According to the United Nations, 1.5 billion school students around the world have had their learning interrupted by COVID-19. Some students have resources for distance learning from home, but many others are losing important learning time because of a lack of tools, services, and devices. For this reason, schools across the globe are eager to safely reopen and attempt to return to some semblance of normalcy.
Denmark was the first European country to reopen primary schools in mid-April, as secondary students returned to class mid-May. The younger children are placed in small groups of about a dozen students, and they spend the entire day with only those children and teachers within their group. This system keeps them in minimal contact with others. They follow different schedules, wash hands every two hours, and use outdoor classroom spaces whenever possible.
In South Korea, students briefly went back to school, only to have them closed again two weeks later. They are slowly reopening with increased efforts to avoid contamination. High schools are allowed two-thirds of the student population in schools, while elementary, middle, and special education schools are allowed to welcome one-third of their students. They have workers disinfect the classrooms and offices between classes, and they use dividers while they eat lunch at their desks.
In China, students are having their temperature taken upon entry into school buildings and showing clearance for entry through an app on their phones. They are wearing masks and sitting at appropriate distances from one another. A school in Hangzhou posted photos of young students wearing special homemade hats to help them learn to keep a proper distance. In Taiwan, children must disinfect shoes and hands before entering the building and before each class. They wear masks and learn at their desks behind dividers.
School may never again look the same for any of us, and we should be prepared to adjust and remain flexible as we go. The United States is learning from the experiences of other countries. We all have the same goal in common- getting all children around the globe back to the classroom as safely and smartly as possible.