Children are most precious to their parents. As parents, we want the best for them. We want to protect them from harm and danger. We would and do give our all to do what is in their best interest. We love seeing them grow and succeed in the big and small accomplishments from babies to adulthood.
Today, with Covid-19 and all the uncertainties about the virus, we are faced with how to do what is best for our children. We know that they need socialisation. We understand that interaction with peers and other adults help them to grow and develop in healthy ways. Schools, as well as extra-curricular activities assist in making them well-rounded.
As schools and daycare centres are reopening June 1st, we wonder what we should do to ensure our children/babies are safe and stay healthy. What questions do we need to ask the administrations, the teachers, the other parents. What protocols should be followed? As the date is quickly approaching, we look to child health and education experts for the answers. Below is a seven step plan to safely reopen our schools.
1.Stepped-up health and hygiene measures
Inquire with the schools to ensure children and teachers are washing their hands on a regular basis. The janitorial staff are trained to clean the desks, chairs, light switches, and items that are touched frequently are cleaned with disinfectants. Do not be shy in asking the administration what protocols they have in place.
At the Copenhagen International School, children line up in the morning next to traffic cones spaced 6 feet apart. There are only 10 students to a classroom, with just one teacher. Specialists, such as the art teacher, offer their lessons remotely via video chat. And just five children are allowed on the playground at a time. Ida Storm Jansen, the school's communications director, says they have made up a new game called shadow tag to play while staying 6 feet apart — "tagging each other's shadow so they're not touching.”
2. Class sizes of 12 or fewer
In an attempt to balance safety with the impact on families and the economy, Maria Litvinova, a researcher at the Institute for Scientific Interchange in Turin, Italy, recommends reducing social contact by putting children in the smallest groups possible. Assuming there is sufficient testing and contact tracing to reduce the spread of infection, "it's better if that student's been in contact with one group of 15 students versus 100 students.” As noted above, Copenhagen International School has reduced class sizes to 10 children per classroom.
3. Staggered schedules
Reducing class size this drastically would probably mean staggering schedules. By way of example, Michael Mulgrew, the head of the New York City teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers suggests that one group of kids might attend school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week, then Tuesday and Thursday the following week. Others have discussed morning and afternoon schedules.
4. Different attendance policies
Melissa Thomasson, a health care economist at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, recently published a paper on the educational effects of the 1916 polio epidemic in New York City. The start of school was delayed by weeks to slow the spread of what was called "infantile paralysis." According to Thomasson's research, even when schools did reopen, about 200,000 of the city's 829,000 registered students stayed home out of fear of spreading the disease. And the city announced a policy of "leniency" for absences during this time.
5. No assemblies, sports games or parent-teacher conferences
Students can't mix in large groups, and parents probably won't be allowed in school buildings either.
6. Remote learning continues
Experts all agreed that the need for remote learning would continue because of staggered schedules, schools prepared to close again for future waves of infection, and many students needing remediation. And that means training and support for teachers, and equipment for children.
Eskelsen Garcia of the NEA says the equity issue is acute: "What we've been telling political leaders for years that the digital divide is hurting children. It's hurting entire communities. To have broadband, a tablet or a laptop is not to play video games. It is as essential as indoor plumbing. It is what you need to succeed. And now it's been laid bare.”
7. Social, emotional and practical help for kids
Developmental experts say disruption from the pandemic constitutes an "adverse childhood experience" for every child. When schools reopen ameliorating this trauma will be at the core of the mission for both parents, teachers, and school administrations.
"I also think that there is a need for us to focus on social and emotional learning for students," James Lane, child behavioural scientist, says, "and not only how we can provide the academic support, but how can we provide the mental health support and the wraparound supports for students when they come back, to help them recover and bring back that safety net of schools.”
(Edith & Blanche welcome your tips and first hand stories related to this topic. Please leave us a comment and suggestion.)