Schools Brace for Reopening

Masks%2C+sanitizer%2C+and+10-15+student+classes+become+the+new+norm+for+students+in+the+U.S.

Ethan Huang/ EPM

Masks, sanitizer, and 10-15 student classes become the new norm for students in the U.S.

In the seventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the nation are still discussing how to effectively reopen schools. The top priorities for these schools: being health-conscious while maintaining productivity for students.

Experimental Education

After the initial shutdown in March, there have been several reports of schools attempting to reopen, some completely with social distancing procedures in place, and others resorting to a “hybrid” model which utilized both online learning and in-person classes. In early August, North Paulding High School in Georgia went viral after a photo surfaced of a crowded hallway of mostly unmasked students. Not too long after, it was reported that six students and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19. This resulted in a shutdown almost immediately after its reopening for the fall semester.

It is because of cases such as North Paulding that most schools are hesitant to completely reopen, pushing for a hybrid schedule. It seems that most Southern California schools have pushed for this option of learning. As of now, most schools have maintained virtual schooling, utilizing tools such as Zoom and Google Classroom to teach. Despite this, preparations have been made for the potential return to school in the future.

The Fullerton Joint Union High School District, for example, has opted to using “cohorts” for students. This plan places students into three groups labeled A, B, and C. Groups A and B would alternate taking in-person classes based on the day of week. Cohort C on the other hand, would consist of students who opt to taking classes completely in social distancing. Other schools such as the Duarte Unified School District have prepared similar plans for reopening.

Moving Forward

Even with these plans in mind, questions arise on the time of implementation and effectiveness. At the moment, several districts aim to shift to the hybrid model by early November. Even so, the situation regarding COVID-19 is unpredictable, and could potentially delay plans for reopening.

Furthermore, many are concerned on whether a hybrid model is effective in preventing the spread of COVID. Even without the crammed hallways, students will still be working in a confined space with others. If one student carries the virus, there exists a risk of spreading it. This creates another dilemma, as every student has about 5-7 classes with different classmates and teachers, making even a single case a danger to the entire cohort.

Beyond health considerations, there are uncertainties on the productivity of this form of education as a whole. For students going fully virtual, will they be receiving less of an education than those in the hybrid model? Will hybrid model students have an advantage in building a stronger relationship with the teacher? Knowing this, should students risk their health for a better education?

Regardless, the hybrid model is one more step to ease out of social distancing with its own benefits. However, if discussing reopening, one must consider the possibilities and drawbacks of doing so. Will this process be delayed? Will it result in success, or contribute to the rising statistic? Only time will tell.

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