When, and how, will America’s schools reopen?

 

Now that nonessential businesses are starting to reopen in parts of the U.S., many are asking how soon children in those reopening districts can go back to school. But for most of the country, the answer looks likely to be, not until summer at the soonest, and maybe not until fall. And when they do return, educators say, it may be to a very different school day and classroom experience than they remember.

Socially distanced lunchrooms. Teachers and students wearing face masks. Temperature checks at the front door. And forget note-passing, study groups or even recess.

Administrators are considering having half of their students come in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, or on alternate days, so that desks can be spread out and buses aren’t packed.

Nearly all states have already suspended in-person classes for the rest of the academic year, and even in states that haven’t, many districts have said spring is too soon to open the schoolhouse doors again.

Officials are keenly aware that the economy can’t really get back to normal until there are places for children to safely spend the day while their parents work. “But we need to do it in a safe way,” Governor Newsom said this month, “so that kids are not going to school, getting infected and coming back home and infecting Grandma and Grandpa.”

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday that classes might resume in July for a summer session to make up for lost class time. But in Illinois, officials have warned that remote learning could continue indefinitely. “This may be the new normal even in the fall,” said Janice Jackson, chief executive of Chicago Public Schools.

Ahead of the U.S.: Some nations, where the outbreak has ebbed, have already reopened schools, albeit in virus-colored ways. In Denmark, classes as well as other activities are being held partly outdoors. Students in China have returned to classrooms with glass desk dividers and teachers in protective suits.

Federal guidelines: The C.D.C. plans to issue detailed guidance soon on how American schools, day care centers, restaurants and churches can reopen. The Washington Post has a working draft of the guidelines; most of it boils down to what you’ve already heard: sanitize everything and everybody, stay a good distance apart, minimize contact with outsiders and watch vigilantly for signs of illness.

The New York TImes, April 28, 2020