Back to School Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic
With the start of the school year approaching, there are many uncertainties surrounding the virus and the ability of school districts to prepare buildings and protocols to address the risks.
When the threat of COVID-19 became an inescapable reality in New Jersey, schools shut down early. All 1.4 million students in the state were forced to learn from home for the final three months of the school year. The results of that were difficult for most families and almost impossible for others. Now that the new school year is nearly here, and with no end in sight to the virus, districts throughout the state are scrambling to finalize 2020-2021 reopening plans as the guidelines continue to shift.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has made several announcements reassessing the research on the virus and addressing conflicting concerns of citizens, parents, students, teachers, school staff, and school administrators. In an attempt to create policies to guide New Jersey’s 2,500 public schools, Gov. Murphy’s administration has undertaken no small task.
At first, Gov. Murphy called for some form of in-person learning at all schools. He mandated masks and social distancing. Then, Murphy loosened guidelines to allow parents to choose all-remote learning for their children. In the latest development, unions representing the teachers and other school staff have called on the governor to allow schools to re-open remotely with the option to reassess the situation intermittently. The ultimate goal is to return to in-person learning when it is safe to do so. Shortly after, the governor announced that districts that were unable to meet the safety standards set forth in the state’s reopening plan would be allowed to opt for a remote-only reopening.
What Guidelines Will be in Place When Schools Reopen?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has offered guidance to school administrators as they undertake plans for reopening. The CDC has provided advice for school administrators so that concerns will be addressed. The guidance presents areas for consideration but leaves flexibility for the details and implementation to suit the needs of each district.
Some of the major points for consideration by school administrators that are outlined in CDC guidelines include:
- Implement policies for social distancing with the possible use of separating students into cohorts, cloth face coverings, and hand hygiene.
- Put in place plans to disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces.
- Create a plan for dealing with positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff.
- Remain in contact with state and local health officials to remain aware of current transmission levels in the local area and to work together on contact tracing efforts.
- Inform students’ families on the symptoms to look out for and how to respond at home.
- Unions representing teachers and staff are calling for an all-remote opening in the school year.
Are All Districts in New Jersey Offering Virtual Learning?
A number of New Jersey districts, including Jersey City, Elizabeth, Willingboro, and Bayonne, will allow some districts to put off in-person learning for now. These districts and others have requested the state’s approval for their plans to open with virtual-only when school starts in September.
Representatives from multiple associations have stated that they are holding off on in-person learning at this time. Some districts may lack enough teachers to offer classes since many feel it is too risky to enter classrooms while the pandemic is still ongoing.
Are Virtual Sessions Effective?
Many parents and officials worry that students will not receive adequate schooling without in-person sessions. Many people are concerned that virtual learning offers subpar educational opportunities when compared to in-person learning. Others are concerned with how parents can be expected to work when children are learning remotely from home.
Schools are offering support for students who are have special needs or are in need of school meals and other services. School professionals provide services to address students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs that might be of particular significance while students navigate the uncertainty and fears associated with the pandemic.
Why is it Important to Practice Safety Precautions During in-Person School Sessions?
Indoor facilities present a specific threat to the transmission levels of COVID-19. Opening school buildings to hundreds of students and staff has the potential to cause another wave of the virus. While it appears that children are less likely to become seriously ill from the virus, they can still carry it. Even asymptomatic children may infect their teachers or take it home to their families.
During school sessions, it is important that everyone practices CDC guidelines and stay safe at all times. If a student or teacher suffers an injury on school grounds, they should contact a lawyer about filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Highland Park Personal Injury Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Represent Injured Teachers and Students
If you were in an accident at school and incurred injuries, you may have a personal injury case. Our Highland Park personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr fight for the rights of our clients so that they can collect necessary damages. Complete our online form or call us 732-537-8570 for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, and Colonia.