The events of 2020 have taken a toll on our schools’ academics, social-emotional learning, and most importantly, on safety.
The brutal reality is that the events of 2020 have exacerbated the safety concerns that existed before the pandemic. The need to provide appropriate support for students at risk for violence against themselves has never been greater. And yet, school safety procedures simply are not present in most schools right now. As educators, we have to respond to the current public health crisis and prevent a future school safety crisis.
This is the troubling question that every educator and parent must address: What school safety practices have we ignored while we were dealing with COVID-19? Schools must now transition from survival mode into the next thing.
Is the cure worse than the disease?
Amid virtual schooling, teachers and students prefer, crave, and even demand face-to-face, relationship-based instruction. While children are at low risk for serious COVID-19 complications, there have been significant increases in other threats to children’s well-being including increased anxiety and isolation, dramatic spikes in youth suicide, and steep decreases in academic achievement. Which is a larger threat to students and teachers: COVID-19 or the negatives engendered by remaining out of school?
Our mantra for safety has always been to do what is best for kids, not what is convenient or pleasing for adults. That certainly applies in re-opening our schools.
Regardless of age, it is critical to plan for students who come back to school in a different academic, economic, or emotional place than when they left. While everyone may have been in the same boat, the storm was different for each person.
The return to normal
Planning a return to school cannot just center on a return to normal. What has already occurred will not magically disappear. What we used to do every year is no longer viable, because we have a unique opportunity to not just survive but thrive.
Our goal should be to rebuild from the chaos to make schools into what they should be. That means applying a decision-making metric that goes beyond crafting temporary fixes, or grudging compliance with top-down directives. The future of our kids, and our society, depends on it.