Restoring Safe Schools: A Teacher's Perspective

Restoring Safe Schools: A Teacher's Perspective

Is it safe to reopen schools?

How do I stay safe? How do I keep my students safe? Should I wear a mask? How about my students? What if they refuse to wear one? Are face shields effective? Which masks work best?

How do I keep my students two metres apart? Since that's not possible in my classroom, how do I arrange the furniture to seat them one metre apart? What if there isn't enough space for that? Is relying on cohorts the best way to protect my students? Or is it more geared to facilitating contract tracing?

How do I promote hand washing, when my school only has two sets of washrooms? Can fifty students effectively wash their hands prior to lunch in one bathroom? Do we need to start using the sinks in the science lab or foods lab? Should I ask my students to figure this out during math class?

How will washrooms and other areas be kept clean when there is only one custodian working during the day? How do I disinfect surfaces in my classroom? How often should I disinfect surfaces? Do I need to buy my own cleaning solutions? How about hand sanitizer?

Is the virus airborne? How old is the ventilation system in our school? Should I be opening my windows to improve ventilation? What about in the middle of winter? Can we have class outside? Is outdoor education a viable option for my courses? How does that work if it is raining or thirty below zero?

How can I keep my students physically distanced during a fire drill, when usually we'd all crowd into the hallways on the way out? How many square feet does it take to distance 200 students? Where are they supposed to sit for lock down drills if we can't crowd together away from the window?

How do I teach when students shouldn't be within one metre of each other? How do I teach students to work collaboratively when they can't sit beside each other? How do I revamp my cooperative learning activities and centres? How do six separate groups of students discuss their literature circle novels while staying at a distance in one classroom? How can they do science labs when they can't share the same lab equipment?

Can students still browse my classroom library or do I need to select books for them so they don't crowd each other? Can they still take out books? How many days do I need to quarantine books before other students can use them? How can I make this system manageable? How do I make it work in two different classrooms?

How will my seventh graders react to being in the same classroom (and the same seat) most of the day? How would I like that? What kind of movement breaks can we use that still allow for physical distancing?

Can we offer extra-curricular activities this year? Which activities will need to be canceled? How strange looking will the 2020-2021 yearbook be?

What do I tell parents during opening day conferences? What do I tell students? Can I tell them I'm worried? That I'm not yet sure how to make this work? Should I put a happy face on things? Should I tell them safety is our top priority and that we'll get through this together?

What if a student gets sick? What if I get sick? What if I bring sickness home to my loved ones?

When will I feel safe in my classroom again? When will school feel normal?