Whether you are a student, a parent, a teacher, a school administrator or a stake holder in the education system, you might be very concerned with, or actively involved in, school preparedness during the recovery phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, schools all over the world have been shut down and teachers and students have been forced into online learning. Teachers were forced to take their school environment, lesson plans and teaching methodologies and recreate these in their new online classes.
Students had to adjust to being able to learn at home, create positive study habits and transition to more independent learning. While, at the same time, their parents have become teachers at home themselves, supporting the virtual learning from school and helping their children as much as possible.
There are 3 important questions to ask when reopening schools:
- When are you going to reopen?
- Who are schools reopening for?
- What should schools be doing to prepare for reopening?
When should schools reopen?
Schools should be considering whether reopening is going to have an impact on the virus spreading. Research and experience has shown that all persons are able to contract Covid-19, including children, and precautions like maintaining social distancing and proper hand-washing will help to prevent the spread of the virus.
Schools and stakeholders involved in these decisions should also consider the impact on students' learning. We know that students lose a great amount of academic proficiency during the summer months, often referred to as the “summer slide”. With the closure of schools during the pandemic, the potential for this loss of proficiency and mastery of content will most likely be even greater.
Schools should also consider how prepared they are for the health recommendations that need to be put in place for schools to reopen. Schools with unused open spaces, additional classrooms, and higher budgets might be able to afford to open sooner than schools with crowded classrooms and smaller budgets.
Who should schools be reopening for?
It is important to note that schools do not need to reopen for everyone all at once. Schools will need to determine their own unique situation, challenges and have their own internal assessment before deciding who they are opening for to begin with.
1. Staggered entry
With a staggered entry, schools could decide to reopen to certain grade levels or age groups first before opening the school for all students. Schools can also stagger their staff returning to work to make sure that they are able to cope with the new standards of practice, health protocols and are able to manage a safe reopening.
2. Combination of in-person and online learning
Schools can also decide to offer parents options for their child’s learning. If parents are uncomfortable sending their child back to school, then continued online learning could be an option to accommodate them. Options are important in a uncertain times.
What should schools be doing to prepare for reopening?
Here are some considerations for schools to ensure are in place for a successful reopening:
- Utilise all school facilities to ensure social distancing in classes
- Support teachers to ensure they can do their job effectively
- Implement standards and practices that all staff members can maintain
- Create policies surrounding hygiene practices and food distribution in the building
We will have to first recognise that when schools reopen, we will need to adjust to the new normal. Students have been learning at home under very different circumstances and will need time to readjust to being back in the classroom. Teachers have created online learning programs for their students and will be adjusting their curriculum for in-person teaching and, possibly, a combination of online and in-person teaching. Some students will be struggling with the adjustment and school faculty will need to be aware of mental health support for those learners that are struggling.
The reopening of schools is of utmost concern these days as we make the transition into a new normal. It will take all community members to help schools not only thrive but also be successful as they reopen. Let’s continue to learn together, support each other and remain flexible in these uncertain times.
About the Author
Tim is originally from Bermuda and has lived in Canada, China and, most recently, Malaysia. He has worked as an international school teacher for over 10 years. Tim currently teaches online and manages his website, Online Teacher Dude, where he helps other teachers teach online and build an online teaching business.