As we make our way through week six of homeschooling, one thing is certain: Whenever schools do reopen in New Jersey, things will be very, very different. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released guidelines on how schools should look when they do reopen. Governor Murphy has said schools will be closed until at least May 15th but most expect schools will remain shut down for the rest of the academic year.
The question on everyone’s mind: What will school look like in the fall? How can students, teachers and staff safely return to school during the pandemic? For starters, according to the CDC guidelines, schools will likely stagger schedules to be able to properly implement social distancing measures. That could mean going to school some days and remote learning other days and staggering entry and dismissal times. It would also mean making sure desks are spaced at least six feet apart. Governor Murphy believes students will be wearing masks when they do return to school and there will, of course, be a lot more handwashing, sanitizing and cleaning.
Other CDC guidance includes:
- Limiting interactions in school: That could mean having students eat lunch at their desks and in middle and high schools having teachers move to other classrooms so students don’t mingle with others.
- Canceling school gatherings like assemblies and field trips.
- Implementing regular health checks such as temperature and respiratory symptom screenings of students, staff, and visitors.
- Creating 100 percent distance learning plans for students, teachers and staff with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Short-term closures as needed for school cleaning and contact tracing. Contact tracing is the term health officials use to identify people who may have come into contact with someone who is infected and then collecting information on the people that person has come into contact with.
The CDC has also outlined measures for other places to responsibly reopen as well including workplaces, houses of worship and restaurants. Restaurants should consider using throwaway menus and disposable dishes and utensils. They should also avoid setting up buffets, salad bars, and drink stations. Houses of worship should consider holding services via video streaming or in outdoor venues if possible.
On Monday, Governor Murphy outlined a plan that would enable the responsible reopening of the state. It includes a reduction in COVID-19 cases, expanding testing capacity, thorough contact tracing and ensuring those with the virus can safely isolate themselves from others.