Planning the safe reopening of our schools

This article originally appeared in ESchool News on June 29, 2020 by Robert Low.

Reopening schools will require creativity and attention to safe health practices--here's how some schools are getting started

The extent of the challenges and unknowns involved in safely reopening our schools may seem daunting, but educational organizations and schools now involved in the process are developing helpful frameworks and innovative solutions that show what can be accomplished and how.

Representatives of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), accompanied by a team working on the plan for a Brooklyn, NY charter school, explained during a recent edWebinar how they are proceeding and what has already resulted. High-stakes decisions and a lot of work still remain, but the progress made so far can help other educators and stakeholders proceed while also helping everyone continue to learn from each other.

The last point is one of the key takeaways from the edWebinar. Teachers, parents, and other members of the community not only need and deserve to be heard during the planning process, they can actually contribute crucial insights and expertise that will facilitate and accelerate the safe reopening of schools.

Combining public health with high-quality instruction As explained by Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Senior Director for Education Issues at the AFT, the reopening framework developed by the AFT is considered a road map rather than a blueprint, because they don’t have all the answers yet, and many of the decisions should be based on local facilities and circumstances. A top-down, one-size-fits-all template simply cannot be effective due to the diversity of America’s communities, schools, and students. The AFT framework focuses on when and how to reopen, but also considers when to reclose if necessary. With the ongoing safety of students and staff as the number-one priority, the framework requires the use of science and data to guide the reopening process and emphasizes the importance of meeting the needs of all students, including those who are at risk or have special needs.