What to Expect When Planning a New School Year in the Middle of a Pandemic

No matter where you are, no matter what your child’s grade, if schools open for in person instruction in the fall, they are going to look different. While there will be many more restrictions, we are also looking for potential positives. Here are some of our predictions:

1 – No more contact sports in gym class and at recess.

Since it will be necessary, especially in a potentially sweaty environment, to keep children at least six feet apart, we predict that gym class will become more of an exercise-based class rather than a game-based class. Students will lose the ability to collaborate in gym, to learn the importance of teaming together. Flag football, basketball, even dodgeball requires too many children in too close a proximity for COVID-19-era physical education class. There will be no more equipment sharing. Recess for elementary school children will also be impacted and will need to be structurally altered, as children will not be able to chase each other on monkey bars or follow each other closely down slides. 

2 – No more shared school supplies.

Do not pass your friend a pencil in class, as you could be passing the virus along with it. From now on, students will not be able to share library books, art, writing supplies, or computers. This could make the classroom environment appear less welcoming and inclusive, and there is a concern for students who cannot afford to purchase supplies on their own and rely on the generosity of teachers and their schools for everything from pens to computers. However, the upside is that students will learn to improve their executive functioning skills. They will have to take greater responsibility for their own belongings, remembering to bring everything with them and keep track of their pencils, books, calculators, etc. all day long.

3 – No more in-class celebrations or school dances.

Students will not be able to bring treats into class to share with their peers and sharing your snack with your friends at lunch will be prohibited to prevent transmission of the virus. School dances will be put on pause for now as well, as this encourages large group gatherings in relatively small spaces. Graduations will be re-worked to accommodate social distancing guidelines, which might require breaking up classes alphabetically to ensure that everyone can be honored safely.

4 – No more busy cafeteria lunches.

Hanging out, talking to peers over the long and narrow cafeteria tables will probably not happen again until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. Lunches will more likely be “grab and go” with students eating lunches in small groups in various, assigned classrooms. Many students will not be happy if they are separated from their friends. However, if done properly, this could be an effective clique-buster and could make students who often feel isolated in the cafeteria feel more included.

5 – No more hands-on group projects.

Collaborative projects are a cornerstone of classroom learning. However, working together requires sharing materials and touching a lot of the same things. This will have to be put on hold until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed. Instead, students will do more individual projects at their desks and remain in their own safe space. However, students will start to work together on online projects, leading to new, innovative ways to collaborate and learn together.

6 – There will be smaller classes.

Here is one clear positive for our students. There will have to be fewer students in classrooms to accommodate for social distancing. Having 25 plus students in a small room seems unsafe and unsanitary right now. Ideally, this will enable students to receive more individualized attention. Yet, schools will need to figure out how to manage the same number of students in the same buildings with the same number of teachers while keeping the students in smaller clusters.

7 – Extracurricular activities will be limited, at best.

Like in gym class, contact sports will have to be put on hold for the time being to ensure the safety of students. But these are not the only activities that will suffer. Any clubs that raise funds through bake sales will have to be re-configured. There will be no more Model UN weekends or video gaming clubs. At best, certain clubs and newspapers will be moved online for the time being, which means that many students will miss out on unique leadership experiences.

8 – There will be no more snow days or disaster days.

As online learning becomes more efficient, snow days will be diminished. Instead, students will be responsible for logging on and attending virtual classrooms when it is too dangerous to drive to a school building. This means that calendaring will be easier and more efficient for school districts, and families will not lose vacation days when there are too many snow days.

When a vaccine is finally developed and widely available, school will morph back to the pre-COVID-19 era. Hopefully, administrators and students will take some of the lessons learned from this experience. Maybe they will tweak online learning processes, maybe more clubs will have online access for students who cannot stay after school for a meeting….Right now, with the options limited, future possibilities could become endless.

As always, GAMECHANGER remains engaged and ready to help with all of your child’s academic and extracurricular needs.


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