The posts on Facebook say it all. Team “they must go back” and Team “keep them online” keep flooding my feed. School districts are slowly rolling out their plans to return to the classroom with Covid-19, but also giving parents only days to decide between options for the upcoming school year. Seems almost more stressful than Spring Break of 2020, and now with the 2020-2021 school year on the horizon, there are choices to be made. With three boys entering three different schools, we had three choices to make.
Depending on the state that you live in, many areas of the country have seen an increase in Covid-19 cases. With only weeks until school starts, decisions are now being made on how to return to the classroom. The question also posed is if we should even attempt to return to the classroom.
We made it through the Spring Break closure with the entire rest of the year being online.
Each state has its own reopening and phase plan (including what schools can do during each phase), so it’s important to know what your state plans are.
Illinois has Five Phases (we are in Phase 4) but can move back to Phase 3 if our infection rate begins to climb.
Wonder how your state infection rate is trending? Here is the link to the rolling three-day trends for each state.
These numbers are compiled by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. Click on your state to learn more.
Precautions such as hand washing, social distancing, and masks are going to be the norm for this upcoming school year.
If your students are going back to the classroom, before the start of school make certain you student can do the following:
- Properly put on and/off a mask. Avoid touching the inside!
- Wearing a mask for hours at a time (practice!)
- Washing hands (20 seconds)
- Avoiding touching face/eyes
- Encourage repositioning of a mask by grabbing outside layer or by ear loops (wash/gel hands before touching!)
- Use hand gel (proper amount and rubbing in correctly)
Do what is right for YOUR kids
There are no right answers here. There are people who work (essential workers, educators) leaving students who wouldn’t have the support at home needed for remote or hybrid learning.
Student resources in school (such as meals, safety, additional therapies) is also something that is difficult in a remote setting.
There were questions we asked ourselves when reviewing our three kids and the upcoming year:
- Are the kids up for wearing a mask, adhering to social distancing and maintaining strict handwashing procedures, possible for 7 hours a day five days a week?
- Do we feel it is safe to do so given our local current Covid-19 spread?
- What restrictions are in place for the schools? Gym? Outdoor time? Movement within the classroom? Lunchtime?
- What is the plan if schools have to shut down for outbreaks?
- Transportation concerns? Bus route?
- How is this going to impact them directly (increased anxiety? not take it seriously? needing time with friends?)
We took all this (and more) into consideration before making decisions for each of our three boys.
Well, this is certainly not how we envision the summer before our oldest son’s freshman year at college. He is trying to make the best of it, and thankfully he is willing to do what is needed to protect his health and still experience freshman year. He is eager to go, which is important, as I don’t want any of our boys in a situation that will make them uncomfortable.
Thankfully, our oldest is pretty ok with wearing a mask. He has a summer job that requires it and has been wearing one for at least 4 hours a day.
He will be staying in-state, attending Illinois State University, which is helpful if something were to happen we could easily drive there in a few hours.
As for the college – a hybrid approach for classes is being taken. Many are online, some are in person in smaller classrooms with most major courses are in-person to interact with the professors. He doesn’t have a traditional classroom setting for hours at a time each day, which helps with this decision a bit.
Classes will all be remote following the Thanksgiving break to decrease the chance of spread after returning home for the holiday week.
We have been watching the online zoom updates and feel the preparations for the campus are great and feel that the dorm experience will be just as good. He did his room selection this past week, selected one of the larger rooms so hopefully, a bit more distance will help both roommates!
Less than one month before he officially becomes a Redbird!
We still haven’t heard the final plan for the high school district plan. We were pretty pleased with the end of the 2020 school year plan, which was all online, and eager to hear the plans for this year.
Block scheduling is how our high school day is formatted, with four classes one day and four the next. This is helpful, with less movement during the school day than a high school with each class each day.
Transportation won’t be an issue, he will be driving himself.
With this being his junior year, many AP classes on his schedule, he is hoping for at least some in-person classroom time. He also works during the week, wearing the mask for hours at a time. Sports camps have resumed with no contact, masks in place indoors, and social distancing outdoors – so we have an idea of what the school already expects.
The next hurdle for student interaction is band camp, which is at the end of the month. It will be interesting to see how everything is handled. Thankfully, he plays percussion, so that mask will be on the entire time!
Remote learning returns to our household for 7th grade.
Our district runs K-6 grades in one building and 7-8 grade in another. During the junior high years, there are nine classes and you move rooms between each class. Lockers are usually used, and there is one large lunchroom.
This year, the plan given to us to review included limited classroom movement (teacher rotating some classes), no use of lockers, and limited information on remote learning plan if the school would have to close.
Given all of this – new school, possible fixed classrooms, no locker use, uncertainly of remote learning if schools did close – our best bet was to elect to remote learn for the 7th grade year.
Considering everything, he seems pretty excited. He has daily plans already for taking the dog on morning walks, will plan daily exercise routine and wants to try and connect with other friends who are remote learning.
This year, none of my kids are in the grade school setting. I have younger nieces and nephews, and each family is making the best decisions for themselves.
One of the benefits of grade school is single classrooms. The smaller number of kids, no transitions during the day from classroom to classroom. The length of the day still concerns me – hopefully as the school year progresses all the precautions in place will be second nature.
No matter what you think is going to happen this school year, have a backup plan (actually, have more than one ready).
First – expect to transition to all online learning at some point. There is no way to predict if your students’ classmates or teacher will test positive for the virus. Because of this, you’ll need to have a plan for childcare and remote learning, possibly without notice.
Second – have a plan for if you or your kids test positive for the virus.
Third – try and make the most of it. Look for additional learning resources if they are learning remote. Work with small groups at home (outside) and distance as long as we can with the weather. Create your own zoom groups and online sessions with school friends and friends in other districts (sport buddies, camp friends) who might not live in your area.
Remember, we are all in this together. Hopefully by making safe choices and trying to protect everyone as best we can, we will get through this pandemic quickly and safely.