Local school leaders are methodically moving in that direction, with commonsense safety protections.
But they will have to overcome an understandable wariness among parents — and teachers.
After being drilled for months about the need to take precautions — hand washing, wearing masks and social distancing — they are worried whether classroom safety measures will be enough to address the risk.
Marin County schools Superintendent Mary Jane Burke hopes to help quell those worries via a weekly webinar with public health officials to detail the anti-virus safeguards built into the state and local guidelines for resumption of school.
The webinars can be found on the marinschools.org website under “Rethinking Schools.”
Burke’s hope and goal are that the schools — and teachers and children — are ready to open in August.
It won’t, however, be the same. But educators stress that the online instruction most local students were able to receive after school closures was no match for classroom learning.
When schools reopen in August, students and teachers will be wearing masks and undergo daily health screenings. Classroom desks will be arranged to keep students at a safe distance from one another — a logistical measure that will likely result in limiting the number of students in a classroom, and those classrooms and school equipment will be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
Educators are trying to create the safest possible environment for students and teachers. Burke’s office is also working closely with private and parochial schools.
But perhaps the biggest hurdle will be overcoming concerns among parents and teachers that the changes and precautions will not be enough.
After all, the number of COVID-19 cases has climbed well over what it was when schools were shut down, partly the result of increased testing, but also due to the spread of virus and people failing to abide by public health precautions.
It is unlikely parents are going to send their children back to the classrooms if they feel there is a risk. They are going to side with the health of their children.
Redesigning classrooms and making sure classrooms are equipped for social-distancing standards, and that disinfectant measures and supplies are in place, may be the easy part for local school leaders.
Local educators face a steep learning curve in convincing parents and teachers that those classrooms will be safe.
Burke is taking a strong step by launching weekly online reports. Local school districts need to devote time and resources on allaying understandable concerns.
A return of pupils and teachers to safe classrooms and learning environments is a goal we all share.
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