Extended school closures should not become indefinite with schools scheduled to reopen quickly following a specific planning period.
Extended school closure must be reconsidered. Briefer school closures that specifically allow time to restructure and reorganize the school day could be a key. Blanket, extended school closures may create their own very negative cycles which then feeds into and may greatly exacerbate current social, academic and medical disruptions.
Extended school closures also risks impacting and hurting a broad spectrum of selected public school students even more than others. Children across a range of disabilities; children with more explicit social/behavioral need; children depending on schools for a meal or two each day; ESL; students at risk for dropping out; kids with deficits in social skills and learning readiness...more....schools serve often wholly unrecognized but pivotal functions which simply can't stop.
These services and instruction stop at tremendous risk to all children and their families which
will likely become far more difficult to pull back together once schools resume after significant closure times. So many children home with nothing to do even where online is attempted is neither productive nor useful. So many families trying to figure out what to do next is also not productive.
Instead of extended closures, schools should consider and reorganize towards shortened days which would divide school numbers in half using two shifts each day thereby reducing the overall numbers at any one time. Since there'd be more space in schools with each shift, students and staff could spread out through the school towards an increased degree of social distancing.
This would also mean fewer kids on school buses per shift while encouraging those who can do so to walk and/or be brought in by parents/caregivers to reduce school bus numbers even more and get kids to school.
A shift structure to the school day would then necessitate changes to selective practices both instructional/academic and non-academic rather than stopping the schools. For instance, correct and comprehensive implementation of demonstrated effective school wide systems as the PBIS/RTI model would greatly contribute to increased instructional and systems efficiency.
Practices to include Instructional Differentiation becomes more valuable and easier to implement with reduced student numbers per shift. Fewer students at a time can also allow for more efficiency in the instructional support of children with more explicit social and behavioral challenges which interfere with their success and can disrupt the school day. This time period for planning could also allow serious consideration towards a national implementation of a 12 month public school model.
Creating authentic, school driven and authorized online instruction should also be prioritized since a percentage of families will likely prefer to move in this direction at least for the time being. From homeschooling to private providers, a wide range of online instruction and instructional models are currently available some of which are excellent while others not so much. Some are taught with a specific agenda while others hew more to common core and curricular benchmarks.
For those less familiar, sorting through this online variability can be confusing and time consuming. Online instruction through and/or directly sanctioned by respective school districts taught be licensed teachers should become an increased priority. Schools districts would then be providing online instruction which aligns with the classes being offered in their brick and mortar setting thereby ensuring that all students are fundamentally learning the same thing from a known and professionally aligned source.
Change is needed
We know that kids are much less impacted by COVID-19 &, fortunately, infected (symptomatic) at much lower rates. But we also know kids can carry very mild infections which are not particularly good for families kept in constant close quarters. Will that help contain COVID or could it increase risk of a more rapid spread especially among older more vulnerable citizens and family members?
Fewer staff and fewer kids per school day shift which also actively incorporates best CDC/WHO medical practices with regular health and temperature checks could be far more efficient. Schools should plan to re-open as soon as possible - just differently following the planning needed that will make much better and safer use of the school day.
Public schools have long needed major structural overhauls to include far more efficient use of the school day, of instructional time & practices. The global COVID catastrophe could still bring positives to include forcing a major rethink of public education by altering public education practices for the better towards still more efficiency and full inclusiveness