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Young

Imagine your K-12 school days. Elementary school: Playing with your friends at recess … sitting on the rug for group time … sitting at a table/desk in a group of 5 other students… High school: sitting in a class of 35 students …having to change classes … hanging out with your friends at lunch and between classes in the crowded lunch rooms and hallways … giving hugs and dap and high fives … going to sports events and sitting in the crowd watching your team … participating in the sport and being around your teammates … attending a pep rally, prom and graduation and being around all of your classmates.

To some of us, those were the good ol’ days. However, at the moment the future is uncertain. Will we ever go back to the good ole days or has COVID-19 changed these rituals for good?

As a candidate for a master’s degree in public health as well as a public school teacher, I have many concerns as to how school will look in the future. Although washing hands is something that should be the norm, social distancing and staying away from large crowds is going to be an issue when we discuss the future of public school education as we know it.

I’m not sure when the last time you were in a classroom, but I’m sure it has changed since the times when you were a student. One of the major changes has to deal with technology. The schools in Clayton County moved to Digital Learning for this past semester, and they plan to use a feature called Extended Learning Beyond the Classroom for the upcoming school year. The schools are trying to do everything that they can to make sure students are not negatively affected academically during the pandemic. While this covers the educational piece when not in the classroom, what can be expected when returning back to school physically? There are many policies that will have to be changed/implemented before thinking about a return to schools.

Just as Gov. Kemp outlined policies in order to begin opening businesses, the school system will have to implement new policies as well. Several issues will have to be addressed, including how students and teachers can practice social distancing when there are more than 15 students in a class, how can students stay 6 feet apart between classes and during lunch, and how will schools manage sports and other events where social distancing is not possible? Will students and teachers be required to wear masks? If they choose not to wear a mask, what will happen? How often will the school and classrooms be sanitized? There are several policies that need to be implemented in order for everyone to stay safe.

CDC and public health experts have consistently offered guidelines of what to do in order to remain safe and help to stop the spread of the virus. These include: Washing and sanitizing hands frequently with soap and water; sanitizing surfaces; keeping hands away from face; social distancing; wearing masks to protect yourself and others when social distancing is not possible; and limiting the number of people in close proximity. These recommendations and guidelines come from years of research of best practices. Their type of work is done to keep us safe so the least the general public should do is follow their guidance and help stop the spread.

If we as citizens adhere to these guidelines, although school and life might look different than it did in the past, we will be able to start learning how to adapt to our new norm sooner rather than later.

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Kristen Young has an interest in math, education and public health. She teaches at Forest Park High School.

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