CDC Guidelines For Reopening Schools

Recently the CDC released guidelines for the reopening of schools.   In Illinois, we do not yet have specific directions on statewide procedures and no official word on what the plan for the fall is, which will also likely vary by district.  However, given the CDC guidelines, it is likely that the 2020-2021 school year will still look different for many.   How different?  Only really time will tell but here are some highlights to keep in mind based on the CDC guidelines: 

  • Face coverings: it is recommended that everyone at school wears a mask.  There are three exceptions to the rule: kids under two, people who have trouble breathing otherwise, and those unable to remove the mask without assistance.  In a perfect world, this sounds like a great idea.  However, schools are not perfect worlds and anyone who has had children can attest that the mere thought of trying to keep a mask on an elementary-aged child all day is impossible.  Based on my experience one of the other concerns will be, the teacher spending more time telling kids to put the mask back on than actually teaching, not to mention once face coverings become fashion statements.
  • Ventilation:  It is recommended that there is as much outdoor air circulation as possible, by opening windows when possible.  This is great, more fresh air for the children is a great idea, however, in operation, this again can be problematic during hot days, cold days, rainy days, and of course in classrooms without windows.
  • Modified Layouts: Essentially, the guidance provides for as much social distancing as possible when in assigned seating like the classroom and busses.  However, there has been a movement within schools to create flexible seating options for students.  Teachers have created several spaces in their classrooms geared towards collaborative learning.  For example; many teachers have couches and coffee tables, dining room tables, benches, even dining booths.  All to get away from the single desk all facing the same way, which is exactly what the CDC is now suggesting.  Also, this CDC suggestion works best when the classroom is not already overcrowded as many schools are.  For example, recently one classroom, Last had 36 students and 4 adults all working in the same kindergarten room.  Not only are kindergartners known for invading everyone’s personal space, but the sheer math of trying to socially distance does not work out.  Bussing is also included under modified layouts.  Having students sit one to a row and skip rows when possible.  Doing either one of these is most cases would require 2 or 3 busses, without much guidance on how schools are financially going to be able to implement these procedures.  
  • Identifying small groups and keeping them together (Cohorting):  The CDC recommends that student and staff groupings are as static a possible, meaning keeping the same staff with the same group of kids all day and limiting exchanges between groups as much as possible.  This works at most schools for grade K-5.  However, in grades 6-12 things become a lot trickier. Teachers hold various licenses to teach, and just because a teacher is licensed to teach 7th-grade math, does not mean that teacher is licensed to teach 7th-grade language arts or other subjects.   Not only that but in many middle schools and high schools, there is constant mixing of students because of their discretion in the subject matters they are studying and their individualized needs.  

It is important to note that these are merely guidelines and not law.  States and school districts can essentially pick and choose which guidelines to adopt based on local needs.  These are also just some of the proposed precautions that have been suggested by the CDC.  However, it all points to the fact that school may not be able to reopen in the fall.  As much as the kids need them to, as much as parents and teachers want them to, it may not be possible to follow many of the key CDC guidelines in a school setting.  Schools will make the decision that is best for them and their students, however, there is also a strong likelihood that additional outbreaks might change that approach as well.  

Written by Jimmy Schellekens

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This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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