Returning to school during a pandemic– How essential schools are coping with the new norm

It’s been a very—very— long 5 months for all of us with kids at home. Trying to connect to Zoom’s classroom on time after having chased down our kids to get them dressed, comb their hair and brush their teeth just to conceal on camera that we’ve been binge-watching Netflix all night. Plus, breaks and lunch are happening at the same time we’re trying to clean, cook, and work. Certainly, we can all relate to this frustrating feeling of running around like headless chickens as we strive to restore some sense of normality for our children.

It’s a tough situation to cope with when we don’t even know if a second wave of COVID-19 cases will hit us this Fall. Any parent would agree that we’re terrified of sending our kids to school knowing that they’re safe at home. These concerns are also top priority for schools as they try to adapt to the “new norm”. But know that they’re making sure classrooms and staff members are up to par with health regulations for students. So how are they solving these issues and what do they want you to know? 

We spoke to two of our Kickstarter backers, who also happen to be school principals in the US. They were both attracted to the idea of having Gino, a personal air sanitiser that destroys coronavirus, as an extra layer of protection for both students and staff.

Marieva Lozano, School Principal at Aspen Leaf Preschool in San Diego, California, who is re-opening next week! Nervous?…the answer is a definite yes. Why? For the same reason all parents are worried about having their kids leave the bubble. School is a year-round programme considered an essential business —as it is also a daycare for 9-to-5 working parents that don’t have the means to hire a babysitter or work from home. Needless to say, the pressure is on. 

During our conversation, she assured us that they’ve been working really hard to make appropriate and safe changes in how they operate, from management to cleaning procedures and have even reimagined smaller things like nap-time without affecting the curriculum too much. 

“We want our students to feel like nothing has changed in their school, and that they can enjoy their time learning and interacting with friends they haven’t seen in a while, and not think about the pandemic. The changes we are implementing as the new norm are not just for creating a cleaner/safer environment, but to provide both our staff, children and parents peace of mind”, asserted Marieva.  

And maybe–just maybe– you’ll feel more comfortable after reading what the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) has found. Evidence supported by their paediatricians and infectious disease specialists suggested that children and teens are less likely to have symptoms or severe disease from infection. They also appeared less likely to become infected or spread the virus. 

But that doesn’t mean schools are letting their guard down. Romina Bujazán, owner of the Montessori Hills Academy, located in the States, has secured a few rules at her daycare.

To stay in compliance with California’s new school license, she’s adopted a strategy to keep 90 children (and their families) safe with the following norms:

  • They will only allow 10 kids per room and only one teacher
  • Their temperature will be taken daily upon arrival to school 
  • There’s an assigned teacher for each classroom (who’s not allowed to teach on other classrooms) 
  • There will be no mixing of toys and they will be disinfected after use.
  • The use of face shields are required and hand sanitizers will be provided 
  • There will be no more break rooms–only in the garden 
  • They will have open and constant communication with the student’s parents through their newsletters and social media channels.

“Social distancing is difficult for kids”, said Romina –   but she’s hoping that operating only with the school’s skeleton staff and by aligning to her hygiene-centered approach, it will offer a plausible solution for a seemingly unsolvable issue. So far, she tested her program during Summer School and the outcome was positive: “It was full and real fun for kids,” she said excitedly.    

We know it’s a difficult concept to grasp, but we’d love to see our children slowly get back to school. These institutions represent so much more than just academics to children and teens. In addition to reading, writing and math, kids learn social and emotional skills, practice exercise and have access to mental health support and other programs that cannot be replaced with an online learning platform. Also, many families rely on other benefits like healthy meals, access to the internet and other vital services. 

So, it is impressive to see the measures that essential schools are putting in place to make sure both students, parents and staff are looked after.  As we all know – this is a day by day process, that hopefully we can all step into some kind of normality very soon. 

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