Trump Cannot Have It Both Ways
- First, shield the most vulnerable. Children, older staff, and those who have underlying health conditions that put them at high risk should not return to school in person unless there is little or no community transmission; the school system should enable them to participate remotely to the greatest extent possible.
- Second, reduce risk wherever possible. Large in-person student assemblies will be out. Cafeterias may need to close, with students instead eating in classrooms. On-site food preparation may be replaced by prepackaged meals and disposable dishware. And schools can reduce the number of surfaces touched by multiple people, for example by keeping hallway doors open.
- Third, keep the virus out. Schools should forbid nonessential visits and require everyone who enters the school—not only students and staff but also parents, delivery people, and maintenance workers—to wash their hands (or apply hand sanitizer) and wear a face mask. Families must understand that their children should not go to school when sick.
- Fourth, wear a mask. Students, teachers, and staff should all wear masks throughout the school day, although this may be challenging for younger children.
- Fifth, reduce mixing among students and staff. Divide students into smaller cohorts, or pods, that stay together throughout the day, rather than mixing and re-forming different class units.
- Sixth, reduce occupancy, especially indoors. Classrooms may need to operate at reduced capacity to provide increased physical distance. Schools can alleviate overcrowding by moving to a split-shift schedule (incorporating morning and an afternoon session) or by alternating students between in-person and remote learning.
- Seventh, implement new health and safety protocols, such as more frequent and thorough cleaning and disinfecting, including of buses. Hand-washing and sanitizing stations should be installed; their use should be required.
- Eighth, prepare for cases. Despite precautions, there will inevitably be coronavirus cases at schools. Schools must function as if the virus could arrive at any moment, and operate so that they can reduce transmission and provide ongoing education when it occurs.