Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a lengthy document detailing its recommendations and guidelines in support of working toward reopening the country amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Within their 60-page manifesto, the CDC included suggested measures for the reopening of schools.
Soon after the guidelines were released, memes outlining the recommendations started to go viral. Not surprisingly, parents, teachers, and administrators began questioning what all of this really meant and how it would impact their students, their school, and their educators. While the memes going around condensed many of these guidelines in their essence, they left a lot of questions unanswered and, in some cases, created more fear and panic than anything else.
The bottom line is this: the CDC can make suggestions and recommendations, but they do not make rules or laws. It will always be up to the state and the school districts how they choose to implement some, all, or none of these recommendations. To that point, on its website, the CDC states that it “offers the following considerations for ways in which schools can help protect students, teachers, administrators, and staff and slow the spread of COVID-19.”
They further clarify that schools should determine whether and how to implement these guidelines in collaboration with state and local health officials. They also recognize that implementing these recommendations should be done to whatever extent possible while adjusting them to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. They conclude, “mplementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.”
So, now that we know what these guidelines were intended to do, let’s take a look at what they really say.
CDC School Reopening Guidelines Breakdown
Healthy Hygiene Practices
- Teach and reinforce hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes.
- Teach and reinforce the use of face coverings for all staff.
- Encourage the use of face coverings in students (especially older students), if feasible.
- Have adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene habits (soap, sanitizer, towels, etc.).
Cleaning & Disinfecting
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily.
- Clean and disinfect shared objects between uses.
- Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible.
Promote Social Distancing
- Keep student groups together and with the same staff member all day.
- Restrict mixing between groups.
- Limit gatherings, events, and extracurricular activities to those that can maintain social distancing, support proper hand hygiene.
- Restrict nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving other groups at the same time.
- Space seating/desks to at least six feet apart.
- Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
- Close communal use spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds if possible; otherwise stagger use and disinfect in between use.
- If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve meals in classrooms instead.
- Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations, or put in place other protocols to limit close contact with parents or caregivers as much as possible.
- Keep each child’s belongings in a separate, labeled container or cubby.
- Ensure adequate supplies to limit the sharing of high-touch materials as much as possible.
- Avoid sharing of food or utensils.
- Avoid sharing electronics, toys, books, games, or learning aids.
Okay . . . But Is It Feasible?
Although these recommendations are merely guidelines, the districts will have the ultimate say. But teachers around the country are voicing their concern about the feasibility of implementing them at all. Moreover, they are very concerned about the mental and emotional health and well-being of students and teachers alike.
Heather, a teacher in Texas, voiced her concerns regarding these guidelines. “As a teacher, is unrealistic!” She stated. “Clearly, have never been in a classroom before! I see several students moving to homeschooling and several teachers finding new career paths.”
Jana, a school counselor, shares her concerns: “I think the guidelines are absolutely unrealistic, unreasonable and unsustainable. . . They are setting standards for children that most adults could not follow. They are asking educators to ‘police’ children.” She further worries that ” huge component of attending school is to learn the so-called ‘soft skills’ of life. They learn to problem-solve, work as a team, cooperation, language development, social/emotional development and regulation, self and social awareness, decision making,” she says. “If children are not allowed to interact, what is the point of going to school?”
Nicole, who was an elementary educator for nine years, said that the recommended guidelines would have completely changed the way she ran her classroom . . . and not for the better. “I think this would not only have an impact on students’ emotional well being but teachers as well.” She further goes on to state, “I am relieved I’m not teaching right now. If these guidelines are enforced in the fall, I will heavily consider homeschooling my kindergartener.”
Whether you are in support of these guidelines or not, one thing we all have to keep in mind as we move forward is that these guidelines are based on what we know in the present. The CDC is constantly updating their recommendations as we learn more about the coronavirus, how it’s spread, and what we can do to co-exist in a world where it is not going away anytime soon. There’s still a long time yet before schools will reopen for the fall. This leaves at least a few months worth of study and reconsideration by health officials and school districts alike.
If you are a parent of school-aged children, I strongly consider you to keep abreast of the school guidelines updates as they come along. Meanwhile, carefully consider how you will handle schooling closer to when schools should open in the fall. And in the meantime, if you feel compelled, don’t be afraid to make your concerns known to your school district officials. They are planning and preparing in earnest to make the best decisions possible. But they can’t do that without input from the parents they serve.