Educators, parents and students are very concerned about how to safely re-open our schools. There are pockets where that is happening but in many parts of our country, our children are still unable to fully return to our schools. Now that there is a new administration and a vaccination roll-out that is moving ahead we have been able to think again about re-opening our schools. The question is what are the key components of opening schools safely in the months to come?
President Joe Biden began his term in office calling for unity. To reach that end, some of his initial policies must create common ground to rebuild a society decimated by Covid-19, conspiracy theories and white supremacy. Perhaps the only thing we can all agree on right now is that we must reopen schools safely, and as soon as possible.
Among the more than 30 executive orders issued in Biden’s first week in office, the Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers calls for a plan to do just that. It’s crazy to think we’ve been waiting for almost a year for something as simple as a plan of action. Finally, Biden and his nominee for secretary of education, Miguel Cardona, can make significant strides by getting our kids off video calls and back into school buildings. Cardona already has some experience: As education commissioner for Connecticut, he insisted on reopening schools safely during the pandemic, a position that helped him earn Biden’s nomination.
But the new administration must understand that the United States needs to heal medically and socially. Will getting schools open going heal the country? Maybe not by itself, but reopening is a crucial first step to developing a new normal post-Covid. To unify us around schools, the plan must accomplish four significant goals, some included in the executive order to reopen education facilities, some not: provide the requisite resources to reopen schools safely, systematically vaccinate school personnel and students, extend the school year into the summer months, and revive course content in civics and history, a critical step toward healing the fractures dividing our country.
The article continues to describe the 4 steps to safely open our schools. It will be exciting for all of us to return to a sense of normalcy. I believe COVID-19 has changed so much of our society and our schools. Perhaps there will be a new normal that will provide us with some new options for how to do school better. We have much to look forward to and hope for in this year to come. I think we will all be relieved to experience the re-opening of our schools and our communities.