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Educators’ Concerns Related to COVID-19 & Returning to Classrooms

Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Educators’ Concerns Related to COVID-19 & Returning to Classrooms
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On August 12, Illinois’s State Board of Education published a new health-based Frequently Asked Questions document from the Department of Public Health (IDPH).

These groups worked closely together to ensure health-based FAQs were addressed prior to the start of school, helping schools with a course of action if students display any COVID-19 symptoms or positive case breakouts.

Earlier this summer, ISBE released guidance regarding school for the upcoming fall, focusing on “strongly encouraging full in-person instruction.” This was a statement from ISBE Chief Education Officer Dr. Ernesto Matias during the board’s meeting in mid-June.

Looking back on my education in Illinois while experiencing a worldwide pandemic like this is not something that would’ve sat well with me. Regardless of your educational level, everyone is affected: students, parents, administration, teachers, professors, coaches, and the list goes onward. However, this is merely an outsider 20,000 ft. level perspective. So, I dove into the trenches. After inquiring with an Illinois-elementary school teacher and a Massachusetts-high school educator, I could see not only the differences in perspectives but also how district administration and technology can vary! Here are some critical sentiments these individuals shared, which are likely on the minds of your institution’s staff, too.

Returning to Class Next Fall
  • Any planning over the summer should make the experience better in the fall, but it is still uncertain. 
  • It’s stressful enough as a teacher without adding in all the real risks of the virus. 
    • Returning physically to classrooms adds that pressure and insecurity of “will I get sick today?”
  • There’s a serious challenge trying to educate from home, while also maintaining multiple children at home.
  • Teaching online can only go so far; the lack of in-person education takes a hit. 
  • Will educators be able to help their children with their schoolwork, too?  What kind of balancing act takes place between parents?
  • Wearing a mask all day sounds daunting. Imagine younger children having to do the same.
  • Individuals are all different when it comes to hygiene. How are you going to get this under control, especially for students?
District Communications
  • Is there a task force in place to come up with sequenced protocols (for all possibilities) to prepare for different options next fall? (i.e., full e-learning, in-person classes, alternating schedules for students, etc.)
  • What happens to teachers in the arts such as music, gym, dance, woodshop, and so on?
  • Districts will likely be on their own and have to determine their roadmap in planning what is best for them.
  • Will this bring districts in coalition together, either based on proximity or community structure, to align their plans and brainstorm together?
  • Technology can be a breakthrough in creating websites for curriculum content. 
  • What will happen to parent and student engagement? If it was a challenge getting students to commit to their work the first time, how will it be any different in the fall?
  • Does your district have technology in place (i.e., an iPad or laptop) that is given to the family to enhance their learning experience?
Social Distancing in Classrooms
  • Do you have too many students to space out in a room that is not big enough?  Does your classroom set up have tables or desks? 
    • With tables, you cannot physically separate students because you don’t have the desk hardware.
  • Depending on average classroom size, keeping the 6-foot distance between students/desks would lower the class size, and that can be a problem any way you cut it. 
    • It’s even a bigger problem for schools that already have issues with large class sizes.
  • When sharing a classroom like in high schools, you change periods, which includes new desks for each class. Is there a potential way to limit sharing or sanitizing each desk in between periods?

Clearly, there are no easy answers or silver bullets. The emergence of COVID-19 has caused a lasting and ongoing ripple effect in all that was “normal” for everyone. What school will look like in the fall will likely vary drastically by student age, community, and district preparedness. 

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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