Will kids learn anything at school besides COVID-19 caution?

Jun 2, 2020, 1:30 PM | Updated: 3:06 pm
(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)...
(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

With two very loud little ones at home it’s not weird for me to be asking, one week into summer break, “When will school start again?”

But what’s different this summer is we’re asking, “HOW will they start again?”  

Once we see exactly how our individual districts plan to go about reopening, I think we’ll need to add this question to our list: “Will it be worth sending ’em there?”

If state superintendent Kathy Hoffman releasing her school reopening recommendations motivated you to immediately start shopping online for back-to-school deals on JoJo Siwa backpacks, I say to you, “Not so fast, pencil breath!”

And I might be saying to myself, “Uh, we’ll stick with online learning, thank you very much.”

Not because I’m worried they won’t be safe, though. It’s because I’m worried they won’t have any time to learn.

Sure, I’m a little concerned about sending them back to where 99.6% of all of the Earth’s germs emanate from (school) – but I’m mostly concerned about how much learning can get done in a classroom between the social distancing, the daily health checks and the deep cleanings that’ll be going on.

The state education department has an a la carte menu that schools can choose from that includes:

ALL students in classrooms (impossible).

SOME students back in classrooms (somewhat less impossible).

NO students in classrooms.

Or a mixture thereof.

My friend Miguel, who teaches middle school (and deserves a combat medal for it), texted me his  thought of Hoffman’s recommendations:  “The guidelines from the superintendent require bigger classrooms and hallways with fewer students and more staff. It’s, essentially, a wish list of how it would be great if we could teach with an unlimited budget, space, and time.”

I think he’s onto something.

I like the recommendation of staggered drop-off and pick-up times. And we should keep that even after we beat coronavirus into a pulp because I arrive at school every afternoon with several dozen parents who have no idea what the words “entrance” and “exit” mean once they get behind the wheel.

Other recommendations are going to be a little harder to pull off, though. 

With a shortage of teachers already plaguing Arizona schools and with crowded classrooms already a concern, will we be able to keep students six feet apart?

When it’s a struggle to get first graders to line up properly in the first place, how will teachers be able to keep them in their lane in the hallway?

And a wellness check done everyday – for every student – might be possible if you line all the kids up at 5 a.m. (for an 8:15 a.m. first bell). 

But the reality is, after doing all this stuff to keep our kids safe, will their school have time left to teach any subjects other than Coronavirus Mitigation Strategies 101

We’ll wait to make our decision but my wife and I are fully prepared to suck it up and keep ‘em home this Fall, if necessary. If we do, we will offer lots of courses – with a heavy emphasis on two: Backyard Recess and Self-Guided Physical Education.

Admittedly, for our own sanity.

Jim Sharpe

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Will kids learn anything at school besides COVID-19 caution?