As K-12 school administrators debate different options about how to re-open school campus doors to students and teachers in the fall, they are deferring to doctors and public health officials for guidance. So, families must decide, based on the most accurate information regarding the coronavirus outbreak they can acquire, what degree of risk they are willing to take beyond what the government mandates this fall. Researchers in the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota have crafted three scenarios regarding the potential progression of the virus for which we present below:
In scenario 1 (a series of waves that with each crest being no higher than the previous peak), students and parents may expect intermittent suspensions of in-person classes, where distance learning will be substituted. Alternatively, school officials may simply suspend all in-person classes for the fall and winter semesters to avoid a “start and stop” cadence to learning which can be disruptive.
If Scenario 2 is correct (a second wave of infection with a higher peak than the first wave after a reduction of cases this summer), then school officials may choose to not open campus doors at all, given for today, no vaccines are available and testing may still be inconsistent in a particular region. Also, the diversity of school populations and large geography from which students may draw creates difficulty for health officials and school district officials in managing the risks of a more wide-spread outbreak, representative of Scenario 2.
To highlight the complexities of safely returning to schools, [Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin] Beutner pointed to Topanga Elementary, which is located in the Santa Monica Mountains. The school has 315 students and staff who live across 15 zip codes. They collectively have 53 siblings and other family members who are enrolled in an additional 10 schools across the district that have more than 8,000 combined students and staff.
“The 8,418 people in these 11 schools go home to another maybe 20,000 people. Those in school at Topanga Canyon Elementary are connected to almost 30,000 people in their school community,” Beutner said.EdSource, June 3, 2020
Considering Scenario 3 (the peak of infections has already happened this spring and although there will be waves of infection, they will be much lower in number than the peak of the first wave), families may experience a hybrid approach to the school day, either alternating days when students attend in-person classes, a morning and an afternoon shift of students in the school building to reduce the number of students per class and account for social distancing protocols.
No matter a combination of the various scenarios, then parents and students may want to continue planning for disruption of what’s “normal”, including the continued suspension or radical reduction of extracurricular activities, including sports. Whatever the scenario that unfolds, Fall 2020, absent a vaccine or effective antiviral treatment, will not reflect any other Fall of recent memory, so, plan accordingly.
Jill Yoshikawa EdM, a University of California San Diego and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She can be contacted at (916) 769-6092 or firstname.lastname@example.org