As novel COVID-19, coronavirus, continues evolving, parents and children can become more anxious about their health and well-being, as well as how their education may be affected, especially when U.S. Health Officials are suggesting possibly closing schools to stem the spread of COVID-19 in areas where the virus may become endemic.
This past week, U.S. Health Officials, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, advised school officials and university administrators to prepare for school closures, as we posted earlier and was echoed in the New York Times:
…a stark new order came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]: Get ready for the coronavirus.
….the sudden warning that if a coronavirus epidemic hit the United States, school buildings could be shut down for long periods of time, leaving children sequestered at home.New York Times, February 27, 2020
While potentially safeguarded from contracting the virus, now at home, childcare can be a challenge for families with younger children. Plus, simply substituting remote, internet-based learning for the traditional classroom creates other challenges:
The obstacles to teaching remotely were evident: American children have uneven access to home computers and broadband internet. Schools have limited expertise in providing instruction online on a large scale. And parents would be forced to juggle their own work responsibilities with what could amount to “a vast unplanned experiment in mass home-schooling,” said Kevin Carey, vice president for education policy at New America, a think tank.The New York Times, February 27, 2020
Once we address our concerns about the challenges and disruptions to our daily lives with the continued spread of COVID-19, then we can address each of the challenges one by one to plan contingencies and have frank conversations with students about their options.
Many [school] districts have already sent home letters about the coronavirus, asking parents to keep sick children away from school and to remember basic prevention measures such as hand washing, cough covering and vaccination against the flu. They have highlighted C.D.C. advice issued early this month, calling for all travelers returning from China to “self-quarantine” for 14 days.The New York Times, February 27, 2020
In the intermediate term as many K-12 schools remain open, although just today three Seattle-area school disticts closed all their campuses, and given its still the regular cold/flu season in the U.S., parents and students can ask questions about protocols for students and faculty who may be sick with COVID-19. What is the policy for excused absences? How are administrators and school health care staff screening for potential COVID-19 infections in students?
In my review of the guidance from a number of school districts as well as a variety of media sources, more details about how specific school districts will respond if ordered to close is not as evident. Thus,
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said she had contacted her own local school superintendent this week and asked if the district was prepared. She advised parents to do the same.The New York Times, February 27, 2020
In addition, parents of K-12 aged students can consider, in case of school closures, how would they would care for school-aged children who are home, yet parents still have to work? What are the policies if a student is absent to make up their school work? What are the contingency plans for the continuity of a student’s education, if a teacher must be absent for a prolonged period to care for their own families or becomes ill?
And, an essential question for any family with students: what are administrators’ plan for remote education, including how teachers are preparing to transition from a traditional face-to-face classroom to internet-based learning? What resources would be available to help my student engage online learning?
With continued monitoring of U.S. Health Officials advisories and the news about the evolution of COVID-19, then we can be proactive and prudent in preparing for any scenario. Then, our families’ well-being will be as protected as possible, while students can maintain their education with the least disruption.
Since COVID-19 is a dynamically evolving situation, please check back regularly for updates. Additionally, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions for your individual student or to share any realtime updates about how your local school officials or college administrators are addressing the spread of COVID-19. We are also available through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.