I don’t know if you all have seen the new guidelines that were released this week by the CDC for reopening schools. The above image started floating around on social media yesterday afternoon and into the evening. I wasn’t sure if it was an accurate depiction of what the CDC was recommending or who created it, so I did a little digging on the CDC website myself. While some of these things listed in this image are in accordance with the guidelines, this image doesn’t give the full story. I highly recommend that you read what is on the website versus just going on this image alone. One thing that this graphic doesn’t state is that the actual CDC guidelines say, “when feasible.” It seems to me that they are aware that some of these will be difficult for schools to implement, but this is still what they recommend. The very first paragraph of the guideline states, “Schools can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials to the extent possible, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.”
Now, let’s get real. As an educator to my core, I have to give my thoughts on all this. While I understand the importance of trying to follow these guidelines to keep everyone safe, they really are all completely unrealistic, not feasible, not practical, and not acceptable. As a former teacher of 17 years, I can’t imagine for the life of me how schools would be able to follow the majority of these recommendations. I know (as stated) these are only guidelines and not requirements at this point, but I just don’t see how schools will be able to open if this becomes what is expected when school resumes in the fall. Have the members of the CDC that created these guidelines ever stepped foot into a public school?
Let’s take a look at a few of these and talk about why they are not realistic or even “feasible.”
Cloth Face Coverings
“Teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings. Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school. 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. Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently.”
Good luck with that one! At least they recognize that this will be difficult for younger students. I can promise you that preschoolers and most elementary students are not going to be able to keep a mask on all day without messing with it or constantly touching their faces. I honestly don’t even think my own middle and high school kids can do it. Teachers will be telling students to wash their hands all day instead of actually teaching. As a former special education teacher, many of my students had significant sensory issues and would not at all be able to wear a mask. Plus, there are many people that don’t have access or the means to buy cloth face masks. Is the school system going to provide them if this becomes an expectation?
“Space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible. Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.”
This is a big one. There is absolutely no physical way that desks can be 6 feet apart. There is not enough space in the classroom, enough classrooms, or enough teachers to make this happen. Some schools have thousands of students. Class sizes would have to be reduced to no more than 8-10 students to maintain 6 feet. While a reduced class size is a dream scenario for teachers, it isn’t physically possible because it would mean more classrooms and teachers are needed to be able to educate all students. There is already a teacher shortage, and there is not enough money to build more classrooms or add enough trailers behind the buildings to accommodate this recommendation. This also limits how teachers instruct and best practices for learning. Group projects and hands-on learning will be nearly impossible. Teaching as we know it will be completely different and not allow for differentiated instruction.
“Create distance between children on school buses (g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.”
This is another one that is physically impossible due to a lack of bus drivers and buses. School systems barely have enough buses and drivers to accommodate all students when they are packed in 3 to a seat in some areas. There is no way they will have enough drivers and buses to meet these guidelines. It would take the buses and drivers all day going back and forth to get all students to school. This will also increase the cost for gas to do multiple runs, which school systems don’t have the money for.
“Close communal use shared spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds with shared playground equipment if possible; otherwise, stagger use and clean and disinfect between use. Have children bring their own meals as feasible or serve individually plated meals in classrooms instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria, while ensuring the safety of children with food allergies.”
They are suggesting that schools not utilize the cafeteria and instead have students eat in the classroom. While that is possible with bagged/prepackaged lunches or lunches from home (as suggested), it means that teachers will not get a break from their students at all. They would have to remain with their students during lunch. In many states it is the law that teachers get a 30-minute, duty-free lunch. In addition, if schools were to close communal spaces like playgrounds and gymnasiums, it would mean that there will be no recess or physical education. Students NEED those things. They need opportunities for physical activity, especially at the elementary level. I just don’t see this as being a possible action. There is not enough staff or time to effectively clean and disinfect equipment if schools were to have these cafeterias and gyms open and stagger use.
Identifying Small Groups and Keeping Them Together (Cohorting)
“Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children). Limit mixing between groups if possible.”
This is probably the one that would negatively impact the schools the most. While it is more feasible in elementary schools to keep students with one teacher all day long, it would mean that specialist that teach subjects like art, physical education, and music won’t have jobs. To expect elementary age students in particular to stay in one room all day long without any physical activity at all is setting them up for failure. Their little developing brains need those breaks.
I honestly do not see how it would even be possible in the middle and high schools. Teachers are not equipped or certified to teach all subjects at these levels if students were to stay with one teacher. It is not realistic to think a high school Science teacher can teach English, Calculus, World History, Foreign Language, and Elective Classes! If systems instead tried to create cohorts that travel together between teachers to limit exposure to other students, I believe it will be difficult to find enough groups of students that are all taking the exact same 7 courses. I can see this being a scheduling nightmare, as well as, limiting the amount and variety of courses offered to students.
As you can see if you read the whole document on the CDC website, there are even more recommendations on the list than the few I just briefly covered. There are many more reasons why the majority of these recommendations are completely unrealistic and not at all “feasible.” I have only given a few that popped into my head right away when I read the guidelines. If these guidelines do eventually become necessary requirements to keep people safe, I don’t see how students will ever be able to go back to school. Online learning will have to become the norm. I really am all for keeping everyone safe and healthy, but I am also all for being realistic. No one really knows how this is all going to play out, but the one thing I do know is that the education system is going to be forever changed.