School reopening is again garnering the attention of the nation. The main questions on everyone’s mind are “to reopen or not to reopen” and what is the best and safest way to do it.
While there is a small percentage of children that are actually thriving at online learning during pandemic, still the main consensus is that kids are stressed, tired and not comfortable doing online learning. Many experts point out the lack of socializing and how it can affect kids’ development as one of the reasons why schools need to reopen. But lack of socializing is not the only reason why school reopening is being discussed so much nationally. School reopening is a multifaceted issue that touches on things like, poverty, internet access, children’s safety at home, new models of education among many others. Lack of leadership from above, lack of clear direction left school districts all over the nation scrambling to find a solution to educate children in a safe way during the pandemic.
Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had issued guidelines for safe school reopening. Among the guidelines, the CDC is encouraging to stay home when appropriate. For example, if someone in the family tested positive for COVID-19, the child should stay home. The CDC is recommending masks and encourages everyone to practice hand hygiene. One of the points the CDC makes is that schools need to have their ventilation systems upgrades, which often is not possible in many public schools strapped for funds and located in old buildings. The agency also suggests for schools to consider alternating schedules to make sure less people are in the building so the safety guidelines can be practiced easier. Schools in Quad Cities are already doing this as well. All in all, the CDC provides very detailed guidelines, but many of those guidelines are being already practiced in local schools. For detailed information about safety and school reopening please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html.
Latest statistics on infection rates and hospitalizations show that things are looking better than they were a month ago. Hospitalizations and death rates are going down. The same trend holds in the Quad Cities, but the experts warn that it is not the time to relax, take masks off and open schools fully. Some experts warn of another surge in the spring and then there is a matter of variants of the virus. Currently, there are three main strains that are spreading quickly. There is what they call British or variant from the United Kingdom, Brazilian and South African strain. Some studies show they are more infections and the South African strain seems to lessen the effect of the newly developed vaccines. A few days ago, the Illinois Department of Health announced that they found a South African variant in Rock Island county and they are tracing it. There are more than 20 cases of the variant from the United Kingdom in Illinois as well.
Vaccinations are being offered to some groups in the state of Illinois, but they are not yet available to everyone and this is another point that many see as an important thing to consider when deciding on school reopening. All the current and important information about COVID-19 vaccinations and eligibility can be found on https://richd.org/
There is no great and perfect answer for the questions of should schools reopen or not and how to do it safely. This is something that each community or even each school district has to decide on its own. Only communities, parents, school districts and even students could come to a solution about school reopening. Locally, school districts try to remain constantly in contact with parents informing them of any changes they might be planning.