Back to School, New Rules for an Old Routine will be in Play this Year!Randy Mitchell (VTech)
We live in interesting times, COVID-19 has turned our routines, our economy, and our lives upside down for the last two and a half months. We are talking about “Re-Opening America” and “Getting things back to Normal” more and more each day. One of the biggest concerns about reopening the economy is “how can the parents go back to work if the kids can’t go back to school safely?” The elephant in the room that no one is talking about is that, in most states, schools have been closed since mid March and will remain that way for the rest of the academic year. No state has set a date as of yet to reopen schools.
Despite the fact that many are calling for the reopening of the economy, the simple fact is that many people who are on the verge of returning to work are very edgy and concerned about doing it. This exists in my profession, dentistry. The Dental profession is about ready to restart patient treatment, but those of us involved in direct patient care are nervous about going back to working in the mouth in very close quarters with a potentially infectious patient. We are comfortable in the “shelter in place” system and don’t want to step out from underneath that protective umbrella just yet.
Reopening schools is the biggest complication to unravel in order to begin starting the economy. Many parents can’t go to work if their children are at home. Monitoring the number of new cases through the summer will be crucial in making the decision of when to open schools, too many new cases = NOT opening schools in September. The current number of new cases has to be drastically LOWER at the time of school opening than it is currently. Getting to a satisfactory “new case” level needed to safely open schools may take many more weeks of social distancing and aggressive testing. Going to school puts children at risk of becoming infected and a plan of action must be worked out that is very effective in several ways:
- Stopping the Spread of COVID-19- Although children are at minimal risk of dying or getting seriously ill from COVID-19 (though new information now shows that they may get very sick in some cases with heart problems, immune reactions, and Kawasaki’s Disease), they can spread it like anyone else can, including bringing it home to family and friends who could well be “at risk” of becoming very sick or dying from it.
- Testing for the Presence of COVID-19- This testing must be aggressive and accurate to “stop the spread” of Coronavirus. Temperature taking on a daily basis will also help to screen students. This may also include “tracing procedures” that involving tracing/locating people who have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus. TESTING IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE UP TO 25% OF THE CARRIERS OF COVID-19 ARE ASYMPTOMATIC, BUT CAN STILL SPREAD THE INFECTION.
- Social Distancing- Employing small class sizes, Wearing Masks in school, No contact sports, No large assemblies should take place.
- Rigorous Cleaning Procedures- The rooms and surfaces frequently contacted should be cleaned at the end of the day and before the day begins, along with “incidental cleaning” as needed.
- Parallel Online/Remote Learning System- This system must be in place to ensure that students can continue with their schoolwork from home if need be without interruption. This will allow the academic year to be completed if the school building has to close or students have to vacate the physical school building for any one of a number of reasons (outbreak of new infection, a student becomes infected or exposed to someone who is infected, etc.)
If outbreaks are frequent, the children could expose their parents to the virus, resulting in the parents being quarantined from their workplaces as well, making the whole “getting back to normal” process take a giant step backwards. Dr. Anthony Fauci has alluded to the fact that we will likely have a vaccine within the year, and one vaccine is currently being tried experimentally in Rochester, New York. We will still be in a “virus containment mode” at the time that school is scheduled to start, but still be in much better shape than we were this past winter. Keeping schools open for the academic year will be hard to accomplish, but it can be done.
If schools were to shut down again, parents who had returned to work might have to return to work in any regard. The average family lives paycheck to paycheck and that situation can only last so long. Day Care in this country is expensive and doesn’t fit easily into a lot of budgets, and the Day Care centers are also at risk of being completely shut down if one of their charges is infected. In my case, my wife and I would likely step in and do daycare for my grandchildren so our daughter and her husband could continue to work, but that option isn’t available to everyone. The difficult side of that scenario for us is that we are older and are at higher risk of a more serious infection of COVID-19.
In summary, we should all be prepared for a different sort of school year than we’ve ever seen before. It will involve continued Social Distancing Measures, smaller class size, electronic remote classrooms, and many of the precautions that we have become familiar with in the last two months.
V Technical Textiles, Inc. can help to supply you with some of the protective equipment and supplies that will help to protect your children at school. These precautions include, frequent hand washing and hand sanitation, surface wipe downs, face mask use (we are working to design and provide comfortable and stylish child, adolescent, and adult face masks), and protective barriers and garments. We’re here for you and can offer you solutions to help protect your children at school.
V Technical Textiles, Inc.