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Wondering what back to school will look like this year? These are the questions I'm asking my daughter's school so we can determine how to navigate this time.
This picture was on the last day in my classroom after fifteen years of teaching. When I walked out the door and we started our move to San Diego from Los Angeles, I knew I would be taking a sabbatical from teaching but man, I don't think I could have imagined what this year would look like. Here we are. Tying to all figure out what NEXT school year will look like and what to do.
Lydia finished Kindergarten in June, at a school we absolutely love. She thrived in the classroom setting, and I loved being involved as a room mom and volunteer. As she prepares for first grade, we are trying to figure out how to approach the next school year. Our district is offering parents multiple options from home learning with support to in person classes and when I asked over on instagram stories, a lot of you said yours was too.
These questions? The ones I'll be asking Lydia's school. I thought a lot about running a classroom, and later helping supervise a school site. What issues might arise? What do I want to know as a parent before making my decision about next year?
Thinking About Back to School? Questions to Ask
What is the policy on masks? How will it be enforced? What if a child is unable or unwilling to wear a mask? I think this will vary school to school and state to state. And it may even change throughout the school year. But I want to know the expectations (to be clear, my preference would be that children wear masks, it is hard but I think they can do it….I'll be working on a blog post about how to support that from a behavior standpoint…so stay tuned). But what happens if they don't? What about children with IEPs or 504s? And my main question….will wearing a mask be a health requirement (similar to the requirement that children be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school) or a behavior requirement? Because those fall under different codes legally and will be enforced differently as a result.
What will classrooms look like physically? How will distancing look? Will there be partitions? Will students have cubbies with all their items? Traditionally kids usually share supplies…..how will that change? Will there be handwashing stations? How many kids in a classroom? Will the classrooms be also participating in zoom teaching? Will my child be on the zoom if they are in person in a classroom?
Will there be temperature checks or health monitoring? Who will be in charge of that? I know that schools will most likely be monitoring temperatures, but what does that actually look like? What staff member will monitor? What is the threshold for sending a child home? What about kids or families who have travelled? Or teachers? What about attendance policies? Will they be changed? Doctor's notes still required for all illnesses? Or will it be encouraged to keep potentially sick children home?
What will start of day and end of day procedures look like? Varied arrivals and departures? Picture drop off time at a school. Chaos and crowded. So how will that be handled? Will there be varied times? One way hallways? Kids waiting in line outside for teachers?
Will students rotate for things like art or reading groups? In elementary school, for the most part children stay with the same teacher. But they do usually have an art class, a pe class, computer lab, reading groups or sight word practice sessions, even intervention classes or resource classes. How will those things look?
Who will provide masks and cleaning supplies? Let's be honest, we all know the statistics on teachers spending their own money on school supplies. Are we adding disposable masks and cleaning supplies to that list? Will schools be receiving additional funding for these things? Grants? Do they need parent support?
Will parent observation or parent volunteers be allowed? What about schools that function with regular volunteers as a part of their structure? Will parents be able to enter the school?
What will require a school shut down? Who is in charge of that decision? It's inevitable that cases will rise and hopefully flatten over then next year. What will trigger a school shut down? Who makes that decision? What does the protocol look like for it?
What will recesses and lunches look like? What about inclement weather? What about times when students group together? Recess and lunch? Most schools go on inclement weather for heat at the start of the school year (kids stay in the MPR or gym and watch movies instead of playing outside)….what will that look like? Is there a plan?
What do the school's air filter and air conditioning systems look like? Will the systems be updated? Added to?
Can we change our minds? Let's say we start with in person school and it feels like it's not the right fit for us. Can we change to another option once the year starts?
How as a parent can I best support the school during this time? What can I do? How can I be involved to help with the solutions and plans for next year?