While many classrooms across the world remain closed in 2020, some schools have indeed opened up this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
As one might expect, these classrooms don’t look the same. In order to safely re-open K-12 school buildings, school administrators have had to work closely with district state, federal, and even global organizations like the CDC to find ways to protect everyone entering the school as much as possible. While not an ideal circumstance to have to navigate (nor safe, for that matter), some schools may not have a choice but to open due to local laws, policy, and legislation. For those schools and classrooms, things are very obviously different. Here are 9 ways COVID has changed the average classroom–and will continue to until a vaccine is achieved and distributed sufficiently enough to halt community spread.
The Drop Off Line
The drop off line at school looks a little different this year. Instead of parents getting out to help their children out of the car, the child is expected to do it all on their own. Staff members wait along the sidewalk to help navigate the students into the classroom. If children walk to school, the parents cannot walk them into their classrooms. Rather, they’re expected to let them go at the corner.
Masks and face shields are a normal sight in classrooms. Many of the younger students aren’t forced to wear a mask all day, but most do wear face shields in class. When these younger students walk out of the room, they’re usually required to wear a mask. Older students are required to wear a mask during special classes like Art, Music, PE, etc.
The classrooms won’t look as full this year. Most schools have smaller classroom loads, so it’s ‘easier’ to space students out. The desks are at least six feet apart and are often all facing the same direction. The learning stations are modified so that students are able to sit further apart. Some schools installed physical barriers like sneeze guards between desks. There are sanitizing wipes, soap, and wipes everywhere you look in the classroom.
The use of shared objects in a class isn’t allowed in most classrooms during COVID. Items that are tough to clean are not to be shared. Each child should have their own supplies individually labeled. There should be enough supplies, so students are not sharing them. This means each student should have their own art supplies, notebooks, crayons, etc. They should never share electronic devices, books, or other learning aids.
Many schools are trying their best to get better ventilation. Some schools also installed high-grade filters and HVAC systems. Others are simply trying to open the windows and doors more. In addition to properly wearing an effective mask while distancing 10′-12′ apart, ventilation and filtration are among the most powerful ways to protect students from COVID in a classroom.
Congregating in the hallways or after lunch isn’t going to happen this year. Educators urge social distancing to anyone in the building. Even standing in line at the cafeteria means standing six feet apart. Instead of high fives and hugs, students wave hello and give air hugs. Instead of playing crowded games in PE, students do exercises or run (at least) 6′ apart (10′ or more is better).
Some classrooms are moving online. Instead of going into an actual classroom, some schools choose to hold virtual classes. This also happens in many schools when a classroom or entire school is forced to quarantine. Students log into different classrooms where a teacher educates them virtually as if they were in the physical classroom.
Before anyone even walks into a school building, they’re expected to monitor their symptoms. If anyone in the household is exhibiting symptoms of a basic cold, they must fill out a form. Many schools even take the temperature of students as they enter the building. Stopping the virus spread starts at home, so everyone in the house is expected to follow these guidelines.
Better COVID Testing
Many parents understand there will be a need for multiple coronavirus tests this year, especially since a cold isn’t just a cold until you get a negative COVID test result. That’s why there are now home testing kits. The Everlywell COVID test kit is one of these tests that you can take in the comfort of your own home. You collect your sample and ship it for secure digital results. You get these results back in about 24-48 hours (once the lab receives your sample). COVID testing is getting easier for parents and students. Instead of waiting in a line to get tested, many are opting for the at-home tests.
Classrooms across the country are going to look different for the time being. Only time can tell when a traditional day of school will be normal again. (Here’s hoping the 2021-2022 school year is as close to normal as possible.) The pandemic has changed the way the world approaches education. The classrooms may be smaller with extreme sanitizing efforts, but the knowledge and power given to students to face the future are more critical now as they’ve ever been.
For schools in districts where there is no choice but to open, COVID safety strategies are a must.