K-12 Goes Back: Here’s What We’re Seeing

By: Danielle Chazen

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Now that Labor Day weekend has ended, many students are heading back to the classroom today. When referring to the reopening process, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott noted Friday, “there is no playbook for this.”

There’s a great deal of uncertainty from school leadership, individual instructors, students and their parents on how to best handle the fall learning experience. While many safety measures are being put in place, it’s difficult to determine how effective they will be or how to properly ensure that children, especially young children, keep these new rules and protocols.

In Vermont, most schools have selected hybrid models, featuring a mix of in-person and remote learning days and the rotation of students. While Vermont is experiencing lower COVID-19 cases than many other US states, administrators and educators in the area said the state’s ‘choose your own adventure’ type approach has left them to craft their own plans and left room for misalignment among different schools.

Safety measures have been put in place, including adding plexiglass between desks and in hallways, instituting regular temperature checks and of course masks. However, many teachers are opting to do a significant amount of their teaching outdoors, almost in a camp-style circle environment. Being outside is one technique shown to reduce the virus’s ability to spread, but it also presents an array of distractions and noises that students must then tune out in order to focus.

Outdoor learning also works now in the fall, but what will happen once teachers are faced with chiller temperatures? How are schools accounting for students with allergies, such as those who are allergic to grass for example? Many are arguing that outdoor learning is merely a band aid solution.

Many parents are also deciding to take matters into their own hands rather than trust the changing plans of their children’s schools. According to the Agency of Education, 1,634 Vermont families completed paperwork by July 15 to enroll their children in homeschooling – presenting a significant increase from the 932 enrollments received the year prior.

There are also the needs of special education students and those with disabilities, such as hearing impairments, to be accounted for. How can schools ensure these students are given as many opportunities to succeed as their peers in these outdoor or hybrid environments?

Many of these students with disabilities “noticeably regressed.” Schools are now encountering challenges that are questioning their plans and how to account for the virus, but also the needs of all students.

In Alabama,
two schools have closed due to virus outbreaks, resulting in hundreds of students around the state being quarantined under guidelines of the Alabama Department of Public Health. However, those guidelines were then changed in late August to create more differentiation between major and minor symptoms and what constitutes “close contact” and requires quarantine.

Additionally, K-12 schools in Alabama are drawing attention due to extracurricular activities and measures being instituted during events, such as sporting games as well.

Images of fans in close proximity to each other at football games went viral and school officials are now pleading that fans and students do more to socially distance themselves.

Roanoke City Schools Superintendent Chuck Marcum released a YouTube video on Friday, saying “All schools across the state have been put on notice by the Alabama High School Athletic Association and the Alabama State Department of Education that we must do a better job in these two areas if we want to continue to have high school football this season.”

Going back to school isn’t just about the classrooms; it’s about every aspect of the student experience being accounted for to ensure students remain safe.

Verbit is hosting a webinar, K-12: Back In Session, on September 15th to discuss similar measures and additional strategies to consider with leading K-12 experts, including Eric Gordon, a superintendent responsible for 37,000 Cleveland students. Join us for insights and an opportunity to ask questions live.