Who could’ve predicted the mess we’re facing with Back to School 2020? I have been an educator for 15 years and never imagined I'd live through anything like this. Back to school is usually hectic and stressful, a little bittersweet, but mostly exciting. Parents and children buy new clothes, supplies, worry about who their teacher will be and pray for a good year. That is until Back to School 2020.
In other years, the biggest problem with Back to School was trying to force children to start getting back on some sort of pre summer schedule and persuading them to want to return to school. Now things are almost the opposite.
Most everyone involved, including parents, teachers and children, want to go back to school, but fear of whether it is sensible or the best decision to do so right now. Will the recommended practices be enough to keep those involved in the reopening of schools in Back to School 2020 safe? Will school practices be able to be implemented in a way that is actually beneficial or will school opening actions just damage the slight progress that has been made in slowing the spread of the virus and lead to a longer period before some sense of normalcy can be resumed? Back to School 2020 is clouded in so much uncertainty that it feels physically draining, not that this whole period hasn’t been draining.
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Back to School 2020
Back to school happens at different times across the U.S. and around the world, depending on whether year round schooling or other methods are used. Typically back to school occurs in early August or September in many places, but Back to School 2020 may look different.
When Do We Go Back to School 2020?
When will Back to School 2020 occur is one of the most asked questions. Several states and counties have started releasing Back to School 2020 plans, with many opting to delay their normal starting from early August to after the Labor Day holidays. Some have decided to begin the Back to School 2020 year offering online or virtual school options . They plan to revaluate the state of the virus and possibly move to in person instruction at a later date.
Back to School Plan
The Back to School 2020 plans, just like the Back to School 2020 start dates, that have been released have varied drastically. Many school systems intend to have teachers report to schools, beginning from late July to early to mid August and then have them provide online and virtual lessons, but some others are choosing to reopen in person.
In these Back to School 2020 plans, parents were given the choice of having their child return to physical classroom settings or being taught through online or virtual platforms.
Regardless of the plan, your school district is using, some things we can all agree on are that Back to School 2020 is filled with fear, wishful hoping and confusion. No one, not parents, teachers, administrators, our children or those in the medical field, operating in advisory roles about reopening possibilities, are free from the Back to School 2020 chaos.
As a teacher and parent, I'm not free from all of the conflicting thoughts and feelings. If anything, they may be a little more magnified. I have been trying to read, listen to and watch everything that can provide even the slightest glimmer of information on the best course of action.
From those questions, research and reflection, I’ve come up with 13 powerful facts you need to know for Back to School 2020. They appear below.
1. You have a difficult decision to make about Back to School 2020.
You, all of you and all of us, have difficult decisions to make. This includes parents, teachers, administrators, those providing counsel like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and even children. One of the most frustrating things I have noticed in all the plans I have seen is the lack of involvement of all stakeholders.
I applaud the districts that have asked parents for their feedback, but what about the teachers and age appropriate children? Parents are not the ones who will be physically attending school and potentially being endangered. It is unbelievable to me that teachers and students have not consulted more in reopening plans.
Parents, talk to your children. How do they feel about potentially returning to school? Listen to their concerns and share it/them, if needed with, with the responsible party in your school system.
Teachers, it’s time to speak up. Now, in many cases we’re not being asked for our opinion, but sitting and complaining in private group chats or on Facebook groups is not going to help. Call your unions or professional organizations and share your suggestions or concerns, while you still can, before decisions are made that you will need to live with.
Administrators and those offering counsel, decide as if the school was filled with all your children and loved ones. What is the best worst case plan that can be implemented to keep all those you’re charged with overseeing safe and educated? If you feel something is wrong or not being adequately handled, speak up. You don’t want to look back with regret realizing that you could have made a difference, but didn’t.
I know not one of us, not one parent, teacher, administrator or advisor is 100% sure about anything related to Back to School 2020, but I know we are more likely to make better decisions if we work together.
2. There might be no “normal” back to school for a while.
This Back to School 2020 fact is one that I am really struggling with. For many of us, we thought, back in March, or whenever you became aware of the virus, that if we sheltered in place and gave the scientists some time, we would have a solution before the new school year began.
Well, most of us hoped, but as the weeks ticked on and the economy started to open back up with varying levels of success, the sinking feeling started setting in that this was far from being resolved and that our normal Back to School for the 2020 school year was slipping out of our reach.
Normal school, as we know it, is not possible right now and that is a fact that we all have to accept. Parents, it is especially important that you start to talk about this with your child. They are looking forward to going back to school the way it was and need to be prepared for the new reality, if and when schools physically reopen for Back to School 2020.
Their school may look different, their teachers and classmates may be wearing masks, their classrooms may look different, how they eat, have specials, like art or P.E., will probably be different. Their sport, clubs and extracurricular activities may be different. Don’t let your child’s first discovery of any of these facts be upon their “return.” Start talking with them now.
It’s also important to share that Back to School 2020 might vary from week to week and month to month. It could start out online and then move to physical school settings only to move online again. Talk with your children about why this may be the case and reassure them as best as you can.
3. Teachers should be considered and are afraid too.
One of the most outrageous things I’ve noted and a powerful fact that you need to know, but that isn’t being considered, is about teachers. Yes, we put children first because they are innocent and many of us see it as our role, to be their protectors and guardians as well as educators, but it is ridiculous that teachers are not being considered or involved in decisions about Back to School 2020.
Every report that is released with advisories on reopening plans for Back to School 2020 shares facts that children are not affected at high rates, that they suffer from less damaging symptoms and transmit at lower rates, even though recent reports seem to contradict those facts. However, there’s a glaring problem here. Children aren’t at school by themselves. They are cared for by adults, many adults.
What about the teachers, administrators, counsellors, custodians, cafeteria staff, bus drivers and more who will be coming into contact with all these students and each other? If our schools were set up as boarding schools where all school personnel including children could be tested and then stay together for the duration of the school year that would be one thing, but it is not.
All school personnel and children have their own levels of exposure, have different immune system limitations or strengths and return to their own families, with their own risk factors.
Our educational system is filled with many educators who fall into the high risk category, based on their age or health risk factors, but no one is discussing this.
Case in point, I am an elementary educator with a trying immune system. I do not have a diagnosed reason for this, but yearly I get ill and am compromised for days, sometimes weeks at a time by a bad cold, flu, virus or bronchitis. It typically occurs in the winter.
Now, before anyone rushes to tell me how to improve my immune system. I am jokingly called the healthiest sick person people know because I eat well, perform extreme exercises and take vitamins and supplements. I’m usually pretty healthy until I’m not and then the wheels fall off. Once I recover, I do well until the next time it happens again.
I’m not special in this regard, I could list for hours all the coworkers and teachers I know, who for one reason or another would be, at a higher risk level for contracting the virus. What considerations are being made for those people? All the earlier reports said they should continue to shelter in place, but now that Back to School 2020 plans are being made, there is radio silence, as it relates to educators and their need to shelter in place.
Teachers are constantly being put in positions to be martyrs, without their consideration or consent. It happens with raging budget cuts, where we’re expected to soldier on because we love our students. Teachers have risen to that occasion by starting other businesses or finding additional streams of income to supplement their salary.
It happened again with school shootings. We immediately started participating in training to protect our children in case the worst was to happen on our campus. Now, here again we’re being asked to not only risk the lives of our children, but our own, without any true consideration of our thoughts and feelings about Back to School 2020.
If teachers aren’t truly consulted and listened to I fear any reopening plans for Back to School 2020 will fail because teachers will succumb to the fear and anger surrounding the reopening and be unable to teach and inspire at the level that they should.
4. The health and well-being of people should be our first priority.
I hear all the reasons behind pushing for an in person Back to School 2020 and for the most part they come from the desire to get people back to work and to ensure children are learning. I agree that both of those reasons are important. I just disagree that either of those should happen at the expense of someone’s life.
There have been reports from leaders that state the low percentage of deaths that may occur in Back to School 2020 reopening, but I can say I am not willing to be involved in ANY avoidable deaths, especially of children.
Every Back to School 2020 reopening plan should be centered about protecting lives and maintaining health. If there is no way to feasibly do that with an in person Back to School reopening plan, then online and virtual options need to be used until better options are available.
5. Back to School 2020 could cause trauma?
Another powerful Back to School 2020 fact that I’ve not seen mentioned is about the type of trauma that is or could be caused from reopening plans. Everyone is weighed down trying to make the best decision for their family, with too little information and sources that contradict each other.
Everyone is afraid of making the wrong decision as it relates to Back to school 2020. Parents don’t want to take the risk that their child could be a part of that percentage that is negatively affected by the virus or brings it home to others.
Teachers are afraid to be sacrificed in plans that do not adequately seek to protect them and administrators and other involved personnel don’t want to be responsible for the illness or worse of those they’re meant to protect. I don’t imagine any of us are sleeping well or doing well for that matter.
Another thought that has occurred to me about Back to School 2020 and that has caused me some anxiety is what kind of trauma would happen to children if schools physically reopened and they had to process the death of classmates and/or their teacher.
In my school setting last year, we unfortunately dealt with a few non virus related deaths, but it took a devastating toll on all the members of our school. I cannot nor want to imagine what that would look like on a larger scale.
6. What about immune compromised people in your household during Back to School 2020?
Another powerful fact that we all must consider is not just the children and adults who will physically participate in Back to school 2020 plans, but the immune compromised people in your household. The person physically attending could be asymptomatic, but then pass it along to others with weakened immune systems.
What measures will you put in place to try to sanitize and minimize the possibility of infection in your household if physical reopening of schools is a part of your Back to School 2020 plan?
7. No Back to School 2020 plan is ideal
It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, no Back to School 2020 is ideal. The ideal would be returning to our pre virus life, but unfortunately we don’t currently have that option. You may not like the Back to School 2020 plan that your school district or state settles on and then you will have to make decisions for your family, as best as possible, based on your situation.
8. There will be huge growing pains during Back to School 2020.
To elaborate on the 2nd powerful Back to School 2020 fact (mentioned above) about schools not being normal, here are some additional pieces of information you should consider as you make plans.
The recommendations, given by the CDC and AAP, encourage schools to social distance and follow many of the rules we have been struggling with as a whole. That means that the seating arrangements on school buses will be different, school social events, like classroom birthday parties, themed days and other special events, like award ceremonies, will most likely not occur to limit visitors in the building and reduce the risk of exposure. Field trips will be non-existent for the time being because there is no safe way to organize them at the moment.
On a day to day basis, your child will probably need to receive temperature checks. Their desks and participation in group work and projects will need to be adjusted greatly. Teachers nor students or parents want these changes, but if physical reopening is to be safe and effective these measures will need to be strictly enforced in Back to School 2020 plans.
9. Masks may be a thing for Back to School 2020 and we’re all doing the best we can.
In recent weeks, the debate over masks has become heated, especially for Back to School 2020 plans. People don’t want students to have to wear masks, but then that provides more danger for the teachers because though transmission from students is reduced according to some reports, it is not impossible.
Teachers are also conflicted about mask usage because of the way it will affect instruction. It will muffle the sound of students' voice and will specifically affect students who need to read lips, but will also affect all students who won’t be able to benefit from facial expressions.
Added to the Back to School 2020 debate on whether masks should be worn is the most recent debate over the type of mask that is most effective. Cloth, PPe, face guard? Who will provide these masks and protective gear? Will they be provided for all teachers? Students?
As you make preparations for Back to School 2020, especially if it will be in person, these are questions you need to ask of your school system and ways in which we should all be preparing.
10. Plan for all scenarios for Back to School 2020.
From the Back to School 2020 information I’ve already shared, you can see that we all need a plan that prepares for as many different scenarios as possible. I say this because even though your school district or school has a Back to school 2020 plan, it could all change very drastically.
Schools could open in person and then have to change to online lessons or vice versa. As difficult as it is, try to plan for as many options as possible and prepare your loved ones, especially children, as much as possible too.
11. Being negative and complaining won’t help anything for Back to School 2020.
I need this printed on billboards, shirts and bumper stickers everywhere. Well, not just for Back to School 2020, but life in 2020 in general. We are all struggling and trying to do the best we can. If you cannot contribute to the solution, then it may be best to just be quiet.
If you must vent, do so in a journal or to a loved one. Please, please, do not vent around children. They hear and see more than we realize and they do not need to carry the burden that is on the shoulders of the adults in their lives.
12. Purchase wisely for Back to School 2020
As you start making purchases for Back to School 2020, purchase wisely. Where possible, purchase items that can be wiped, washed and sanitized easily without being destroyed. You may want to purchase limited amounts, to begin with, as well. For example, you may not want to purchase your normal amount of school clothes, in the event children will be home and not need as much.
Also, you may want to purchase more individually packed items and get your child their own individual pouch etc. to keep their materials separate. In many school settings, teachers used to allow students to share resources, but that will no longer be possible, so having a clear way to keep your child's supplies separate will be a big help for Back to School 2020.
13. Send all the cleaning supplies this Back to School 2020.
Teachers and schools already struggled with cleaning and health supplies before Back to School 2020. I cannot imagine what that will now look like. If your school will be reopening in person, please purchase and send all the cleaning supplies. Teachers will need your help with soap, sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and tissues.
Not only are they dealing with an increased need for sanitary items, but school systems will be operating with greatly reduced budgets for Back to School 2020. Again, we are all in this together, so do what you can to support the schools, especially teachers, who normally purchase these items out of their own pockets.
What Will Back to School 2020 Look Like in Specific Places?
Back to School 2020 NYC
New York City schools has already released information about their Back to School 2020 plan. They intend to serve children through a blended learning approach, which means that students will report to schools and be taught on site for a portion of the week, but will then receive online instruction for other days of the week. More on the Back to School NYC plan is available here.
Back to School 2020 Florida
The Back to School 2020 plan in Florida has also been released. The Florida education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, has instructed schools to open 5 days a week, even though cases in Florida have been spiking. The Florida Back to School 2020 plan does allow for a combination of in person and online teaching to be used.
In Florida, The Florida Education Association, the biggest teacher’s union in the state, is not happy about the current Back to School 2020 reopening plans. They are so unhappy in fact that they are suing the Governor and Education Commisioner to stop the reopening of schools, without first reducing class sizes and providing protective equipment.
Back to School 2020 Texas
Texas has also released their Back to School 2020 plan and will make in person or online school options available to parents and students. This information has not been well received by some school districts that feel Texas’ Back to School 2020 plan limits their ability to protect students, staff and all stakeholders, since an in person option must be made available.
Back to School 2020 Georgia
Many school systems in the state of Georgia have decided to serve children through online or virtual classes. Some school districts are delaying their normal start days till mid August or after Labor Day. Information was recently released that the state board of education will decide on Thursday, July 23rd, if they will delay the start of school, across the state, to September 8th.
** The meeting was held as scheduled to determine the Back to School 2020 start date for Georgia, but the board of education decided to leave the decision of when to open schools up to local districts instead of mandating it statewide.
Before You Go
As I mentioned in the beginning, Back to School 2020 is leaving a bitter taste in all of our mouths. We want the best for everyone involved, but it is difficult to know exactly what that is. If you decide to homeschool or use distance learning options, here are some educational websites that are fun. One new one, Blooket, is a favorite of most children. you may also be struggling with ways to get students excited about their learning , so here are 11 proven tips to improve student engagement. Also, here are some great writing prompts for students from elementary to high school and a personalized lesson on M.L.K. you might find useful. Another resource and one that your child will love is an Owl Post Books subscription box for the best books and activities to keep your child engaged and learning.
If you’re looking for ways to break up the time spent at home with some fun activities, you may want to try a book character costume day or week or teach your child chess . You could also let them explore a new skill or hobby like art.
Is your child a reader? Do they love learning about different cultures? Then, my I am an Island Girl series, about growing up in Jamaica, may be just the distraction they need.
Do you have a younger child (preschooler or toddler) and are struggling to find ways to keep them occupied. Check out my resources for younger students that include educational and fun walking activities and unique and fun preschool activities like experiments, hunts in the house and learning Spanish.