When we thought school was getting back to normal (a new normal), a new COVID-19 variant arrived and is more contagious. Earlier in December, the Biden administration rolled out a new plan to keep students in school. As the calendar reads 2022, many school districts around the country are grappling with the possibility of going back to remote learning. President Biden’s plan called “test to stay” is an approach that instead of mandatory quarantines for unvaccinated students identified as close contacts, those students can remain in school if they test negative for the virus at least twice during the week after they are exposed.
We have come a long way since March of 2020. We saw the impact of the first wave of COVID-19 back in March 2020. We know what to do; we have protocols to keep those in schools safe. We have proper temperature checks, masks, sanitizers in many schools, many staff members are vaccinated. We are better prepared for the virus.
As we have learned with other aspects of education, not all school districts are the same. Some school districts are better equipped to welcome students back. Many would agree that students learn better in person. Many teachers would prefer to teach in person than remote. If a school lacks masks, temperature checks, testing kits, other PPE, they should not open. I do not think a school should open where they are short on teachers because combining students in a classroom or auditorium is unsafe. I have heard stories where half the teaching staff is sick, and schools are still opening. In those situations, they need to move to remote learning or keep the school closed. Schools also need to consider the inventory of their technology. Do they have the technology for all students, including computers, iPads, chargers, internet if needed?
This time around, the decision to open or close school should be left up to the school districts. The federal, state, and local governments should stay out of this decision. School superintendents, district leaders, school boards, and school communities should decide whether their schools should open or not. District leaders need to take an inventory of all medical and technology in the district to ensure they have what is required to make the right decision. They need to engage with principals, teachers, and parents. They need to talk with community leaders and partners.
There is so much that goes into this decision. Schools need to look internally and decide what is best for their district.