Insights Into Teens: Episode 79 “Back to Remote Schooling”

This week we look at the challenges, concerns and changes to how school will work in the coming weeks amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. What are schools doing to confront early surges in infections, what infrastructure is in place for remote learning, what impact will remote and hybrid learning solutions have on our children and when can we expect a return to some normalcy.

We’ll look specifically at what Madison’s school is doing. The changing environment, evolving messaging and the recommendations coming down from the Federal Government, CDC and other respected organization. There’s a lot of fear, anxiety and uncertainty about the risks of sending our kids back to school under these conditions and we’ll talk about all of it this week.

Show Notes
  • Introductions
    • Welcome to Insights Into Teens Episode 79: “Back to Remote Schooling.”
    • I’m your host, Madison Whalen and my co-host, Joseph Whalen.
  • When and how school will reopen?
    • We are slowly seeing an increasing number of children going back to school. 105 of a total of 134 countries (78%) have closed schools and have decided on a date to reopen their schools. 59 of those 105 countries have already reopened schools or plan to as of late August, 2020.
    • Given the difficulty of the situation, countries are in different stages regarding how they reopen schools. When deciding whether to reopen schools, authorities should consider the benefits and risks across education, public health and socio-economic factors. The best interest of every child should be at the centre of these decisions, using the best available evidence.
  • Is it safe for my child to go back to school?
    • Decisions on control measures in school closures and openings should be consistent with decisions on other physical distancing and public health response measures within the community. Generally schools are not opening in countries as an isolated action, but as part of a number of actions related to opening back the country, such as reopening factories and public transportation.
    • It’s crucial that schools plan ahead and look at additional measures they can take to ensure that students, teachers and staff are safe when they return.
    • Going back to school will likely look very different from how it was before. It’s possible that schools may open for some time before closing once again. Because of the evolving situation, authorities will need to be flexible and ready to adapt to help keep every child safe.
  • What precautions should the school be taking to prevent COVID-19 virus from spreading?
    • School reopenings should consider the country’s overall COVID health response to help protect students, staff, teachers and their families. Some things schools should consider doing are:
      • Staggering the start and close of the school day.
      • Staggering mealtimes.
      • Moving classes to temporary spaces or outdoors.
      • Holding school in shifts to reduce class size.
    • Water and hygiene facilities will be a crucial part of school reopening safely. Administration should look at opportunities to improve hygiene, like handwashing, physical distance measures, and cleaning procedures. The staff and teachers should also follow the new hygiene measures.
  • What should I do if my child has fallen behind?
    • Students around the world have shown how much they want to keep learning. They have continued their lessons during hard times, with the support of their teachers and parents. But many children will need extra support this year.
    • Schools are making plans for catch-up days for students that are behind. This might include starting the year with refresher or remedial courses, after-school programmes or supplemental assignments to be done at home. Given the possibility that many schools may not open full time or for all grades, schools may implement ‘hybrid learning’ models.
    • Give extra support to your child at home by creating a routine around school and schoolwork. This can help if they are feeling restless and have trouble focusing. You may want to contact your child’s teacher or school to ask questions and stay informed. Be sure to let them know if your child is facing specific challenges so they can help.
  • What schools are doing to make it safe for kids during COVID-19
    • With the start of a new school year, a lot needs to happen so that students can learn and thrive without raising the risk of spreading COVID-19.The goal of having children attend school in person–which is how they learn best–will only be safe when a community has the spread of the virus under control.  And then, when it is possible to reopen a school for in-person learning, a layered approach is needed to keep students, teachers and staff safe.
    • What schools can do.
      • Physical distancing: The goal for students and adults is to stay 6 feet away from everyone to help prevent the virus. However, research has found that spacing desks at least 3 feet apart and avoiding close contact may have similar benefits–especially if students wear cloth face coverings and do not have symptoms of illness. Teachers and staff should stay 6 feet apart from other adults and from students when possible. Teachers and staff should also wear cloth face coverings, limit in-person meetings with other adults and avoid areas such as staff lounges.
      • Cloth face-coverings & hand hygiene: All children over age 2 years and all adults should wear cloth face coverings that cover the nose and mouth to stop the spread of the virus.  When worn correctly, cloth face coverings are  safe to wear for long periods of time such as during the school day.  In addition, frequent hand washing with soap and water is important for everyone.
      • Classroom changes: To help limit student interaction outside the classroom, schools should consider:
        • Having teachers move between classrooms, rather than having students fill the hallways during passing periods.
        • Allowing students to eat lunches at their desks or in small groups outdoors instead of in crowded lunchrooms.
        • Leaving classroom doors open to help reduce high touch surfaces such as doorknobs.
      • Testing & temperature checks: The CDC currently does not recommend COVID testing of students and staff​. Testing only shows whether a person is infected at that specific moment in time and may not be useful in preventing outbreaks in school communities.  Taking students’ temperatures at school may also not be feasible, but you can monitor your children’s health at home and keep them home if they are not feeling well. Schools should frequently remind students, teachers, and staff to stay home if they have a fever of 100.4 degrees F or greater or have any signs of illness.
      • Exposure:  While current evidence suggests that children younger than 10 years may be less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, and less likely to spread the infection to others, schools still need to plan for exposures.  If a student or staff member has close contact with someone known to have SARS-CoV-2 infection, they should be quarantined for 14 days from the day they were in close contact.  Close contact means being within 6 feet of the person for at least 15 minutes.  A person is known to be infected if they have a laboratory-confirmed infection or illness consistent with COVID-19.
      • Symptoms at school: School nurses will take the temperature of anyone who feels ill during the school day, and there should be a specific area to separate or isolate students who are not feeling well. To stay safe, school nurses should use PPE (personal protective equipment) such as N95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, disposable gowns and face shields.
      • Cleaning and disinfecting: Schools should follow CDC guidelines on proper disinfecting and sanitizing classrooms and common areas.
  • How my school is coping with COVID-19
    • Different types of schedules
      • A,B,C and R
    • Remote learning techniques and challenges
    • Typical schedule
    • Transportation considerations

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