Schools are reopening – now what?

Now that a new academic year/semester is about to start, the hot topic of the past weeks has been how to proceed with the reopening of schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic, taking into consideration the implications of it for the population health and education. Among teachers, parents, school leaders, and academic researchers there seems to coexist opposite, but also complementary, opinions.

So far, children who attend kindergarten and initial years of primary education seem to be the safest cohort of pupils to come back to school routines thanks to the shared evidence that the vast majority of them do not suffer from hard symptoms due to the virus. Additionally, parents with younger children might need a faster return of them to school activities, so parents can have better conditions to work. However, although younger children are safer to be exposed to physical and face-to-face socialization, they can also be potential carriers and spread the virus among family members, affecting mostly the ones who are in the risk groups (e.g. grandparents who take care of them).

Parallel to that, there is a huge discussion if private schools should be able to return to the routine activities faster and before the public schools. This issue arises from the fact that many private institutions have the urgent need to return the school activities due to the payment of school fees, teachers salaries etc. Also, private institutions might have better conditions to create a safe infrastructure that guarantees social isolation and hygiene measures. However, the reopening of private schools – while the public ones are still closed – will most probably increase the social and educational gap between the ones who can afford a private education and the others who attend public schools. Among interesting developments on this matter, we have identified some government initiatives in allowing only the simultaneous reopening of public and private schools, so the educational gap (and consequently the social disparity) will not increase for the time being.

Meanwhile, remote learning should vastly continue in a variety of formats, not only dependent on Internet connectivity, but using different resources that most of households have, such as TV, radio, and mobile phone features (e.g. SMS) . Such mass education programs can be complemented and personalized according to the schools, grades, and individual pupils’ needs and resources. In addition, education leaders should be investing time on continuous professional development of teachers and school staff, so they will be ready to integrate new practices and edtech solutions to the “new normal” schooling system that seems to be in developmental progress worldwide – although no one actually knows how this “new normal” will look like, also considering that it will depend on second/third waves of the virus infections, successful integrations of new technology in education processes etc.

In any case, it is of ultimate relevance that systematic data collection at school level and beyond – municipal, regional and national levels – is carried out in order to base robust and long-term effective decisions. Opinions of teachers and families (especially parents) on what they believe will be the impact of re-opening schools and if they think it will be safe but also effective to promote learning are a few ideas on how to understand the people’s feelings and needs. If your school is looking for a ready- and easy-to-use digital tool for systematic data collection, access our school services page and request our data collection and management tool for free.