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Returning to School When the Pandemic Isn’t Really Over

In just a few weeks’ time, kids all over the United States will be returning to in-person school. And while that may seem like a huge relief to parents after dealing with school closures and virtual learning from home since early 2020, it raises a lot of concerns regarding whether or not students should be returning to school en masse while the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging in the US and around the world.

While the numbers continue to change daily, at the time of this writing 1,000+ counties in the US are experiencing the highest level of community transmission with an additional 500+ counties falling into the substantial transmission category according to the Centers For Disease Control.

What this means is that there are more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days in the high transmission areas and 50-99 new cases per 100,000 people in the substantial transmission areas. And unfortunately, the numbers keep increasing.

In fact, 49 out of the 50 states reported an increase in Covid cases this week with Colorado being the only exception.

As it stands, these are the states currently being the hardest hit by Covid and their current vaccination rates:

  1. Florida = 47.94%
  2. Texas = 43.12%
  3. Missouri = 40.39%
  4. Louisiana = 36.28%
  5. Arkansas = 35.53%
  6. Nevada = 43.56%
  7. Arizona = 44.64%
  8. Alabama = 33.85%
  9. Mississippi = 33.95%
  10. Oklahoma = 39.64%
  11. Kentucky = 44.92%
  12. Utah = 43.96%
  13. Kansas = 43.16%
  14. Wyoming = 36.15%
  15. Alaska = 45.05%

It should come as no surprise that the states currently considered Covid hot spots also tend to have the lowest percentage of vaccination rates in the country.

What can school districts, teachers and parents do to make sure this school year is safe for everyone?

The most important step towards ensuring safety this school year is for everyone to realize that the pandemic is not yet over. While it’s completely understandable that many of us are feeling the effects of pandemic fatigue, staying vigilant is the key to lowering your risk and reducing the spread.

In many large school districts both teachers and students can come into contact with 100s of people per day and not just those in their particular classroom.   Those teachers and students go home are with their families and friends, run errands, go to public events and then back to school.

It’s really important that school districts focus on implementing strategies that protect not only their students and staff, but that ultimately protect their families at home and people in their communities.

To keep people safe, school districts should consider utilizing:

  • Blended learning models where some students attend in person classes on specific days and then alternate to live virtual classes other days.  This helps reduce the number of students in the school and allows more “space” between kids
  • Offer live virtual classes with teachers designated to teach virtually.  Trying to blend in-person teaching with virtual teaching in the same room is difficult and ineffective because teachers have to split their attention and time to ensure both groups are understanding.  This can cause delays, which in turn, results in students not paying attention.
  • Re-implementing social distancing, the use of masks and hand washing

While this will not eliminate the risk of infection, it can significantly reduce it.  It can reduce stress on the teaching staff so they can focus on delivering quality instruction.   It can also ensure that students still get a solid educational experience.  Providing a combined virtual and in-person approach with specific teachers for each also lets teachers and students continue to work and learn together.  The positive side effect of this includes the agility and strength a school will have should they have to close schools and move back to virtual.  The groundwork is set and the transition will be smoother. 

What schools should be looking for is a  solution that was built specifically for teaching and learning, with the expertise around virtual learning environments and education.  The right solution should offer guidance and support regarding how to use the many tools in the software and how to optimize these to empower teachers and students for a more powerful educational experience.   Using a virtual classroom as a strategic component should be in every school district’s educational plan. 

Jigsaw Interactive is a unique, powerful and empowering virtual classroom.  They work with some of the largest virtual schools in the country, so they are familiar with what it takes from both a teacher and student perspective.  They have an outstanding customer care program that supports teachers, parents and student throughout the school year.

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