A lot of children are heading back to school in the United States, and that means a lot of children, teachers, and administrators are adjusting to the new normal.
Teachers have started sharing photos of what in-person schooling looks like across the country, and some of the images are pretty grim.
Most of the teachers and schools are trying hard to follow the guidelines suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These include keeping children 6 feet apart, washing hands frequently, and wearing masks in schools. However, the changes are still a lot to adjust to, and seeing the photographed reality is a stark reminder of all that has been lost and changed over the last few months.
While parents and teachers have been pretty divided over whether or not kids should even be back in school right now, a lot of families don’t really have the option to not have their children return to in-person schooling. No matter what choice a family goes with, there are still a lot of questions that don’t have answers yet.
Here’s what in-person schooling is looking like around the United States right now.
A lot of teachers are really struggling with the 6-foot minimum that the CDC recommends. Most classrooms are simply not large enough to accommodate that kind of distance between desks and tables that children sit at. One woman noted that she helped set up her mom’s classroom and could only get the desks 3 feet apart.
Another teacher said that “social distancing” at her school doesn’t look like anything the CDC recommends. While the rows of desks are spaced out, each row is filled completely with desks that are side by side. It’s difficult to imagine children not invading one another’s space when you see something like this.
Other districts have gotten rid of individual desks and are opting for tables that the students can share with one other person. Teachers are also required to stand behind a line that has been taped to the floor. While this distancing idea might allow 25 to 30 students to fit into a classroom, it still raises eyebrows.
One school has come up with a solution that is pretty creative. It has installed barriers similar to what many grocery stores have begun using to shield cashiers from customers who might have the virus. However, much of the area around the desks is still wide open, which leaves kids vulnerable to germs.
Another teacher pointed out that her classroom can only hold six desks if she tries to adhere to proper social distancing … and she typically has 20 to 25 students in a classroom. Her own child will be participating in school via distance learning this year.
In addition to navigating dismal conditions and physical realities, teachers are also concerned about the emotional impact of social distancing on kids in a classroom. As one teacher pointed out, this isn’t exactly an environment that looks like a cozy space in which to learn something new.
Teachers are also having to deal with coming up with creative ways to keep their kids safe with masks and disinfectant sprays. One teacher shared the personal protective equipment (PPE) that her school has supplied her with for the entire year: a homemade face shield, one single-layer mask, a bottle of disinfectant spray, and one pair of gloves.
Others are coming up with inventive ways to make sure the materials in their classrooms aren’t covered in germs. One teacher used a clear shower curtain to cover the books and supplies on a shelf. That way kids can see what is available, but they can’t immediately rush over and touch everything.
All school districts are definitely not created equal, and that’s a serious problem many teachers are facing. One teacher shared that she’s visited her classroom a few times this summer and there’s never been any soap available. She finally decided to buy her own.
Teachers are also taking it upon themselves to supply their own protective equipment. This is especially true in districts that are already underfunded.
A teacher explained that she will be wearing multi-layered masks and face shields that she bought for herself. “It pains me to say that I don’t trust the quality of the PPE that will be supplied by my underfunded urban public school district. I don’t feel safe as a teacher.”