The 2020-2021 School year has begun and school officials continue to discuss how to keep their communities safe during the pandemic, while returning to the classroom. The Texas Education Agency has put guidelines in place for Texas schools to follow this semester but their decision has received backlash from parents and teachers whose main concern is the health and safety of the children.
On June 17th, The TEA released a timeline stating, schools would need to resume on campus classes. “School systems will now be able to temporarily limit access to on-campus instruction for the first four weeks of school. After the first four weeks, a school system can continue to limit access to on-campus instruction for an additional four weeks, if needed, with a board-approved waiver request to TEA.” While safety protocols, such as mandatory mask wearing, screening questions, and social distancing have been put in place, the uncertainty of the school year remains to weigh heavily on those who could reap the consequences.
What questions should you be asking your school?
Will the younger children in kindergarten be required to wear masks?
Will class sizes be reduced?
What if a student lies during their screening test?
Will this take away from other safety concerns?
Will there be counselors available for students struggling to adjust back to on campus learning?
Will students have trouble focusing during class with the new classroom set ups?
Will teachers supervise every student washing their hands?
Will every student fever be considered a COVID fever?
Will the rigor of the curriculum be changed?
Will enforcing safety protocols distract teachers from teaching?
Will my child be able to continue school from home all semester if need be?
What safety precautions will school buses take?
Aside from the COVID concerns, how will other concerns be dealt with? Will COVID compliance’s take the top priority in every case?
No one can predict exactly how this school year will pan out. Current guidelines may change, or stay consistent throughout the year. In the meantime, it is important that parents and teachers know what questions to ask to ensure their children are safe.
Students across the country have been living completely different lives since March of 2020. They have not been to school in over 5 months and pandemic concern has increased stress and anxiety levels. Children and teens can not always identify that what they are feeling is anxiety. Dr. Brown, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from NYU Langone Health stated “Children’s reactions following a traumatic event will vary depending on their age, developmental level, degree of social support, and coping skills, among other factors,” Dr. Brown says. “Some children show signs of traumatic stress in response to stressful events, while others do not ”(NYULangone 2020). With an increase in awareness and concern for the current state of mental health globally, the need to keep students safe from other potential threats should remain a priority. In 2018, just two years ago, the US experienced the most school shootings ever recorded, with an average of one shooting every eight days. This year has seen less shootings as a result of the mandatory quarantines resulting from the global pandemic, but as schools reopen, it is important to maintain a heightened sense of awareness. Texas school districts, such as North Side Independent School District, counselors were available for virtual meetings throughout the end of the spring semester. Prioritizing the mental and emotional well being of students and teachers should receive as much attention as their physical health.
According to Adweek.org there are 98,158 Public Schools in The US
- High schools: 21,287
- Junior high schools: 2,527
- Middle schools: 13,253
- Elementary schools: 53,584
- Combined schools: 6,783
- Other: 724
On average, 15.3 million students attend grades 9-12. In San Antonio, the largest high schools have 3,300 plus students. Social distancing will show to be more difficult for schools that have 700+ students per grade. North Paulding High School, in Georgia, opened the first week of August, did not require all students to wear masks, but “strongly encouraged for students and staff on buses and in classrooms” and only “enforce social distancing where feasible, and in large group gatherings such as lunch rooms.” In their first week of classes, nine students have tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire school is under quarantine for a week. A picture of a hallway packed full of students, not wearing masks went viral after a student posted it on their social media.
High Schools have even greater repercussions from the COVID protocols that could potentially eliminate school sports. For seniors hoping for an athletic scholarship, they can only hope measures will be taken to demonstrate their skills to college teams.
Children transitioning into middle school, will face the most difficulty. Used to a sedentary school life, in one class room, will now have the added pressure of maneuvering from class to class. Middle School Teachers have less control over how many students can be in the hallways at one time as they would in an elementary school. Some schools have suggested that teachers move classrooms after each period instead of students as a safer alternative. An article by The Atlantic addressed a child’s development around the middle school age “Late middle school is when that sweet-spot period comes to an end. While teens will likely have a better understanding of the pandemic’s dangers than younger kids, they might also be more likely to disregard them.”
Younger students in elementary schools may find it more difficult to refrain from hugging and playing with their friends who they may have not seen all summer. It is important for parents to help their young kids understand, and accept that interacting with their friends and schoolmates will be different this year. There are resources that can help parents find the right way to explain COVID-19 for those who are struggling with it.
For more information and updates on what to expect for the Fall semester, visit your school, or schools district webpage.
Aacap. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Resource_Libraries/covid-19/resources_helping_kids_parents_cope.aspx
Coughlan, S. (2018, December 12). 2018 ‘worst year for US school shootings’. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-46507514
COVID-19: Checklists to Guide Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/parent-checklist.html
Riser-Kositsky, M. (2020, June 16). Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/education-statistics/index.html
Texas Education Agency. (n.d.). TEA Announces Additional Reopening Guidance, Including Local Option for an Online-Only Start to the 2020-21 School Year. Retrieved from https://tea.texas.gov/about-tea/news-and-multimedia/news-releases/news-2020/tea-announces-additional-reopening-guidance-including-local-option-for-an-online-only-start-to-the-2020-21-school-year
Trauma in Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://nyulangone.org/news/trauma-children-during-covid-19-pandemic