Since the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic, education has been one of the top priorities, as well as one of the greatest challenges. Pulling kids out of school created a slew of problems, for the students, teachers, and parents, and many schools remain undecided about their teaching methods for the year as summer comes to an end. For many parents and schools, staying closed is an impossible reality. Many schools will reopen in the fall and the question will become: how to reopen a school during the coronavirus, and how can we keep students and faculty safe?
Kids are notorious for harboring germs and spreading illness, so it isn’t difficult to imagine all of the challenges that come with school reopening during COVID-19, in the middle of a global pandemic. The fact of the matter is, some schools have the resources and safety precautions available to reopen, and some won’t.
School Opening Challenges
If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that we can never be too prepared. Emergency preparedness will be more important than ever this school year, as unexpected complications are a guarantee. While you can never predict or prepare for everything, here are some of the most prominent challenges to prepare for during school reopenings:
Lack of resources
Schools already lack the proper funding and financial support they need, and this will be an especially difficult challenge to face amidst schooling in a pandemic. Without the proper funding, the cost of ensuring the safety of students and faculty might end up falling solely on the teachers.
Students will need masks-- preferably reusable ones that they can wash-- teachers will need materials to make barriers and socially-distanced classrooms, and many more extra supplies that were never in a budget before will need to be purchased before students even walk through the doors on the first day. Reopening schools will be costly, and affect the entire budget for the rest of the year (and possibly further).
With many classrooms packed to the brim with 25+ students, school social distancing might be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to reopening schools. Students still need desks to sit at, taking up excessive room, and everyone still needs to be able to see and hear the lesson, which hinders unique classroom set-ups.
Many schools and teachers have taken to social media to share their ideas and tips on helping their students socially distance and stay safe, by creating clear plastic barriers between desks, having sanitization stations, and more. However, this doesn’t help students stay clear of germs in packed hallways and small areas. To reopen, schools will need the space to be able to help their students keep a safe distance from their peers.
Students with learning disabilities, hearing impairments, and more will all be affected even more so than the average student as schools begin to reopen with new safety procedures. For many of these students, typical lessons and teaching methods are already difficult to follow and learn from. This will be made much worse by the added stress and safety precautions in place during this pandemic.
Schools will have to get creative as they adapt their lessons and teaching methods while practicing safe social distancing. Hard-of-hearing students will have a difficult time hearing through the muffled voices of their teachers and classmates wearing masks. Students who face challenges with hyper-sensitivity might have a difficult time focusing, with a mask in their faces. Many creative solutions will have to be made for these students to still be able to learn and grow in a safe environment.
Stressful learning environment
Even for students who don’t typically struggle in school, reopening schools this fall will come with much more stress than years prior. While there will also, likely, be a sense of comradery and relief of being back in a familiar place, many things will be completely new and out-of-the-ordinary.
It’s important to remember that, despite being safer for them, the differences in learning and their actual school will likely be stressful for returning students. Just as school faculty are stressed and confused, so are the students, except they have the added challenge of learning new material and acing tests. Stress management will be more important to incorporate into learning than ever this year.
Lunch (will be a nightmare)
With all the pros and cons of reopening schools, one con blows everything out of the water: lunch. Just thinking about a room full of hundreds of hungry children could send someone spiraling, let alone a room full of children who could be spreading a harmful virus.
Despite the dangers we already know about COVID, it can be difficult to explain to a student how important social distancing and taking proper precautions can be. Whether you’re dealing with Kindergarteners or seniors in high school. When it comes down to it, the students are going to do what they want, no matter how many times someone has explained the dangers of disregarding precautions.
The lunchroom is perhaps one of the most difficult areas in a school to properly contain students and keep them calm and safe. With our new reality, it will be absolutely essential to prepare lunch rooms with the best protection available. Eliminating the exposure to un-masked peers and teachers has to be the biggest priority, especially in these risky areas.
How to reopen your school
Despite the challenges, many schools will reopen in the fall and welcome students back again. Though the unseen challenges are not yet known, there are many things schools can do to reopen safely.
School Social Distancing
The quintessential COVID-19 term: school social distancing. It’s a popular method because it’s simple, effective, and thankfully, relatively inexpensive. It will be essential to keep students and staff properly socially distanced at school, both in and out of the classroom.
Not sure exactly how to implement this precaution? Here are some of the best tips for helping to socially distance your school/classroom:
Use stickers as guides
Take a cue from many restaurants and other businesses and utilize stickers, flags, and markers to point students in the right direction. This will especially come in handy when students are walking through crowded hallways from class to class.
Utilize rental/event tents
Don’t have enough room in your classroom for a particular activity or lesson? By buying/utilizing an event tent, you can make your classroom mobile and take learning anywhere. Set up shop outside your school and create unique, hands-on learning experiences that they won’t soon forget. Students will love being in an event tent for an outdoor lesson. Who doesn’t love learning outdoors?
Create physical guides for young students
While it probably won’t be so difficult teaching high schooler’s the importance of social distancing, teachers of young students will probably face more of a challenge in this department. After all, how can a six-year-old be expected to stay six feet apart from their best friends if they don’t even know how far six feet is?
Teachers of young students, or those that seem to find school social distancing difficult, can create physical guides to help them understand what social distancing requires. Six-foot long sticks, ribbons, or other instruments can be used to show the proper distance, and students will have fun learning in this physical way.
It would be great if we could simply build cubicles around every student’s desk, but there are fewer practical options for creating barriers that won’t hinder student’s learning while in the classroom. Teachers have been getting creative and posting their creations online to show how they are making their classrooms as safe as possible.
Great examples of these DIY barriers include pool noodles and clear plastic sheets, free seating on the floor and around the classroom as opposed to sitting directly next to peers in a desk, and even using caution tape or other fun materials to create barriers. The good thing is that creativity and fun can be incorporated into these precautions, so think about how different decorations can be added to make it a more relaxing and safe atmosphere for students.
Everyone loves breaking out of their boring daily routine and shaking things up, so what better way to keep kids safe and get them excited about learning than to take the class outside? Many schools already implement outdoor/environmental learning, so why not make outdoor learning more popular during this pandemic?
While a once-in-a-while outdoor class is a special treat for students and generally only takes place on days with great weather, event tents can help schools make outdoor learning a possibility, no matter what the weather!
Though the idea might sound foreign, entire classrooms could switch to outdoor teaching and maintain the same level of education with a proper cover. Event tents make it possible for students to get out of school and into a larger, safer, and more socially distanced atmosphere while they learn, without sacrificing any of the actual lesson plans.
Event tents can be used for outdoor classrooms, or even remote learning, in any weather. Instead of waiting for a nice day to take students outdoors, event tents can be set up to ensure your lesson goes on without a hitch, even in a torrential downpour. Tents also give teachers far more versatility than their own classrooms even do.
What tents do we recommend for schools?
At American Tent, we produce numerous types of event tents to meet whatever needs you have. Each tent is made with the highest quality materials possible, so you can feel secure knowing that your students will remain safe and comfortable while learning outdoors! While each of our tents would work for outdoor learning, here are our top picks:
Pop-up tents are a fantastic option for single classrooms, as they are generally smaller, easy to set up, and extremely portable. The class can be taken outside in a matter of moments, little planning needed, with a pop-up tent available in the room.
For larger outdoor events or classes, frame tents are a perfect choice. These can range in size and can accommodate a single class all the way up to the entire school. Having an outdoor picnic, assembly, or parent-teacher conference would be possible with a frame tent on hand!
Don’t forget sidewalls
While the chance of pace and surroundings will be exciting for students, it can also be distracting. All it takes is one cute animal or random passerby to completely distract a class. If you’re looking for a way to take the class outdoors but are concerned about the student's ability to pay attention while outside of the classroom, consider adding sidewalls to your event tent! Sidewalls can easily be added to any of our tents, and make a great addition to an outdoor classroom.
What came first-- the chicken or the egg? Whether social distancing or mask-wearing came first in this pandemic, we can all agree on their equal importance. Despite the challenge that wearing face coverings create for teachers and students, it is an essential safety procedure that will need to be reinforced when schools reopen. To make it easier for teachers and students, investing in classroom microphones and translators will certainly be something that should be considered.
Last, but not least, temperature checking should be implemented as a part of your school’s reopening plan. This can get tricky, considering a lack of resources and staff that most schools face. Even if teachers are given disposable thermometers for their classroom, adding in this extra step will ensure the safety of all students and should be seriously considered.
Whether a school reopens or remains virtual for the 2020-2021 school year, there will undoubtedly be many missteps and challenges to learn and grow from. There truly is no guide on how to navigate this confusing time, and aggravatingly, we won’t know what the right choices were until it’s over.
It is an unfortunate reality for our teachers and students to be living through. Both virtual and in-person learning will be different and stressful at this time. What teachers and schools can do is try to take the stress off as much as possible. Though there is a world of uncertainty going into this new school year, we will come out the other side having learned how best to teach and help out students while the world continues to face a pandemic. By creating a safe environment for students, through the use of social distancing, barriers, masks, and more, kids can continue to learn and feel safe while doing so.
We at American Tent are always happy to help you reopen your school safely and provide the best school tents for your outside classes. Contact us to buy the right tent for educational facilities that will match all your expectations.