School leaders are confronting difficult, high-stakes decisions as they plan for how they will reopen schools as the global pandemic rages on. Safety for students and staff members is the chief priority. But with no vaccine or effective treatment yet against COVID-19, no one can be fully shielded from the risk.
That leaves K-12 leaders to balance three critical—often competing—responsibilities: the health and safety of their people, the role their schools play in the larger community, and the effective teaching of their students.
Many of the options for reopening schools will up-end some of the most effective aspects of teaching and learning. The close, in-person collaboration of students on classroom projects, for example, will have to cease for now. And classes like art, music, and physical education—a critical part of keeping students engaged in school—will need to be severely restricted.
There are no playbooks for how to do this. Following public health protocols will cost a lot of money, even as school budgets are pummeled by the economic collapse. Managing the anxieties of teachers, students, and parents will require patience, compassion, and careful communication.
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