Opening schools during a pandemic: how students and staff will be protected from COVID-19
Denman's New Elementary School (Quincy, Illinois) opened last year with state-of-the-art security measures designed to prevent mass shootings and large public spaces to encourage close collaboration. The school now fears that the coronavirus has made much of this design obsolete. Writes about it Fox Business.
As tens of millions of students across the country will soon return to schools, for the first time since March, teachers and principals are struggling to keep students socially apart in classrooms, hallways and schedules.
The secure entrances installed at Denman Elementary School before the pandemic were supposed to protect students from intruders outside the school. Now they are being upgraded with digital thermometers to protect them from the virus.
Recently teachers and workers have been overhauling the school. They turned the cafeteria into a workshop, where they assembled 200 clear plastic protective compartments from white PVC pipe and sheer shower curtains. They will be placed on desks so that schoolchildren do not contact each other.
Teachers put stickers on the floor in classrooms to mark where they could sit. Director Chrissy Cox has figured out where to divide the outdoor space for study and change.
When the students return to Denman, there will be two nurses and two offices, one for students with coronavirus symptoms and the other for everyone else. Every person who enters the building will have to measure the temperature.
In classrooms, desks should be placed as far apart as space permits and aligned in rows. According to Courtney Erfft, a fourth grade teacher who changed desks all week, this won't be easy.
Instead of sprawling out on cushions on the floor for some lessons (as was done in previous years), the entire class will be divided into small groups and asked to sit cross-legged a few feet apart.
Students have a choice: return to the school building to study in person, or study online. According to Cox, as of Wednesday, Aug 12, 81% of students said they would return to class in person.
Roy Webb, the headmaster of the school, is not sure the classrooms will remain open for long. The number of cases in the area was very low during the spring and most of the summer, but there has been an increase in recent days and many in the area are reluctant to wear face masks, he said.
Quincy, with a population of 65, has 435 confirmed coronavirus cases and seven deaths, according to the County Health Department.
High school students will alternately stay at home and attend classes in person. This hybrid model will reduce the number of students in the building from 2000 to 1000, so there will be more room in each classroom and hallway.
Also, students will alternate lunch in the school cafeteria and in the classroom. Fewer exits outside the classroom means fewer contacts.
There is even a toilet schedule. While Erfft doubts she will be able to maintain her toilet visit schedule, she is confident that she will be able to enforce the rules of disguise and social distancing.
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