Social Distancing in Overcrowded Public Schools Is a Recipe for Disaster!

Discussions across America are happening on virtual platforms regarding what school will look like in the fall for K-12 and higher education. Social distancing is needed to support  health measures related to COVID-19. 

We have to stop and consider the fear of not only parents and students but also teachers and their families when returning to school. As a 16 year educator, I know schools can be some of the dirtiest places. 

The idea of social distancing practices being implemented in schools could work in specific areas of practice such as the cafeteria, buses, front office, hallways, and classrooms.

Black parents need to strongly consider what social distancing will look like in schools; it literally can be life or death for our children. 

The 2020 – 2021 school year should not be a social experiment on children of color to see how COVID-19 will impact children in public schools. Social distancing will most definitely impact how traditional public schools are operated. In fact, it’s already causing many school districts to face budget cuts. 

It will also cost a significant amount of money to recover, especially those within lower-income communities that have students most at risk. I state this because many, if not most, public schools in lower-income communities are either Title I, have overcrowded classes, or both. 

Social distancing due to COVID-19 is giving parents and teachers the open door needed to reform what education looks like. 

Reforming public education will be a gradual process, but it can be done. If we are going to ensure that all children, teachers, and staff members are going to be safe with social distancing in public schools, educators will have to do the following:

1. Reduce the number of students per class by more than ½, no more than 10-12 students in a class. 

2. Consider moving grades 7-12 to virtual learning 3 days out of the week until social norms are gradually put back into place.

3. Students in 7-12 who are not able to be left at home must report to school but cannot be in classes larger than 12 students. 

4. Improve environmental services which will require:

  • More custodians during the school day 
  • Each school will have to have a registered nurse/clinician 

5. Increase school bus transportation

6. Extend breakfast and lunch schedules to accommodate the number of children that can eat at a time. 

7. Employ more paraprofessionals in elementary schools to assist with restroom breaks, recess, classroom activities, small group learning sessions, and regular school programming. 

I believe these are steps that should be considered to help ensure that all children, teachers, and staff are protected when school resumes in the fall. Social distancing, like virtual learning, is not as simple and easy as some non educators may think. 


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