Questions You Should Be Asking About Returning Safely To School

Covid-19 | New Scientist

It is clear that returning to school is a hot topic right now. This post is not meant to scare you or persuade you to choose a side. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Instead, its to get you thinking about various topics regarding school resuming. Maybe you already have these answers, maybe you need to ask them, or maybe you’re confused as to why there is even a debate amongst teachers with respect to schools reopening. Hopefully, you find this post helpful or at least thought-provoking. Lets jump right in.

Covid Positive

When you work in a school you get sick its inevitable. Okay so you have a cold and you take a few sick days. What about if you or a family member contracts COVID? What about a student?

  • If a student or staff member in my classroom or school building contracts COVID will I be notified? Will we notify parents?
  • If so will I need to quarantine?
  • Will this affect student absences?
  • Will they be sent to truancy if it is for an extended time?
  • Will the state attendance laws be changed so students and families aren’t compelled to come to school sick?
  • Will they receive home-bound services?
  • If I contract COVID (a teacher) will I be required to take sick leave or is it workmans’ comp?
  • What happens if I have no more sick days left?
  • If my child or family member contracts COVID will I have to quarantine?
  • Will I have to take sick leave to stay at home and care for them?
  • If I have to take sick leave how will I get a sub when there is already such a high demand for them during a regular school year?

Special Education Circumstances

Indiana coronavirus: Here's where you have to wear a mask in Indiana

Our special needs friends require much more consideration during this time. They require more hands on approaches that will be comprised given Covid regulations.

  • How will immune-compromised teachers or students be affected?
  • What about classes that require close contact and collaboration for content and social-emotional development?
  • Will related service providers be able to push in?
  • Will resource students be able to navigate between their gen ed classroom and the resource room?
  • Guidelines suggest keeping windows and doors open? What about students who will elope given an exit point such as an open door?
  • What about hearing impaired teachers who rely on lip-reading and will have a hard time hearing both students and staff who are wearing masks?
  • How will speech therapy work for those that require a visual of the speaker’s mouth? Will they be provided with a clear mask? If so, who is providing and paying for that?
  • Will sign language interpreters be required to wear masks? Facial expressions and mouth morphemes are a big part of ASL; some students rely on lip-reading to support their understanding of sign language.
  • How will we use CPI (Crisis prevention and intervention) strategies while social distancing?
  • How will we provide assistance to students that require close contact during toileting routines?
  • How will we manage working with students that require hand over hand while social distancing?
  • How will my students with sensory needs or medical equipment wear a mask? Will it be required or are they exempt? If they are exempt how can we ensure their safety as well as their teachers and classmates?

Sanitizing

We are going to need to be sanitizing around the clock. How will that look? With what and by who?

  • Will we be hiring additional cleaning staff? Who will be paying for that?
  • We are not allowed to use name brand cleaning supplies such as Lysol, only district approved cleaner. Do these agents protect against COVID?
  • Who will be providing and paying for additional cleaning supplies?
  • Who will be responsible for cleaning shared materials such as computers, IPads, and manipulatives?
  • How do we sanitize non-plastic materials such as paper books?
  • To minimize shared materials we may have individual student sets of items i.e. crayons, textbooks, art supplies. Who will be providing and paying for that?

Bussing

Knott County Schools releases fall reopening plan
  • Will there be capacity limits on the bus?
    • Will this effect the amount of buses and routes?
    • Will we be hiring more bus drivers?
  • Will students be required to wear a mask on the bus?
  • Will students share a seat on the bus?
  • How will we maintain social distancing on the bus? Will it be every other row?
  • Will there be an aide on every bus to monitor distancing and mask use, since the bus driver will be focused on driving?

Social Distancing

Social distancing in a school setting looks a lot different than say the grocery store or res truant. It is a completely different environment for an extended time multiple days a week. How will we maintain social distancing within schools?

  • How will social distancing work in classrooms with more than 10-20 students?
  • What if our classroom is not big enough to effectively social distance all students?
  • If we break students up into smaller groups to maintain social distancing will we be hiring more staff to teach and monitor those groups?
  • How will we social distance in the hallways?
    • I’m no math teacher but if you put six feet between each student in a line of 20 students that’s a very long line!
  • How can we social distance in classrooms that are play and social based such as Pre-K ?
  • How can we social distance in classrooms that are primarily social-based such as self-contained and behavioral classrooms?
What is Social Distancing? | City of St. Cloud, Florida - Official ...

Funding

It is no secret teachers pay out of pocket for the majority if not everything in their classroom. There are going to be lots of additional expenses if we return to school. Here are a few questions I ask you to think about in regards to supplies;

  • Who is going to pay/provide for PPE (hand sanitizer, disinfect wipes and sprays)?
  • Who will be paying/providing masks for teachers? Students?
  • Who will be paying/providing for extra seating and tables that accommodate just one student to maximize social distancing?
  • If we are going the plexiglass route, who will be paying for materials and installation?
  • Who will be providing and paying for additional materials so we have individual student sets?

Additional Questions

  • Will teachers need to sign a waiver to work?
  • Will students need to sign a waiver to attend in person school?
  • What happens during routine drills (fire, active shooter, lock down) that require close proximity.
  • If a teacher has children in another district that choose a different school model how would that be handled?
  • Will childcare be provided for teachers whose centers are closed?
  • What accommodations will be made for educators and their families?
  • What safety measures will be put in place for non-teaching staff such as school counselors and office personal that work in a small shared space?
  • How will we address the mental health needs of our students in a safely and effectively?
  • Will teachers be given training on how to address their students if their classmate or family members COVID evolves to be fatal?
  • Will teachers be provided training for PPE?
  • Can teachers wear scrubs? Will the district pay for this?
  • If students are allowed the option to stay home, can teachers?
  • How will my health be protected if students do not have a mask? If a student is not wearing a mask then will the teacher help that student from a 6-foot distance?
  • How will educators and service providers that travel to different schools be managed?
  • What if a teacher travels between different classrooms and has no control over the classroom setting from room to room?
  • How will events such as parent-teacher conferences be conducted?
  • If teachers are in instructing students at school, who is responsible for virtual instruction to students that choose to remain at home? How do you maintain consistency between the two settings?
  • What will happen to classrooms that have flex seating i.e. bouncy balls, wobble chairs?
  • Will the HVAC system filters be replaced frequently?
  • Will there be temperature checks upon entry? Who will be responsible for this?
  • What will happen with students who are sent to the nurse with fevers or other COVID symptoms?
  • What percentage of infected staff and students will warrant a s school shut down? How will we manage this transition?
  • How will we maintain social distancing for special areas (art, music, P.E.)?
  • Will additional staff be hired to adhere to new guidelines; nurses, custodial, counselors?
  • Will there be dual offices for nurses, one to handle COVID symptoms and another to handle first aid and other health issues?
  • If students pretend to cough or sneeze on each other or a staff member, how should this be handled at a disciplinary level?
  • If a student refuses refuses to wear a mask will they be sent home?
  • Will someone be sanitizing staff and student bathrooms in between uses? Who is responsible for this?
  • What will arrival and dismissal look like? Will there be staggered times? Will this effect instructional time?

If you can meet with your school board or administration I suggest finding out the answers to the questions above. Educate yourself on COVID protocols so you can relay the information to students and their parents. In the meantime, stay at home and when you have to leave please wear a mask.

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