Remember that winter — I think it was 1992-93 — when it started snowing on Halloween and never stopped?
There were a dozen or more snow days, but at the end of the year there was some sort of special dispensation from Harrisburg so the days did not have to be made up. The kids turned out OK, despite that lapse.
But now, what is probably one of the oddest school years ever is coming to a close, largely without students in the classroom. It’s all so different. It’s months, not days, without actual time in the schools, and nobody really knows what to do or what the long-term effects on students will be. There is the fear that the so-called summer slide will transform into a fall fiasco if schools can’t open.
What would rural districts like ours have to do in order to make it safe for students and faculty to come back to school?
Reconfigure the bus routes, for one thing, because you can’t have people sitting shoulder to shoulder for an hour or more twice a day. So, more drivers (who would have to be tested for the coronavirus regularly), more busses on the road, people to disinfect the busses every day.
Maybe the school day could be split, with half the students coming in the morning and half in the afternoon, which, again, would be a transportation nightmare. Would it be better to have large classes in the gym, where students could keep their distance, or have small classes that would be easier to keep clean. What about lunch? Sports?
It seems clear that until there is a vaccine, bringing students to school without testing that is affordable and readily available to everybody may not be very safe.
It’s also become very clear that not every household has the resources to facilitate at-home learning. All of a sudden, it’s obvious that not all parents are interested in or able to stay home and help with homework, that not every kid has internet access or use of a device to work on.
Homeless students, young people whose first language isn’t English, kids with special needs — what happens to them? What about the dedicated educators who are trying their best to stay connected with their students and coworkers, but are justifiably sick to death of Zoom or whatever substitute for face-to-face they have to use?
It might make a person question the wisdom of centralizing school districts, but that may be a topic for another time.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress this week that access to a vaccine in time for schools to reopen in the fall might be “a bit of a bridge too far.”
Donald Trump said that is not an acceptable answer.
“The schools are going to be open,” the president said. “Will something happen? Perhaps. You can be driving to school and some bad things can happen, too.”
Well, that’s reassuring. If the virus doesn’t get your kid, some random “bad things” on the drive to school might. I wonder if Mr. Trump will be sending his own son off to school in the fall with such a cavalier attitude?
We’d all like to see schools open in the fall, but making that happen safely is going to take work, cooperation, innovative thinking, money and science.