Officials at Watertown City School District produced videos last week detailing how students should behave once they return to the classroom. The state recently authorized schools to reopen provided they submit a plan to ensure safety protocols during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Nine children participated in the project in Watertown. They demonstrated how their peers should board and exit buses, walk into their schools, enter their classes and conduct themselves during the course of the day.
“In the classrooms themselves, things will look a bit different, with fewer desks — spread [farther] apart — and fewer students at any given time,” according to a story published Tuesday by the Watertown Daily Times. “Before loading onto buses and arriving at schools, students will be asked exposure questions at home each morning and have their temperatures checked, which will be logged into an app known as ParentSquare. If they answer ‘no’ to all of the questions and they don’t have a temperature 100.0 degrees or above, students will get the ‘green light’ to attend school that day. The app will give the district the information of who was tested and who was not — the same holds true for staff — and a list will be generated for the school nurse, who will be the one taking care of anybody who did not get prescreened before coming from home.”
Watertown families opting to send their children to school for in-person instruction will do so either on Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays. This will reduce the number of people in any school at one time. All students will remain home on Wednesdays.
“Along with backpacks filled with textbooks, papers and pens, masks will be the newest back to school accessories; just as important, if not more so, than other items necessary for the school day. For students social distancing at their desks, they will be allowed mask breaks, but asked to put their masks back on when getting up,” the article reported. “Due to the size of the district and the fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ model to deal with reopening in the COVID-19 era, the district is offering remote-only commitments for families wishing to have their students learn remotely without coming to the schools. So far, [more than] 700 students have been signed up for remote learning.”
School districts across the state have put a lot of thought into how they intend to safeguard health of their students, staff members, faculty and administrators. Providing an education will be an enormous undertaking, and pulling it off during a health care crisis remains a challenge.
So we commend Watertown officials and representatives of all other school districts in Northern New York for making the effort to move forward. It’s good to see their determination in making sure children continue to receive the education they need.
But state authorities need to rethink whether they honestly believe schools can operate safely at this time. Students are bound to quickly become fed up with the minute-by-minute directives on how they should act.
Teachers often have a hard enough time keeping children engaged under normal circumstances. Imagine when students are forced to wear masks and stay away from their friends for hours at a time.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces that schools can’t open after all just before the academic year begins or decides to close them sometime thereafter.
Officials need to seriously consider how practical this approach is because it’s not likely to hold up to scrutiny.