The amount of confusion over school reopenings in fall 2020 has been astounding. The general public and parents hear and read information that is confusing at best or incomplete at worst. I read several news sources extensively every day to find out what's actually going on. This article aims to show you where to look for information about school reopening protocols, school reopening communications, schools that have closed, and schools with COVID-19 cases, among other COVID-19 related issues. The best source of COVID-19 information in a specific school is always a school's website, where generally you will find communications from the school to current families.
This video explains the CDC guidance for school reopening.
What becomes evident as you read your school's communications is that a tremendous amount of work and effort has gone into creating and implementing safety protocols to protect everybody in the school community. Everybody means the maintenance staff through to the head of school. Here are some of the items you should look for in your school's reopening protocols:
- in-person vs. online instruction
Most schools have spent the summer months planning for school reopening in the fall of 2020. Endless meetings have covered every aspect of daily operations. Most schools have relied on data and the advice of experts to develop their reopening plans. Politics rarely plays a part in those deliberations and decisions.
Coronavirus Testing Basics on the FDA's site offers a comprehensive look at testing for the coronavirus as it stands in fall 2020. There are several considerations of which you should be aware. First, will the school pay for testing, or is that the parents' responsibility? If the answer to that question is not clear in your school's reopening protocol materials, find out who pays for what. Secondly, how often will students and other members of the community be tested? Thirdly, how quickly will test results be made available? It would help if you demanded that test results be returned within 24-36 hours. The longer it takes to get test results, the more worthless those results are. Ask your school to implement point of care testing that usually provides test results within an hour.
This video shows children what to expect when they are tested for the coronavirus.
Cleaning, Disinfection, and Hand Hygiene in Schools – a Toolkit for School Administrators from the CDC offers a detailed list of procedures that schools should follow. Sanitizing measures require everybody's cooperation. As a rule, schools will train their regular janitorial staff on how to sanitize the school facilities. Given the extra workload involved, many schools will hire cleaning services to come in after-hours and do what is commonly described as a deep clean. The sanitization measure implemented by your school will be described in its reopening protocols. However, take time to have several discussions with your child about using hand sanitizer, washing her hands frequently, and, most importantly, keeping her hands away from her face. You and the school are partners in this sanitization procotol.
In-person vs. online instruction
Depending on the local situation, you can expect in-person or online instruction. Most online instruction offered by private schools is state of the art, well-prepared, and led by teachers who are familiar with virtual instruction. As a parent, you have chosen to send your child to private school because of both what the school teaches and how it teaches. Whether that teaching occurs in-person in the classroom or remotely online, you can expect that the teaching will be of the same high standard you have paid for.
Don't expect that your school will schedule extracurricular activities the way it did in pre-pandemic times. On the other hand, expect your school to be creative and offer activities that can be done safely. If you have examples of extracurricular activities you can share with your school, send them your suggestions via email. Better yet, if you have a video you can share, send that along.
The same thing applies to athletic activities as it does to extracurricular activities. Athletic programs during the pandemic will not work the way they did in pre-pandemic times. So, be patient. Always remember that the watchword when it comes to any school program is safety. Safety trumps everything.
Trust but verify
With so much at stake in the fall of 2020, take time to read and thoroughly understand your school's reopening protocols. Have several age-appropriate discussions with your child. Her understanding of the seriousness of the situation is essential.
This video reports on students returning to school.
Examples of School Reopening Protocols
Here are some examples of reopening protocols. Because private schools are independent entities, each school will develop a reopening protocol specific to its unique situation. The following examples offer a look at how a day school and a boarding school plan to reopen. Remember that the situation is fluid. Protocols are subject to change.
The Burlington School is a K-12 day school.
Christ School is a boarding school for boys in grades 8-12.
School Reopening Communications
Most schools communicate with their parents frequently. Most of these communications are clear and concise. That is important. Parents want to know what to expect. They also want to know what will happen if and when a student tests positive for the coronavirus. The following schools offer examples of the type of detailed instructions for reopening you can expect to see. Remember that communicating with parents is only one part of dealing with the coronavirus situation. Expect virtual meetings and other ways of informing parents.
- The Asheville School, Asheville, North Carolina
- The Walker School, Marietta, Georgia
- Marist School, Atlanta, Georgia
- Dallas International Day School, Dallas, Texas
Schools which have closed
Schools with COVID-19 cases
- Thales Academy, Wake Forest, North Carolina
- The Lovett School, Atlanta, Georgia
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