Will Schools Reopen in September? And What Will That Look Like?

boy eating lunchThe boisterous bustle of students jostling down crowded hallways to reach lockers and classrooms has long served as one of the most powerful memories of high school life for many.

Those loud, happy throngs might now belong to a bygone era, thanks to COVID-19.

Schools planning to reopen in the fall are weighing what’s called the “pod” approach, in which middle and high school students remain isolated with their peers in the same classroom all day, said Dan Domenech, executive director of The School Superintendents Association.

The traditional between-class hallway jam “really is conducive to infection, as opposed to isolating them in the same room for the whole day,” Domenech said during a HealthDay Live! interview.

It’s one of many ways that schools might operate differently in the days of COVID-19, if infection rates in their communities even allow them to reopen next school year.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that middle and high schools consider adopting the elementary school model, in which “high school kids remain in the same room and the teachers move around,” Domenech said.

Staggered school hours would make sure hallways remain relatively empty as students enter and leave the building. There’s even talk of keeping the cafeterias closed and serving the kids lunch in their classroom “pod,” so they remain in the classroom nearly all the school day.

A CDC checklist holds that schools should feel safe reopening if COVID-19 outbreaks are contained in their communities; teachers and students have been drilled on the importance of hand hygiene, face masks and social distancing; and ongoing monitoring is in place to detect and respond to an outbreak at the school.

“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when there will be an outbreak, because there will be outbreaks. We know that. We can expect and plan for it,” said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Most kids not vulnerable to severe COVID-19

Parents should feel reassured about their child’s safety in going back to school, said Christakis, who also spoke with HealthDay Live!