Back to School Across the Country

By Benjamin Berfield

Despite COVID-19 still being present in our society, many schools in America are opening back up amidst these unprecedented times. Districts nationwide have varied plans for how the logistics of the school year will be organized. While most of these schools are going to be educating students again, they all have unique health and safety precautions in place. Whether learning is online, in person, or hybrid, one thing is for sure: these districts are in for an unusual year. 

Our school district is off to a great start implementing a hybrid learning system for students who are learning both in person and remotely. There is also a fully remote option for immunocompromised individuals and others who feel unsafe returning. The faculty, staff, and administrators spent the summer creating a curriculum that could meet the safety standards required by New York and the CDC. Staff members have created healthy environments for all buildings, and careful protocols for everyone to follow. Students are currently adjusting to this new way of learning.  

Byram Hills English teacher Mr. Hubbs stated that he “likes the ten minute passing time” and that releasing kids by grade is “among the smartest things they can do to keep the hallways student free as possible.” He also said, “My students aren’t late to class. I can take in class attendance a minute or two early.” As for the back-to-school experience, he mentioned the “heightened awareness about everything from the direction that you’re walking down the hallway to your consciousness about how close you are to your students.” 

While our school district has taken a hybrid learning approach, other schools locally and across the country have diverse differences regarding their return to school plan. All of the New York City public schools were supposed to come back September 21, but teacher demands to repair building ventilation, the availability of cleaning supplies, and staffing in the school buildings left their return status up in the air. Other schools across the United States are returning, but in different ways. According to the New York Times, Idaho has about two thirds of the state’s districts opened for in-school learning in August. This includes several that opened against the advice of local health agencies. At one elementary school in Colorado, school teachers are working from home, but in the morning, more than 40 students attend an in-school program. The program includes adult supervision, laptops, and internet service for participating in online classes. For the first day of classes at an academy in Wisconsin, students in Kindergarten through 12th grade participated in in-person classes only. 

Children who live in high poverty areas have had an especially difficult time adjusting to the daily remote systems, which is expected to continue when schools reopen. In New York City, about 30 organizations wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio, urging him to offer instruction to homeless students. They noted that most shelters prohibit students from learning in shelters remotely if their parents leave. In many communities, food insecure families rely on the school to provide food for their children, typically breakfast and lunch. However, with most schools closed, families have had trouble getting access to food. According to principal Amy Berfield of New Heights Charter School in Los Angeles, they are attempting to solve this problem by allowing parents to come to their closed school on two different days to get food to provide their families with for the next two to three days. 

So, even with COVID-19 still posing concern, schools are continuing to reopen across the country. Considering some of the situations that schools are in, we’re fortunate to be in a district that has developed a learning system that has been largely successful.