To the Editor:
Now that most schools have been closed for the school year, thoughts must move to reopening them with increased efficiency (“Kansas First State to Close Schools for Rest of School Year Due to Coronavirus,” March 17, 2020). Loss of so much school time will create social and academic disruptions for all children while hurting certain groups even more.
Schools serve many unrecognized but pivotal functions. In addition to offering social supports and resources to students, schools have children with disabilities, at risk of dropping out, and with chronic behavioral needs, as well as the many who depend on schools for meals who may struggle even more in the transition back to school.
For enhanced efficiency, schools could restructure using two shifts with shortened days allowing for fewer staff and students on each shift. This would also help align with guidelines from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for social distancing and more carefully controlled interaction.
Changes to academic and nonacademic practices are long overdue. Research has shown that implementation of response to intervention and positive behavior intervention and support greatly increases instructional efficiency.
Even as COVID-19 subsides, smaller subsequent waves of infection are anticipated. This means screening every child and staff member by way of daily temperature checks and a brief questionnaire for potential COVID-19 symptoms remains of paramount importance.
Schools must prepare for academic remediation combined with use of trauma-informed practices, since many children could return traumatized from their experiences—and more so those who’ve lost loved ones. It may be wise to start the new school year by July.
Clinical Behavioral Analyst
A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2020 edition of Education Week as Reopening Schools Will Demand Change