The School Reopening Dilemma
Innovation & Tech Today|Summer 2020
The School Reopening Dilemma
Do we open schools? Or not? What happens if we open — and then have to close again? A look at the issue — and options for STEM teachers
Robert Yehling

Normally, back-to-school is a time of great energy and excitement. Parents and teachers are thrilled the kids are headed into the classroom. Learning is in the air. School sports, clubs, robotics, and academic competitions crank up again. The economy receives an $80 billion boost in sales of school supplies, tech, and clothes according to the National Retail Foundation.

This year is far different. Rather than circling mid-August to early September on their calendars and eyeing it with growing anticipation, many parents, teachers, and administrators have wrung their hands about back-to-school for months. With COVID-19 roaring at a level we never saw during the shutdown in March that started this, many view this normally festive time with fear and trepidation, as well as uncertainty. After all, what happens if kids go back to school and teachers begin testing positive? What about the many rural communities where there is little to no spread?

The recent hard push by the Trump Administration to reopen all schools, regardless of public safety, has added gasoline to an already flammable issue. When the press secretary says “science should not stand in the way” of schools reopening, parents and teachers push back. Hard. As they are doing. The larger question, it seems, is how will students and teachers focus on a full curriculum — while still catching up from the lost months of early 2020 — if they have one eye looking over their shoulder at a possible COVID-19 outbreak?

There’s no question that kids will benefit more from being in school than not. Experts have cited the social, mental health, and academic benefits, not to mention keeping students on a consistent nine-month learning track — which, of course, creates good students and a future workforce in which education will be of paramount importance, particularly for business, tech, medical, and STEM-based careers.

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Summer 2020