What minefields do we need to navigate before kids go back to school?
August is creeping up on us like it’s a monthly gym membership that we were pressured into purchasing after going there one time to try out and feel the vibes. The months have blended together since COVID-19 laid us down for the three-second tan. The eighth month of the calendar year will have different circumstances to deal with, as kids, teens, and adults across the country are set to return to school.
School districts were left in shambles when the virus picked up steam in the states. Some districts closed right away, while others, such as Kansas City Public Schools, used Spring Break in mid-March to determine if it was smart to have the kids come back.
It wasn’t, as school went online-only for the final two months.
As August approaches, the next big issue to tackle is the plans for schools to re-open. Colleges such as the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas announced their plans for bringing students back to campus. Both will start on Aug. 24, will implement contact tracing and will use its university hospital to test students and staff. The Tigers in their “Show-Me Renewal” plan went into more detail, including three scenarios based on the amount of coronavirus cases that happened between now and August.
Located in a different time zone, school leaders in Knox County, Tennessee met to discuss how to come back to school during a pandemic. They also included the same three scenarios that MU did, but with the option for parents to choose to have their kids learn from home. It’s a great plan on paper, but it emphasizes how scary the future is. No plan is set in stone because there’s just so much that can happen between now and August.
Locally, Wyandotte County has plans to re-open all K-12 schools at regular capacity for student instruction and activities. It also allows for parents and guardians to opt out of sending their children to school, as schools will offer online and remote learning when possible. The guideline anticipates that most secondary education will continue to be remote, with options to limited in-person learning by following social distancing rules.
The Wyandotte County guidelines also touch on early childhood care. It mentions that children living with vulnerable adults should avoid child care, children in child care will be in rooms of 25 or less, and staff and children older than 2-years-old will be required to wear face masks.
“We know the sooner we release guidance, the better – our schools need to start planning for the 2020-21 school year now,” Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Public Health Department Deputy Medical Director Dr. Erin Corriveau said in a news release posted Monday. “A committee of educators from schools across our county and public health experts have collaborated to develop standards for each reopening phase. We are still fighting to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and we could find ourselves at different reopening phases over the course of the school year.”
On the Missouri side, there’s a lot more questions to be answered. Doctors at Children’s Mercy say it’s safe for schools in Kansas City to open in the fall, as long as they follow the precautions. The precautions include social distancing, face masks, and hand-washing, all things that should continue to happen.
There are so many unanswered questions when it comes to bringing kids back to school. A story by KCUR touched on this, but what happens to kids who’s only option on getting to school is with the bus and that bus is at capacity? The first thought is those kids should stay and learn at home, but what if they’re young and their parents have to go back to work? What plans are in place for children whose only options to eat are from school breakfast and lunch?
Every plan and every action to bring education back sounds great now, but who knows what the world will look like next month?