The CDC has released a list of guiding principals for schools to consider whenever they begin to reopen for in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

One thing quickly becomes clear when reading the document: Whether the 2020-2021 schoolyear starts virtually or not, whenever school bells ring and students burst through the front doors again, things will look drastically different, and educators will have even more obstacles to overcome.

Some of the recommendations are logical, such as cleaning surfaces more, even if touching them isn’t the easiest way COVID-19 spreads, and frequent handwashing.

Others, however, will force school systems to make tough decisions about how they best utilize the entirety of their school buildings. Highlights from the recommendations include:

–It’s very likely that most, if not all states, will follow the CDC guideline that says facemasks should be worn in school settings.

“Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school,” the CDC notes. “Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult.”

–Cafeteria lunches could be a thing of the past. Instead, it’s recommended that students bring their own lunch, if possible, and if not, that they are served a boxed or otherwise prepackaged lunch that can be consumed in a classroom rather than a large group setting.

More: Coronavirus does not ‘spread easily’ from touching surfaces or objects, CDC now says

–Get ready for social distancing in schools. The CDC recommends that: desks or other seating are faced six-feet apart when possible and that desks all face the same way or that only one side of a long table is used. One child per school bus seat and a row between each student is also recommended when possible.

–Plastic barriers between bathroom sinks, and maybe even desks as shown in the photo of a South Korea school below, are recommended. Barriers should be installed at the teachers’ desks too, when possible, and also in the main office’s reception area, among other places.

–Cohorting is recommended, meaning that similar small groups of students and staff should stay together all day, every day, when classes are in session.

–Could we see specific and scheduled pickup and dropoff times for parents who bring their kids to school? That seems like a real possibility, as well, with the CDC writing: “When possible, use flexible worksites (e.g., telework) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for social distancing (maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet) between employees and others, especially if social distancing is recommended by state and local health authorities.”

You can read the entirety of the CDC recommendations here.

It should be noted that these are not mandates, of course, and that every state will likely operate slightly differently. That said, no state has declared when all students will return to either K-12 or college campuses, but all are certainly aiming for that to happen in the fall.


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