Reopening Schools in a Pandemic

Lots of upset people on Facebook today. The push from the White House to restart face to face instruction in school and university is scary, especially to teachers.

If you are upset, then you are feeling exactly what we were feeling in China back in April when we received word that schools would reopen on April 24. We were upset. We were livid. We met together (on Zoom) to strategize and plan and figure out how we would stop the reopening from happening. It was just too dangerous.

And then we were told to come to school for COVID tests, which were required of everyone before the school could reopen, and reluctantly, we went. When we arrived, we were amazed at how organized our Chinese staff was. We were social distancing, everyone was wearing masks, it was very well planned and organized, and it was incredibly reassuring. Maybe we could do this.

And so, on April 24, we reopened. It was extremely strict. Meter distancing. Nobody in the building without passing a COVID test first. We scanned a QR code every day when we arrived that confirmed that we hadn’t travelled. The rooms were set up so that the students would be separated, and we had spare rooms in case someone became sick during school. And quarantine tents. Hand sanitizing stations everywhere. Certain routes students could take. No more than one person in the bathroom at a time. Everyone masked all the time. And the classes were a continuation of distance learning, just in the school. No actual face to face instruction allowed.

It was incredibly strict and monitored and careful. We did this for almost two months, with regulations coming down from the Chinese version of the CDC every day. And we complied all the time.

By the way, this was only after our city had gone weeks without any new domestic cases of the virus. Understand that: the reopening did not happen until the virus was essentially done in our city, but everyone continued with precautions.

Since the reopening, with a continuation of no new cases, we’ve been able to reopen even more. Summer school has proven to be much less restrictive, with social distancing encouraged but not patrolled, masks being worn, but optionally. Face to face instruction encouraged. I’ve been actually teaching these last three weeks.

We’re pulling out of this thing after months of hard choices and hard work. And we’ve still not had any new local cases. That’s what has enabled things to return to normal.

Meanwhile, in America, lots of people are upset today. The push from the White House to start face to face instruction in school and university is scary, especially to teachers.

As well it should be.

Looking at the latest numbers of new cases in America, uncertainty about reopening schools is exactly as it should be.

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