have that human communication. If all of this social distancing/quarantine time hasn’t taught us to be more mindful of how much we interact with technology to the detriment of personal relationships, I don’t know what would.

    • Denise says:

      We’ve been back in school for 11 days. In the elementary grades, homeroom teachers take the morning lessons and the support/PE/Arts teachers take the classes in the afternoons, Mon-Thurs, staying with the same class every day for the whole afternoon doing language and finishing off work from the morning. Homeroom teachers go home midday and have team video meetings daily and do all the planning, marking and taking care of the online learners. It’s working out pretty well, actually.

    • Julia T says:

      I too agree that this idea of having one teacher responsible for both in person instruction and distance learning is a huge stretch; teachers work incredibly hard as it is, and now we will
      be expected to work even harder, and you know our pay checks will definitely not reflect that added expectation on teachers. Ever increasing expectations on teachers could cause teacher burnout, the state I live in is already in a teacher shortage.

  6. My students have really struggled during distance learning, but I’m already planning as if that will be the way September goes as your part three suggests.

    I teach HS, and the one-class-at-a-time-for-two-weeks (but distance learning, so kids don’t have to keep so many plates spinning) is very intriguing. I tried to build a schedule for my building (we’re small… ~150 kids and roughly 8 teaching FTE) and it was tough… so many moving parts. I’m looking forward to seeing what other schools/systems come up with.

    I was toying with the idea of the two week focus PLUS once per week f2f synchronous lessons in building (handfuls of kids in at a time, on a schedule)… for that personal contact and connection. That’s by far why my students are reporting they need.

    • Dan says:

      Hi Mark,

      I am the principal of summer school in our division. We run condensed high school classes for 20 days. Students take classes from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with a 15-minute snack break. It is incredibly popular and our demographic it typically students who want to be there and know what they are in for. In order to do well in these condensed courses the students typically have a significant amount of homework. Students and teachers find these courses pretty taxing. I think it would be pretty difficult to finish one course this way and dive right into another one. That being said, it is one of the options we are looking at for the fall.

      • Alyson says:

        I wonder if that summer school model could work with an academic break following it or 4 day school or summer camp enrichment like activities after it ( music, sports, dance etc.). How about personal learning projects afterwards?

    • Diane Berlin says:

      I am a Special Ed teacher grades 2 – 5 . How would a split schecdule work and still follow their IEPs?Would these children be self contained in one classroom and follow an individual schedule.? So far I haven’t heard of any plans for my special ed students. On line learning was a challenge to keep them focused and on task.

  7. Dj Gill says:

    First thing you teachers need to do is wake up. Pay attention to the 5g towers being installed on the school yards and stop living in fear .
    Government does not care about you . Wake up

  8. Jennifer, I’m surprised you put such a bold statement in the opening of your blog—“We can’t go back to school without a vaccine..”. Really? That might be years. What we should be saying is that we can’t let the trauma (occurring in many ways, shapes, and forms—in all levels of socio-economic households) continue by keeping our children home and unsupervised. We should be looking at the percentage of survivability and get back to normal. The trauma as a result of keeping kids away from school is irreversible.

    • Carron Collier says:

      Jennifer said, “We all know that unless someone develops a vaccine soon, school just can’t be run the same as it was before” How can you disagree with that? Forget the classroom and instruction parts, 500 students in a cafeteria – we can’t go back to that.

    • holly says:

      Betsy Pillsbury, Do you know what else is irreversible? The death of students, teachers, bus drivers, and school workers. Do you know what else causes trauma? The deaths of those around us.

      The goal can not be return to normal if people’s lives are at stake.

    • JIm says:

      Can you read? She says it can’t go back to normal. You WANT teachers and students to die?

  9. Brooke Salgado says:

    Thank you for this article. My family and friends that teach here in southern CA saw a huge decline in the attendance from week 1 using Zoom through week 10. I’m wondering how move forward with stay at home distance learning while holding parents/students accountable for attendance. Then what about students on IEPS/SDC that needs that curriculum/environment/teacher/aide to be successful. In my experience these students do not have adequate support at home like they do in a classroom with the right environment to be successful. What about the students who’s parents are more concerned about how to feed their children than working on a packet or paying for I tenet services. There are so many situations, as with every student in a normal situation. Again, I appreciate your input. I just completed my credential program and I am hoping to find a teaching position, in which ever form of, for August.

  10. Andrea Fitzgerald says:

    I always look forward to your emails. I hear some buzz about option 1 happening in our area, but I keep going back to the question of what will parents (teachers-me!) do if I am teaching but my own elementary kid are on an “off” day? There isn’t a child care option or affordability for one, and hubby needs to work too.

    I also think option 4 is awesome! I teach high school summer school which is 4 weeks long with the same kids for 6 hours each day. I hands down love it – you get so much done in those 6 hours and the creative juices keep flowing. Group work is better. I offer lots of differentiation, movements, breaks, and it works very well!

    Thanks again for your emails.

  11. Maddisen says:

    Hi. I’m not a parent, student (or at least haven’t been in a while), teacher, admin, or district staff. But I have been working as an essential worker with a changing variety in the degree of physical barriers between me and the rest of the public over the last two months. What I’ve learned is only sort of touched on in this article, so I’ve expanded with some of my experiences. I hope it doesn’t come off too pessimistic. I think we can move past this time together and have a semblance of normal–albeit altered–future use of public spaces, but I enjoy sharing thoughts, so these are mine 🙂

    1. I’ve been amazed to see how a large variety of people from different backgrounds and different life experiences become accustomed to a mask. No matter how long their individual adjustment period, almost all will go through stages of “I can’t breathe/hear you/this is such a disruption/I’m touching my face all the time” to “it’s difficult to communicate, but I’ve turned the music down and rely less on verbal communication” and most of the time, after a few consecutive days or a week with intermittent days of wearing a mask I notice people forget the weirdness or that they’re wearing it, except the communication part. I definitely notice a hindrance on my ability to give verbal instruction to others, which matters a lot in teaching and should be considered. I’ve had to work hard to develop new routines that rely less on my verbal instruction and more on a daily “this is the same and what we do at 10am” and a changing, written task list that I write at the beginning of everyday for people to check and accomplish in their own.

    2. Social distancing is a group effort and will never work unless every individual is consciously thinking about maintaining distance or is physically unable (due to solid, physical barriers, I’ve seen many a “stand-behind-this-line” crossed by even the most well intentioned of people.) Staying 6 feet apart is hard, even when there are only 2 people and they are both being conscious about distancing. When you need to move or think “let me quick grab this” the gap of 6 ft quickly closes unless you’re talking with a 6 foot solid table between you (which I’ve also done quite a bit lately). Not only can I not imagine trying to enforce this in any way with a 3rd grade classroom, for example, I think it’s unrealistic to set anything in motion that requires vigilance on the teacher’s part for the students to distance. I think either distancing needs to be easy and natural (i.e. the classroom and moving around the room/between classes is structured so that it’s difficult to not social distance) or maintaining a 6 ft distance can’t realistically be part of the plan at the reopening phase.

    3, temp checks (in my experience with up to 10 people) are not that bad, and with certain equipment can be fun. My work has a no touch forehead body/surface thermometer. I recently got a sunburn and my coworkers had a fun time measuring the changes in temp on the surface of my skin. And these are fully grown adults (or close enough). It takes a moment of their lives and is forgotten the rest of the day.

    All of the ideas and considerations in the podcast (I read it, but I hope that’s the same info) are very good points, and I like to see what the rest of the world/other areas are up to in terms of reopening and considerations. I’m glad to see so much thought, discussion, and careful planning going into moves to reopen. I think that’s important.

    • Dawn says:

      Thank you for collating this information. Each of the options have pros and cons but what I don’t see being addressed is how our student’s parents are going to handle any one of the options that require staggered schedules or remote learning. As businesses re-open and parents go back to work, who’s going to watch and monitor students, especially those at the elementary and middle grades? What about parents of special needs children who rely on their job for insurance to deal with the extra demands of therapy or medical needs? Maybe this has been addressed and I have missed it. This is a big piece of the puzzle for any scenario to be successful, in my opinion. If you have seen any district’s response to what to do to support full time working parents, I would greatly appreciate reading it.

      • Nick says:

        Absolutely correct Dawn! I’m an elementary school teacher, so I’ve had the opportunity to see this whole debacle of remote learning take place first hand. The entire system (be it through the use of Zoom, Seesaw, Google classroom, etc.) was wholly dependent on the vigilance of the parents. Those parents who were afforded the ability to work from home AND decided to keep very much involved in their child’s learning produced the only success stories. But is that unexpected in any way? Can we reasonably expect 1st and 2nd graders to log in for their 8am Zoom meeting with their homeroom teacher WITHOUT supervision or guidance??? … And what was our “solution” to this problem? – if the parents had to continue working, or the student did not have the proper guidance (or access to technology) at home, an allowance was made and their child was no longer expected to complete any work. That sounds like such a benevolent gesture (and perhaps necessary at the time), but where does that now put the child in terms of their growth? When this school year concludes in mid-June, that child will be 3 and a half months behind their peers … And as you said Dawn, ALL parents will soon be returning to work. So what happens then? You were absolutely correct in your assessment that this item hasn’t been addressed.

  12. Marquita Pagnotta says:

    I’m shocked to say the least that we can not move forward with education within the classroom without a vaccine? This is absurd. Students learn best within a traditional classroom setting amongst their peers and teachers that care for them whole heartedly. Many children unfortunately died from the flu last year, but we did not close schools. We need to move beyond this fear of this plandemic and return to our classroom. Are we really going to accept that students will no longer have school team sports, music and other extracurricular activities? I’m appalled as an educator with the ease of the “rolling” over to accept the “new normal”. This new way of educating our children should be called “deprivation of education” in every sense of the word. We, the adults, have experienced a traditional education in a classroom with friends sitting close to us, sharing ideas, socializing, enjoying recess, eating lunch together and learning to support one another on a sports team, as a band member, in a choir, etc. I know, and I’m sure most of you have fond memories of these times. Wow! How quickly you would agree and come up with a plan to strip these children of that very opportunity to experience it.
    As educators and parents we should be pushing back on this and fighting with all that we have to ensure that our students return to the classroom by September. Their future depends on how we the adults advocate for them to ensure they receive the best education that we can provide. Distance learning is not a substitute for face to face learning, it does not work as effectively, especially for our students who are already below grade level and struggling.
    Many of my students have reached out to me, upset and desperate to return to school. To ignore their desperation, I will not.

    • Ann Marie says:

      While I agree with the children getting back to school. I don’t think it is that simple. School districts have to be mindful of their responsibility to the safety of the staff and students. If a school district opens and children or staff begin to get the virus will they be held liable ?
      Unfortunately that is how many people think, and then the lawsuits begin.
      I personally would feel if I sent my child to school it is on me if they get sick, as long as the school was taking reasonable precautions to sanitize daily.

    • Carron Collier says:

      This virus has already killed 3 times the average number of people in a flu season and that is WITH schools being shut down. Everyone I know wants to return to school, but that is not safe now. If is safe in September, it may become unsafe again next January. We need to be open-minded and informed.

      • Jessica Sager says:

        Now we are learning that the right mitigation strategies can drastically reduce the spread, even with cases rising in the community. In schools where mitigation is done right, cases are mostly imported and do not spread beyond that case. This is tremendous news for the youngest students who need to return. Now we just need to get enough people talking about the data rather than speculating about the risks. Thank god we have data.

  13. Great Article! I have been struggling with an idea that has a lot of holes in it at this point. It seems to me that certain subjects lend themselves (both in ease of learning and enjoyability) more to online learning. Students tend to want to do certain things live …math, science labs, choir practice, writing support, etc. I have begun working on a schedule that would have kids slot into available spaces for those types of courses/support while performing some (majority??) of their schedule online.

  14. Al says:

    I have an idea. It’s a little out there, but I think it could work.
    Here’s my idea:

    What if instead of distance learning or not distance learning, we did both? Not in a split in half for all students way. Because split in half days mean more money for busses and still creates childcare issues while split during the week days mean more childcare issues for parents.

    What if young kids, K-3 at least, but hopefully also 4th and 5th, go to school and the older kids stay home and do distance? K-8 certified teachers could teach much smaller class sizes in person at all the schools- middle and high schools as well as elementary schools. Middle and high school teachers could teach from home.

    Younger students (especially pre-literate ones) seem more vulnerable to learning loss and can’t be left at home alone if parents are working. Older students don’t typically create the childcare issues that I’m sure will pressure many schools to open too early. Especially in large districts.

    But if the little kids go to school spread out, we wouldn’t need plexiglass dividers or split schedules or other crazy, costly measures. And class sizes of 8-12 would be in a better position to practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, and other cautionary measures.

    And if older kids do distance learning, the only real cost is chromebooks and those would at least still be useful when all of this is over.

    Secondary students with IEPs who need more time/supports could also still go to classes with Sped teachers who could help them complete work that’s being assigned via distance learning.

    If we “spread kids out” this way, we shouldn’t incur unnecessary costs-to lives or pocketbooks. It would take some work on the part of the teachers (some temporary reassignments would need to be made in lower grade levels and class sizes in upper grade levels would be even larger as a result) and some logistics would have to be worked out, but I think it’s a viable solution for students, staff, and parents.

    • Carron Collier says:

      I have discussed this possibility as well. I think it makes sense for all of the reasons you noted.

    • Sharron says:

      Any suggestion is worthy of consideration but I ask where do you get the extra elementary teachers to reduce class sizes down to 8-12 students? That’s in most cases 2 more adults per group.

  15. Rachel Nicholas says:

    Thank you for consolidating ideas in an easy to read and process format. As usual, your posts help me think about the topic in a way that doesn’t involve a PhD.
    I like some of these ideas a lot, and especially like the idea of looping if we will need to do more distance learning. My number one question has been, “how do we teach with distance learning if we haven’t developed any relationships with our students?” Teaching right now is challenging enough, but add in a new group of students who have no reason to listen to you or attend class because they haven’t developed that relationship with you.

    Another idea that COULD work, especially in places with fairly decent weather, could be holding classes outside. Most research shows that the virus has very short life outside under UV light from the sun, and doing some form of “outschooling” could be beneficial in MANY ways.

    • I agree that outside classtime is very much worth exploring. It is high on my list and we are in Boston, so weather will not always cooperate. But the health issue here is not primarily UV light, but the simple disperson of poeple’s breath in a very large volume of air (the atmosphere) rather than a closed classroom. Cases of contagion across modest distances outdoors are not documented. It is the safest way to go.

  16. Anneka Nilsson says:

    Personally, all of these give me some degree of anxiety about how hard it would be to adjust, but the one that does so the most is #4.

    I can see the merits of the idea, but this is my second year teaching, and it’s already hard enough to plan a week’s worth of activities for my class. How am I supposed to plan five day-long science lessons each week without either burning out or planning really crappy lessons?

    I also have some logistical concerns about what that would look like. My school has three science teachers, four grade levels (we’re a high school) and six science classes. I can’t see a way where #4 works with this arrangement. If you have four science teachers, one could do each grade level. I still don’t think this is awesome, because the reason we have six classes is to add essential variety for our kids and to provide some remedial options for kids who aren’t ready to go on to chemistry right after biology. But my school doesn’t have four science teachers. We don’t have four history teachers. We don’t have four math teachers. We don’t have four writing teachers or four literature teachers.

  17. Trace E. says:

    Firstly, this is NOT just like the flu. Those of you who keep referring to it as “no different that the flu” have never watched someone who is ill with Covid.
    Secondly, I wish the author had spent more time on issues in elementary. We are often packed with 28-35 students in one space. Kindergarten friends touch everything and everyone no matter what. What will be a possible consequence for this? How can we keep children apart without creating huge fears among them? What about playground spaces? Thirdly, the idea of only k-5 children going to school makes some sense, but what about when a high school sibling of a 2nd grader gets ill? Does the 2nd grader stay home? Do all of his/her classmates also stay home? Does the entire elementary school stay home?
    This is all so complex.

    • Don't be such a liberal says:

      It isn’t as scary as they have been making it sound, the current science shows that social distancing at BEST only lowers infection rate by 2.3%, in the world of infection that is like saying it doesn’t lower it at all. We also now know that it doesn’t spread from hard surfaces the way that they first claimed and is as likely to get from hard surface contamination as getting herpes from a toilet seat…can it happen sure, but statistically nearly impossible.

      Is everyone ready for their work load to more than double with out their pay doubling?

      Do you see how they always play off of teachers “compassion” and social justice warrior stance to get us to follow along with to no financial compensation?

      Now look with out dated “science” they have us in a spot where if we say NO we will get attacked by the public for not doing “whats best for kids” the blanket statement that translates into “work more for less pay”

      If any teacher honestly is still believing the false narrative on this and is willing to go along with ANY option other than re-opening in a normal way they are a HUGE part of what is wrong with education these days.

  18. Debra Walls says:

    I just absolutely LOVE how completely ignorant this article is. I also just love how people like you, and unfortunately there are a lot, think that what you are suggesting is in any way shape or form possible. I’m sorry where do Special Needs children fit into this? Where do families where both parents HAVE to work fit into this? Here’s a REAL WORLD scenario for you: Single mother, no family or outside help with 14 year old Special Needs son. News Flash! I HAVE to work. He HAS to go to school. Since this all started, my son’s education has consisted of binders with a few papers. Literally nothing. He has not had the ADVANTAGE of these Zoom sessions like everyone else. He has been just cut off from everything. It’s mind-boggling how you speak as if any possibility you listed is a damn “inconvenience” or “bummer” instead of what it actually IS. Impossible. I DARE you or anyone else who believes any of these options are a possibility to lay this out to the rest of the country. See how well your thoughts go over with REAL families.

    • Tressa says:

      You are so right! I was furloughed for eight weeks from my primary job (I teach part time this year, but am going to full time in the fall) and so I was home with my normal, easy, healthy, older elementary schooler. I was super busy getting everything done with my one online class and all the house stuff (I am moving). My daughter got very little schooling during this closure and she is an easy kid. I think this is impossible and I didn’t have your challenges! I’m headed back to work now and scrambling with what to do with my daughter. Summer camps are closed (my normal summer child care) and even with working reduced hours, I am still going to be sending her out of state to stay with relatives who are over 55 because she can’t be home alone for eight to ten hours a day.

      The hybrid plans depend on students who are self motivated and able to self monitor. Have you all been in ANY school K-12 where that describes a majority of students? We don’t have all the students attending their classes when they are in a building full of adults telling them to go to class and yet we are dreamily deciding that they will dedicatedly sign into a Google Meet each day at the required time. I admit to dreaming along this way until I read this post. Far from making me feel better about fall, I am now wondering how we all ever thought we could make this work at a distance. I’m so much more incredibly worried now!

  19. Joanne Finnegan says:

    I was an educator for 42 years. I’m actually thankful I’m retired, although I am supporting some friends with their new way of teaching since my last job was as a technology integration specialist.

    I found this article very thoughtful and an interesting way to reopen schools to avoid a possibility of a spike in infection. I do see, as all options, some limitations, e.g., how do teachers teach parts of a class both in person and online at the same time and schools obviously won’t be hiring more teachers! It’s definitely worth a thought along with other options.

  20. Jeremy Greene says:

    Any plan that leads to parents losing their jobs and heading towards homelessness – creating homeless – is a non-starter or should be. So, unless there is a guaranteed replacement income for parents any A-B, or AM/PM should be off the table (How would teachers take care of their own children?)

    My radical idea is just go back with masks and more cleaning. That is all for the most part. (Relevant article: ) Provide masks and cleaning materials / wipes for those who wish/forget/can’t afford. To be clear, there would still be sharing of (many) materials in an elementary classroom and movement of students in most middle schools and every high school would probably rotate classes. At this juncture, I would not shut down schools for active cases (Of course, sick teachers and children would have to stay away.)

    Parents who decide that their children stay home stay home and remote learning can stay at home – this should be much better organized than sick days are and means more work for teachers.

    What to do with compromised teachers or teachers who live with children or parents who are in a more susceptible population and would choose to stay home is a harder call – I would hope, in union shops, that teachers pool sick days together to offer time off as best as possible.

    (This, of course, is a work in progress and will change as events [and the virus?] and knowledge changes)

    • Carron Collier says:

      A/B and half day schedules can work if communities work together. Parks and Rec Departments, churches, typical after school programs offer child care when kids are not at school.

      • Jeremy Greene says:

        Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose?

        The purpose of AB and half-day would be to limit the circle of exposure. Having additional day care – in addition to what is usually offered like after school (Which it seems it wouldn’t – because again that is another grouping). It would seem the logical thing to do if one goes with AB or half-day is not to allow these other offerings to operate. Additionally, sports and scouts, etc. would not meet either.

    • AltaAngel says:

      I agree with you for the most part. However, my administrators and several others have stated that teachers will required to wear masks, but students will not be required. As a teacher, I would not feel comfortable teaching students that were not wearing masks.

  21. K W says:

    I appreciate you sharing multiple options being considered for general education students. I found it interesting.
    I have yet to see any plan that really addresses how students with disabilities would be served. I know from experience that social distancing would not be possible in some cases. Some individuals simply would not understand the boundaries. Some need help with feeding, diapering, tracheostomys, etc. We also serve students who demonstrate behaviors such as spitting, biting and fleeing.
    Have you seen any options being considered to facilitate learning for students not on the general education curriculum?

  22. Karine Deschamps says:

    I am excited by this episode. I sent my director and head of pedagogy some of these ideas (I am in French Canada and we tend to get out info more from France/Europe than from the US). I HATE teaching online, but it is what we have to do.
    Thanks for this episode and all the others- I need this show more than ever!
    P.S. shout out to your excellent unit Jennifer’s Narrative Writing Unit- I bought it in TpT and I am so incredibly happy with it. Just the thing I need to teach remotely right now!

  23. Andrew Clark says:

    Many great ideas for consideration, Jenn. As schools consider their options, one thing that has begun to trouble me is the implied suggestion that teachers will not only be available for in-class lessons but will also do the impossible and run concurrent remote learning lessons. Take for example your solutions 1 and 3. How is this going to be physically and emotionally possible? Many teachers are already feeling burnt out from higher work demands associated with generating online materials; slide shows, videos, zoom lessons and of course, marking Seesaw activity responses! Just to name a few. How do they maintain that while also delivering face-to-face lessons? Many private, independent and international schools are facing huge reductions in income as a result of the economic impact COVID-19 is having on the world economies. Budgets are being slashed, faculty wages are being reduced and funding for new programs, resources (read digital support programs and relief staff) are put on hold. Where then would funding come from for ideas such as making greater use of substitutes?

    I’m now in my 11th week of e-learning (with another three more before the end of the academic year!) and I’m feeling increasingly perturbed by the number of commentators that imply the quality of teaching has somehow been sub-standard during this time of remote learning. Outcomes from a curriculum that has had to be adapted to suit an online delivery format, that in many cases has not exceeded more than five or six weeks in many parts of the world (no longer than a summer break) will somehow result in children so far behind in their learning that their future and the future of the country is at risk! The following headline in a prominent online teacher forum reads: “Prepare For Learning Loss …it’s clear there will be deep and lasting impacts on kids.” Additionally, in the same article, and taking the hysteria further, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho is preparing his city for “historic academic regression, the likes of which this country’s never seen.” Have teachers really done such a poor job?

    There are organisations that have been teaching remotely for many years, for example the School of the Air in Australia, online university programs and a number of US organisations addressing students at risk. They have long-established frameworks that suit their target groups and have been working successfully. We should be focusing on what have been the many positives that have emerged from this enforced global experiment. Schools that have previously banned the use of personal devices in schools may now be reconsidering how devices have been an integral part to learning and can be utilised effectively in a classroom when properly managed. While not ideal for many teachers and students there have also been substantial gains. Teachers have not had the same classroom management issues having to contend with disruptive students, just as some students cope well in an active classroom others have benefitted from fewer distractions, working asynchronously to manage their own schedule, one-on-one mini-lessons and questions posed over closed platforms have enabled many students to seek assistance without the concern of being laughed at or looked down upon by peers. We’ve also learned that learning and assessment can occur without standardised state-wide examinations. Inequalities have certainly been highlighted, such as access to technology and support systems, learner support for ‘at risk’ students, but I believe identifying the problems is a step toward addressing them and this ‘enforced experiment’ has highlighted as many strengths in our teachers, learners and systems as it has what we have not been doing well.

    The world has not collapsed around the educational world. The sun is still shining and so are our teachers and learners!

    (Citations supplied on original doc)

  24. Szanne says:

    This article is an interesting perspective. I would love it if you could do the same thing regarding special education. I am a pediatric physical therapist working in a special ed elementary school (5-13). Not sure how we will do something g like this in our building. Our student aren’t going to understand or comply with masks for the most part. How do we clean treatment areas between student or even during the same session as we all use shared equipment? Our building is old and not conducive to most of the physical distancing guidelines. Nor is my profession for that matter. PT over Zoom is very difficult! I’d love to see what thoughts are going around for self contained special ed environments.

  25. Ctaylor says:

    I am a teacher and mom of three and cannot imagine doing this for another year. We gave up pretty early for our own kids because they were doing kahoots all day and then playing video games. My husband and I are splitting the day teaching them while trying to work. Mentally and emotionally I am not sure how much we can do. We get the kids out everyday and we have seen significant changes in their motivation- they are becoming despondant.

    My husband works at the Boys and Girls Clubs in a big city and they have had a hybrid approach since day one. Some clubs are open to emergency workers and others are considered hardship cases. Other clubs are open virtually. Everyone is tested weekly and there has been no instances of covid. Students play and learn and not punished for ever being a kid. I think it is a model that is working and can be replicated to help our schools. We need to rely on our afterschool programs, rec centers, museums to help educate our students.

  26. Mason says:

    I’m sorry but nobody is waiting for a vaccine and you can’t force people to take one. I don’t know why people are still linking vaccines with education. But distance learning is not working. It’s a great “buffer” during this circus. But participation rates are too low. For those who have the means and support, online education is great. And during this time some students, parents, and teachers are realizing the capacity of online learning and some prefer it. Good for them.

    But what about students on IEPs? What of our ELLs? What about students whose parents aren’t home to hold them accountable for their work? And what about these same students who are aren’t intrinsically motivated? What about the SEL our students are going to need? How do we hold students accountable while also providing them sub-par instructions via Zoom and other online resources? Online learning is great for some, but doesn’t work for many.

    I don’t know what the solution is and I appreciate your thoughts about potential learning this fall. None of which I prefer other than working with my students in the classroom. We have about 3 months until the fall semester begins, I’m hoping by then we’ll be talking about how to better meet our students’ SEL needs in the first few weeks of school.

    I’m left wondering in the wake of all these businesses that are starting to reopen, you mean to tell me that daily thousands of people in my town flood Target, Walmart, and now Hobby Lobby, but students can’t sit in a desk, in a row, for an hour per class? While wearing a mask?

    • Mariana says:

      Please explain IEPs, ELLs and SELs?

    • Julia T says:

      I agree with you, the distance learning does
      not provide equity for so many of our students; and is definitely not a long term solution for the education of most students.

  27. Lori Dunn says:

    I think you have to consider students with special needs. They need all 5 days unless they are at. high risk. They can be socially distanced. They need to be socially distanced. The parents will know if they are high risk. They have fewer students in the classroom so they can bd socially distanced. If they can’t they can wear masks. A school is only as good as their weakest student.

  28. Karel says:

    These ideas and replies focus on keeping schools open, but doesn’t touch at all on one big issue: the health of teachers and school staff. Whether I have my 130+ students in my room at once, or in blocks each week, I will still be exposed to any virus picked up by all of my students. Considering that many people are not wearing masks, it is very likely that a number of families are not taking precautions. By the time a person has a fever, they could have already been infecting others for up to two weeks.

    Even if we wear masks, when students don’t wear masks, then we are going to be exposed. Let’s be real: our students won’t remain distanced from each other and they won’t wear masks all day, every day. They will touch their faces. This is reality.

    This virus is affecting people of all ages. The older people, and those with preexisting ailments do die in higher numbers, but many younger people are being ravaged by the disease. They may face lifelong health struggles after the virus has passed. In addition, a number of children are also being afflicted with a secondary ailment due to this Coronavirus.

    I love being an educator, but I’m tired of teachers being treated like we are supposed to be entirely selfless people without care for ourselves (not coincidental in a profession that is primarily done by women). We need to take care of our health. We aren’t babysitters, but working professionals. It isn’t wholly our responsibility to take care of children so parents can work, while exposing ourselves to a potentially deadly virus in a small classroom environment with circulating air. A number of universities are already focusing on distance learning for the upcoming term to protect students and educators. However, the K-12 educators seem to be viewed as not important in this focus to get students back into classrooms. We are not considered in most of the discussions I read about.

    I feel this focus on having K-12 teachers return to a variation of regular school with shifts will likely result in seeing some of our colleagues becoming sick and some will die. Is that a result we are willing to accept?

    • Jeremy Greene says:

      “I feel this focus on having K-12 teachers return to a variation of regular school with shifts will likely result in seeing some of our colleagues becoming sick and some will die. Is that a result we are willing to accept?”

      At some point, yes. It could be a hazard that comes with the job. And I think realistically that point is the start of the next school year. But, yes, what to do with compromised teachers or teachers who live with children or parents who are in a more susceptible population and would choose to stay home is a harder call – I would hope, in union shops, that teachers pool time-off days together to offer paid time off as best as possible. At the least, one year leaves of absences should be granted without question.

      But public school is there for educating children (I think private schools can do other things.) and should be open based on what we’re seeing. Obviously, the situation is very fluid and could change and our opinions should change with them, but based on the threat to children as we know it today I can’t see a great argument why schools should be closed even with active cases.

      This is the best article I have seen about the threat of Covid-19 on young people: (The article doesn’t speak to what you write about how many young people being ravaged and with lifelong health issues. That could obviously lead to changing policy if it is disproportionate to the threats mentioned in the article)

  29. Kelley says:

    I have been teaching more than a decade. Love the idea of PBLs! My concern with A/B or half days is child care. Personally, I have three boys under the age of 9. We live with no surrounding family for help. My husband is a first responder and therefore considered “essential”. This would mean both of us would be working. The problem is child care. I know this will be a huge issue for others as well. How do we do this?

    • Jeremy Greene says:

      Yes, any plan that leads to parents losing their jobs and heading towards homelessness – creating homelessness or destitution – is a non-starter or should be.

      So, unless there is a guaranteed replacement income for parents any A-B, or AM/PM should be off the table (How would teachers take care of their own children?)

      It should be noted that any child care by family or other organizations defeats the purpose of the A-B schedule or smaller groups by creating additional groupings and since family most often means parents – that additionally does not make sense since children’s mortality rates round to 0% while older people is more.

      Interesting article showing rates is here: I wonder – if this remains static – how this will inform decisions…

  30. Marie Webb says:

    One thing I did not see considered anywhere in the article is the classes that focus more on the individuality of the child like art, music, physical education, etc. For many kids, that is the only place they shine during the day to give them confidence. But there are also students headed toward careers in each of those fields, and without those provided in the school environment, it can hinder their future plans. There’s got to be consideration for making sure that the whole student is served, and not just academically.

  31. Yumi says:

    Thank you for this. My school is in China, and we have done a combination of solution 3 and 2. So in our campus we have Pre-K to Grade 8. We started our quarantine process and online learning February 3rd, and the G8’s returned earlier this month, Grades 4-7 two weeks later, and PreK – G3 are returning on June 2nd. When we return to campus, the students will be kept in cohorts and for most of the day be contained within the same classroom (Art, Music, Tech coming to classrooms).

    I particularly appreciate the “remedial vs. accelerated, fill in the gap” portion of this episode. Will give me something to think about in our curriculum planning meetings.

    We’ve been away from school for 17 weeks. In preparation to return to school with the kids next week, I threw away my behavior clip charts and other “school-required” punitive “reward” systems in my classroom (felt really good), and sadly had to put all my comfy cushions and pillows in a box ready to go home.
    The school is taking the umpteenth obnoxiously paranoid methods to keep everyone safe, like buying and distributing loads of plexiglass screens to be put up for every table in the cafeteria and limit the number of chairs (chairs must all face the same direction, no chairs must face each other, etc.), and G1 – 3 not eating in the cafeteria but in the classrooms instead (with custodian crews coming in to disinfect between lessons AND plexiglass partitions going up on all the tables while the children eat). ALL food is packaged in non-sustainable, plastic, one-time packaging. (Breaks my heart, I may bring my own lunches if I can stand to wake up 2 hours earlier in my day).

    My heart goes out to everyone. I’m a teacher and a mom of 2 toddlers. This hasn’t been easy. Please be kind to yourselves, and take it one day at a time. I’m standing here close to the end of the tunnel, and I can assure you there is light (though it may be raining cats and dogs once we exit the tunnel). Please be safe and do whatever you can to keep yourself sane and calm so that you can be responsive to students and their needs as well as your own family.

    • Thanks so much for sharing. Even in what seems like an almost impossible situation, your words of encouragement are really helpful.

  32. Chefmmie says:

    No one in our district or state (or here for that matter) has talked about support staff i.e. Teacher Assistants. We want to be a part of the solution but have not been consulted or considered in the vast realm of possibilities for the coming school year. Our desire is to continue to be the support and an integral part of one on one and small group learning. Where do we fit in???

  33. Mariana says:

    A great deal of assumptions being made:

    1) Regarding internet availability and affordability in the home. Where we are, about 1/3 of homes do NOT have internet in the home due to “it just doesn’t exist” in the mountains and rural areas. DSL is not even an option.

    2) Child care for children under 13, it’s the law; for both teachers and parents; child care affordability and availability were already major issues pre pandemic.

    3) Most parents can’t leave their 12-16 year old home alone – maturity, juvenile delinquency?

    4) Not all teens/pre-teens can handle online, remote work; most kids in my youth group can not even manage their time / after school meeting schedules, etc… as reported in another comment, students just aren’t showing up in the online classes. It’s not for everybody, pandemic or not; every grade level, school, district, city, county is going to be different.

    5) Transportation costs will sky rocket on the split-half day schedules… not feasible.

    6) It will be interesting to see how many teachers don’t, can’t return, retire due to their own “at risk” status… we’ll be seeing teacher shortages again.

    7) I do like the modified class schedules – A/B Days and 1-2-3 courses per 4 week session similar to college summer sessions. A great deal more is accomplished and retained in 4 hour blocks. This reduces student movements, teachers move around, reduces en-mass student movements. Lunch in class rooms. European schools do this already – small classes (10-15), same class room, teachers come to them, they follow each other all the way thru HS graduation.

    8) No one, especially students, are ready to give up sports, music or extracurricular activities…

    “The trauma of keeping kids away from school is irreversible”, especially in younger kids; trauma from social isolation and mask wearing is irreversible, too. It’s already affecting the younger kids.

    “The goal can not be to return to normal if peoples lives are at stake”… risks, trauma and death are an everyday part of our lives; you can not remove it, but learn to deal with it and teach your kids how to deal with it and not be afraid of it, otherwise it will impair their ability to grow and learn.

  34. Ken Walker says:

    I enjoyed reading this article very much as it gives a lot of food for thought. I hope that this period will also work as a test situation where different solutions can be tried out and improved so that programmes can be in place for when the same situation arises in the future. The most appropriate programme for a particular situation can then be put into practice with as little fuss as possible.

  35. David Vinegrad says:

    Here is a simple solution. Get all the students back to the classroom. Anything less will lead to irreversible damage. Practice good hygiene. The opening bell time can reiterate hand washing. Wear masks. Play sports again. The ICU Covid wards are empty. I will leave you with the words of Poet Maya Angelou “Hope and Fear do not occupy the same space, invite one to stay”.

  36. Seta Toroyan says:

    I loved the creativity offered in this post! I would ask though that we all remember that this is a very limited picture. To estimate the costs of children returning / not returning to school, we MUST include an examination of the increase in rates of child abuse, suicide, domestic violence, and child poverty during / caused by a quarantine. We are trying to evaluate the lesser evil but without this, we do not have a fair or a responsible evaluation. 

  37. Heppyan Redy says:

    I am the principal of a high school. It’s easy for me to make a safe learning since we have fewer students. Dividing all class to be a half-day class seems good.

    But, the problem is we are not alone in our school area, we have elementary and kindegarden, they have hundreds student. When we divide their class like ours, we are still in crowded.

    It’s impossible to force the kindegarden or grade 1-3 stay at home, since their parents work, and treat us like a day care. When we run the on line learning, they ask a tuition deduction cos the reducing of quality learning…
    The teacher never want to have a payrollment deduction since they believe that they have done the best what they we can do…

    So, what I can learn from this situation is this is not about our school, this about economy, parenting, trust, and read the future possibility.

  38. Before blooms we need to se for the following pyramid.
    Physiological needs (base of the pyramid)
    Safety Needs
    Love and belonging

    Then think of teaching them something new

  39. Alice says:

    I found this post by an immunologist to be very helpful in how I’ll evaluate options as to whether to return to school in person or not:

    Although he doesn’t specifically mention schools, it’s not difficult to extrapolate what being inside a building for long periods of time with people being close and talking does for transmission.

    I appreciate all the creative thinking going on to help solve this difficult situation, but having an elderly and medically vulnerable member in my household, at this time, the only option I’m willing to take is to continue teaching from home/online or else quit. Absolutely hate it, but that’s just the way it is right now.

  40. All I have to say is that there are certainly a lot of emotional people replying to this seminar.

    I like to be positive about this whole situation.

    I have not formulated exactly how our school should respond but then again I am in a large school district that has over 80 high schools alone and I believe over 240 schools in total.

    Several of the ideas that were proposed can be used and doable the question is do you want to do them.

    Personally I do not like remote teaching but it must work as many states have certified online schools. Maybe we can look to them for ways to do remote teaching.

    The subject I am involved in includes a physical fitness component and wearing of a specific uniform on a weekly basis. With a little bit of thinking we hope to work those issues out if we do have to do remote teaching.

  41. Leslie Shah says:

    Count the children within the family as a unit. I am actively promoting the one room school house model where by guide (teacher) and assistant stream into the classroom. A guide and an assistant can support three classrooms.

  42. Susana says:

    Wow, super insightful, well organized, thoughtful and inspirational. I read your post, meditated and then devised a plan that I think will work for my particular school. I then sent the plan to my school administration. I think it is important for teachers to have a say in when and how schools reopen along with other stakeholders. You lay out the options in a reasonable concise way that is open ended enough to not pass judgment but is a practical way to build a reopening toolbox. Many thanks, from this day forward you are a superstar in my book. Just what I needed to sort through the options and create a flexible plan for reopening. <3

  43. Arlene F Eliason says:

    The scenarios discussed are more available to areas without significant bussing. Rural areas have to also determine which kids are on which schedule to prevent the cost of doubling the cost of the bussing.

  44. HG says:

    How about the option of providing tax credit for parents who send to private schools in 2020-21 ? This will lure some parents to pull out of public school system and thereby help with the resource constraints and capacity issues that public school systems Is dealing with

  45. I have read through every comment left here and feel very worried for every family. Families and teacher will suffer what ever happens. I have been trying to follow peer reviewed articles as I participate in our school restart plan

    The science that has been published and the CDC’s CRAFT Schools Briefing Packet, I believe are convincing enough. If we go back teachers will be at risk!

  46. MK says:

    Distance Learning is not a substitute for face to face learning and it is not as effective but safety comes first. My concern is that in distance learning there might be lack of support at home as working parents can’t be involved in their child’s learning process especially if the kids are in first or second grades.
    If students have to attend school and I have to choose between the other six choices I would select the “Hybrid Model” alternating A/B days or half day.

  47. Johnny Lopez says:

    I understand the importance of being in school interacting with everyone. The reality is we are living in a situation that is dangerous and uncertain. The ideas presented here are very excellent. But, the health of the people should be first. I rather be healthy than educated. I know! This is difficult to see. Our government needs to send a clear message and have the best plan of support for sake of our people. Yes, we can do this! We can go back to work! This is a chance we can all take.
    But, think again, what is more important your health or a late education?
    Teachers will use technology during this time. This is a given. If we prepare well, we can still fill out most of the gaps in education. In many cases, it may great for many people. I am learning a lot with this course. I am sure, my students will learn a lot too,
    I graduated late from college because of my personal situation. I needed to work first to support myself. But later on I became a teacher. I also became a Doctor Candidate in Mathematics education after some more years. I am glad I am here today and in good health.

  48. Dr Bhardwaj K.S. says:

    My view is that schools and colleges should run as usual. Children have good immunity levels. They won’t be hit by any disease as we adults are; just because we waste our energies mindlessly by using alcohol or any other drugs; and indulging in other unnatural acts.

    Yes the school and parents have to be a bit extra conscious. If the student does not feel well, he should take rest with treatment. This we have been already doing….Good day to all above friends…

  49. Jessica Sager says:

    I’m chuckling at the very first point where you mentioned a teacher who was questioning if returning kids to an atmosphere of masks and distancing and constant reminders will be too troubling. Was he not around any children who played outdoors in the summer, parents calling out reminders to stay apart, etc. – my kids would adjust their position with barely a thought and go back to the thrill of playing with friends. In 90 degree heat they would keep their masks on when asked. And if you knew my kids, they are by no means easy going. Both have nervous nelly tendencies like their mom, lol; my son has ASD w/ the sensory particularities that often come with it; and my daughter is 6 going on 16. She’d step off the curb into traffic if I told her not to – a glorious stage it is. Kids have adapted better than a lot of adults. I’m a little surprised that he wouldn’t have assumed that first, although I understand where his heart was.

    Hopefully by now we are seeing both the need for in person instruction and also the mounting evidence that schools are not the super-spreaders once feared. Continuing to gather and analyze data on school transmission is so vital, I hope that there are groups trying to build a national repository for this information.

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