Teachers concerned about the CDC’s school guidelines

Teachers concerned about the CDC’s school guidelines

Ashley Fisher

As schools make plans to open buildings back up, there is controversy over what the “new normal” will look like in the education system.

On May 19, the Centers for Disease Control released recommendations for schools to consider upon students’ return. Teachers, students, and parents have all expressed their concern and doubt that these guidelines will effectively be implemented in public schools.

Many of the recommendations are realistic such as washing hands often, encouraging staff and students to stay home when they are sick, and preaching basic hygiene like covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. However, others are much more difficult to achieve in a public school.

These difficult recommendations include no sharing (including electronics, books, school supplies, and other games, toys, or learning aids), keeping desks six feet apart, attempting to keep distance between children on school buses, installing physical barriers (such as sneeze guards and partitions), keeping staff and children six feet apart in hallways by using tape on floors and signs on walls, closing cafeterias and playgrounds, using “flexible work hours” to limit people in the workplace (some e-Learning and some in-person learning), and conducting daily health checks (such as temperature checks).

Especially in a school like Blythewood High with over 2,000 students, many of these recommendations are almost impossible to implement in everyday life and learning.

Spanish teacher Mrs. Meredith Blocker expressed her concern about these guidelines. She shared, “I don’t think the guidelines make a ton of sense when thinking about how school operates and how small children behave. I am hopeful they are going to make some changes to them that will be more reasonable and allow us to still function as a high school. I am 100% for keeping us safe, but we just need to figure out how to do that best.”

While it is very difficult to ensure social distancing happens in a high school, it is almost more difficult to effectively implement these procedures in an elementary school.

Kindergarten teacher Ms. Amy Novack stated, “One of the CDC recommendations is that children sit in desks or at tables, all facing the same direction, spaced six feet apart.  This is not possible with our current class sizes.  Even if I had enough tables/desks for each child in my class or enough space to separate students, kindergarten students have little understanding of personal space and no concept of staying six feet apart.”

Elisabeth Luck is both an elementary school teacher and a parent to a high schooler and a preschooler. She shared “as both a teacher and parent I understand the practical need for resuming school days as we’ve always known them. But my heart knows it’s not that simple. The CDC is a collection of scientists, not teachers. Sure their ideas coincide with safety measures in an ideal, COVID crazy world. But there is no way to realistically apply all that they suggest and meet the educational needs of our students in a developmentally appropriate way. In other words, there is no easy fix and my heart is sad to think that those in charge are likely neither parents nor teachers.”

Not only are teachers and parents worried about these new guidelines, but students are as well. Students all across the country are nervous that these expectations will not work out as anticipated and that the way they have always known school will never exist again.

Connor Fisher is a fifth-grader at Round Top Elementary and is getting ready to start his new adventure at Blythewood Middle School. This stress of starting middle school is now doubled for him and many other students with the possible implementation of these unrealistic recommendations. He said, “I’m already worried about middle school and having to find my way around a new school and now knowing that school will probably never be the same is making this stress worse. I really don’t think that these rules will actually work in any school.”

Rising senior Abby Jones is anxious that she will not be able to have the senior year most students expect to have and dream of having. “I know these rules are necessary to keep everyone as healthy as possible, but it’s so sad I may never be able to walk the halls of Blythewood the same ever again. Hopefully, a miracle will happen and things will be able to get back to as normal as possible so the class of 2021 and I can have a normal and fun senior year with regular in-person learning, athletic events, prom, and graduation.”

Parents, teachers, and students across the country are all anxious about these guidelines and what the 2020-2021 school year will look like. With this next school year comes a great deal of uncertainty since the outlook on the future after COVID-19 seems to change every day.