Thoughts on Opening Schools in a Covid19 World

Schools. Tough problem. I agree that kids are harmed by this isolation. I know that the economy is going to be ruined by the lack of child care. That makes getting kids into school a very high priority.

The big challenge is that sending them to school amounts to each household sending one or more representatives to a virus communication center each day.

However, children *appear* to have less ability to host the virus. It appears that this characteristic is inverse with age. That is, small children are pretty safe, both for them and the parents that receive them at the end of the day. Seniors in high school are nearly adults and not very safe at all.

Unfortunately, the practicalities of school are the opposite of what would be needed to accommodate this change in risk. The people who are kept with a single, unchanging group that would prevent cross contamination are the small children with less risk. Older kids change classroom groups several times a day in a pattern that insures that any infected kid can contamination as many people as possible.

I keep trying to imagine what could be done to make this work. There problems are intractable.

The ability to make children wear masks decreases with age. Teenagers simply will not do it effectively.

That means that social distancing is required. Schools are not constructed to support that and students will not cooperate.

Schools need to reorganize so that kids are taught in class groups that never change. For older kids, that means that teachers need to travel from room to room. Teachers, of course, will have wear good, medical masks so that they are neither exposed nor transmitting.

When in classrooms, mask wearing has to be enforced rigorously. A student who won't wear a mask has to be expelled. No mercy.

Since students would not be changing classrooms, behavior in hallways is less of a problem and the fact that students will not wear masks when not under strict control is reduced. Students should not be allowed to linger around the school when not in class.

Extracurricular activities can only occur within class groups. Anything that requires students to mix between groups has to go.

Every classroom should have a no contact thermometer and a raised temperature means class is off. Everyone goes home until 1) that kid is tested negative for covid19 or, 2) two weeks. At the end of that period, only students with normal temperatures would be allowed in. Anyone with a fever stays home unless they are tested negative for covid19.

Whereever possible, ventilation systems should be improved to maximize air exchange in classrooms. Obviously, cleaning should be maximized.

Rooms should be reconfigured to distance children as much as practical.

Rich districts should build teacher isolation mechanisms, clear glass booths or something, to isolate teachers from students both to protect the teachers and to prevent them from carrying virus from class to class.

Here is a list of questions I read somewhere about school openings that motivated my thinking...

• If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine for 2-3 weeks? Is their sick leave covered, paid?

• If that teacher has 5 classes a day with 30 students each, do all 150 of those students need to then stay home and quarantine for 14 days?

• Do all 150 of those students now have to get tested? Who pays for those tests? Are they happening at school? How are the parents being notified? Does everyone in each of those kids' families need to get tested? Who pays for that?

• What if a teacher who lives in the same house as as someone who tests positive? Does that teacher now need to take 14 days off of work to quarantine? Is that time off covered? Paid?

• Where is the district going to find a substitute teacher who will work in a classroom full of exposed, possibly infected students for substitute pay?

• Substitutes teach in multiple schools. What if they are diagnosed with COVID-19? Do all the kids in each school now have to quarantine and get tested? Who is going to pay for that?

• What if a student in your kid's class tests positive? What if your kid tests positive? Does every other student and teacher they have been around quarantine? Do we all get notified who is infected and when?
Or because of HIPAA regulations are parents and teachers just going to get mysterious “may have been in contact” emails all year long?

• What is this stress going to do to our teachers? How does it affect their health and well-being? How does it affect their ability to teach? How does it affect the quality of education they are able to provide? What is it going to do to our kids? What are the long-term effects of consistently being stressed out?

30% of the teachers in the US are over 50. About 16% of the total deaths in the US are people between the ages of 45-65.
We are choosing to put our teachers in danger.