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How School Will Change When Kids Return to Classrooms

WHEN SCHOOLS REOPEN this fall – if they reopen this fall – students and teachers will not be returning to the classroom learning environments they left behind in March, when school districts across the country shuttered for more than 55 million children.
Some of the most obvious differences will be the increased sanitization of classrooms and buses, teachers and children wearing masks and other personal protective gear, frequent temperature checks Free Press Release Network and hand-washing and new rules that allow for as much social distancing as possible.
That might mean, for example, students being served lunch at their desks instead of in a cafeteria, or new schedules that keep students in a single classroom sitting at desks spaced six feet apart while teachers rotate from classroom to classroom.
"The only thing that's certain right now is that we're not certain," says Wayne Lewis, former education commissioner in Kentucky who is now dean of the College of Education at Belmont University at Nashville. "It's important to say that because as educators and educational leaders we need to wrap our heads around the reality that we don't necessarily know what it's going to look like."
Some school districts are considering a staggered start, perhaps beginning with children who have tested negative for the virus. Free Press Release Website Others are considering various rotating schedules in which students come into school on certain days and log in remotely on others. Many are considering lengthening the school day and year to make up for lost learning time.
"Either we're going to start the school year as we were in January of this year, or we are going to start the school year using remote learning or some combination of in between," Lewis says. "Maybe we start with remote learning and then transition kids into physical buildings. It's going to be some combination of those, and I think we have to do some planning for all of them."
A handful of schools in Wyoming and Montana – two of the three states where governors haven't ordered schools closed for the remainder of the academic year – have opened for students with disabilities who require in-person teaching as well as seniors at risk of not graduating.

One universally accepted change is a continued reliance on virtual learning and the need to ramp up the use of education technology.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, announced Tuesday that state education officials will partner with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to "revolutionize" and "reimagine" K-12 education for when schools reopen, focusing on how technology can be leveraged to make learning Free Press Release Site more effective, especially for English learners and students with disabilities – two groups of students who educators have had the hardest time serving with the sudden transition to distance learning.
"What we are doing this spring is not virtual learning at its best," Candice McQueen, the former state education chief of Tenneseee who is now the CEO for the National Institute for Excellence In Teaching, says. "If we can't fix that in the next few months we will struggle again going into the fall because there will be some continuation of virtual learning heading into the next school year."
In one extreme example, a school board in a suburb just outside Detroit voted this week to replace teachers at a small, alternative school with an education software program and make learning entirely virtual and mostly from home.
The ability to be nimble when it comes to moving from in-person teaching to digital teaching is imperative, McQueen and many others have said, anticipating the likelihood that schools will be forced to close again in some communities that see a second Free Press Release Distribution wave of infections before a vaccine is readily available. Those concerns only grow as new evidence mounts that children transmit the virus even if they don't show symptoms and therefore opening schools, especially in places in the U.S. where community spread hasn't been eradicated, could cause a spike in cases.

When Kids Return to Classrooms

For teachers who are immunocompromised – perhaps have asthma, diabetes or heart disease that puts them at a higher risk of having a severe infection – or who live with family members who are high-risk, the decision to physically return to the classroom is complicated. And with nearly one-third of the teaching workforce 50 or older, deciding whether or not they can safely return to the classroom could radically change how learning happens. Students in classrooms could end up with a teacher on a video screen rather than in person.
Guidance issued last week by the American Federation of Teachers, the 1.7-million member teachers union, recommends educators with high-risk for severe infections remain at home and teach remotely via video to students who are physically in the classroom and overseen by staff.
"There's a whole set of population of school personnel that because of their age or underlying health it may be too risky for them to come back," says John Bailey, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who held a number of policy-related positions within the George W. Bush administration. "We have to think about how to use those teachers in new ways and backfill them."
Bailey, along with Lewis, McQueen and 18 other national education leaders representing a range of philosophies and politics, issued consensus guidance this week through the American Enterprise Institute about how and when schools should reopen.
Among many other things, the recommendations include a series of considerations for state and local education officials about things like school operations, Free Press Release Service how to best support children who've experienced trauma during the months-long school closures, how to be flexible for educators who are at high-risk for severe infections and how to supercharge education technology platforms.
One of the biggest issues civil rights and education equity groups are bracing for are the disparate ways reopenings occur in schools that serve lots of poor children versus those that serve majority middle- and upper-class children.
Will schools in wealthier communities have more access to personal protective equipment, soap, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies? Will they be able to more effectively social distance because they have more space? Will they be better positioned to afford things like staggered starts or rotating schedules that are likely to require more staff and therefore more resources?
"We are going to have to prioritize the inequities that this crisis has laid bare in education and all aspects of American life," says Joanne Weiss, an independent education policy consultant who served as chief of staff for former education secretary Arne Duncan during the Obama administration. "Thinking through the priorities and making sure we're putting our money where the needs are must be top of mind."
Complicating that landscape further, what schools do and don't do is intrinsically tied to their budgets, which are slated to take a major hit next school year as state and local revenues account for 90% of them. Superintendents of urban districts, for example, are bracing for 15% to 25% budget cuts, which they estimate will translate to more than 275,000 fewer teachers in big city schools.
Tight budgets combined with continued social distancing could mean extracurricular activities like art, music and physical education are no longer part of the school day, which instead is dedicated solely to the most important academic subjects students need to know.
As governors and state and local education officials begin seriously thinking about how to reopen schools safely, one thing is becoming more and more clear: The changes thrust onto schools this spring aren't temporary; they're major structural changes that are here to stay.

"A vaccine is probably 18 months away, probably even longer," Bailey says. "That's not just this upcoming academic year, but it gets us a little into the following academic year. Free Press Release Submission This is not about how to make accommodations for this coming school year but to make sure they are in place for the following years as well."

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