A Teacher’s Lesson Plan for Re-opening Schools

By Jennifer Earle Strickland

Part I or a 2-Part Series

For the last five months, I’ve listened, observed, and engaged in both generic and high-spirited conversations on everything Covid-19. It seems that everybody from politicians, to parents, to preachers; dieticians, day-care providers, and teachers, and everybody in-between, has something to say about this issue.  

As one of many teachers who’ve taught, virtually, during the ‘Covid edition’ of the 2019-2020 school year, and who now provides educational enrichment through the Extended School Year program, I deem myself a primary resource and witness to many of the factors, bullet points, and considerations of the massive project of re-opening schools, in the midst of this international crisis.

Teachers, most often, are deductive reasoners. We begin with logical thinking, a general idea, and seek to find a specific conclusion.  We develop a hypothesis, or statement that we hope or believe will be proven true, then develop a process through which we also hope to reach a logical conclusion that supports, or rejects, the hypothesis. Teachers map out ideas, processes, materials, and assessments, through the creation of lesson plans.  These plans include the consideration of all learners, at all levels, and must have one particular goal; that each child meets the standard set forth in the objective. 

Here is my Lesson Plan for Re-opening Buffalo’s Schools:

Mission: All stakeholders will, collaboratively, comprise a comprehensive, decipherable plan to reopen schools in Buffalo, New York, after carefully focused consideration is applied to each of the aspects of the process. 

Objective:  To re-open schools, both public and private, in Buffalo, NY, after being closed for an extended period of time, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and its affects on the Western New York Community.

Audience: The community of “Stakeholders” (see “Materials”, below)

Standard: Consideration of NYS Dept. of Education’s Social Studies Framework – 

     1) Gathering, Interpreting and Using Evidence                                                                                                            

     2) Chronological Reasoning and Causation 

     (3 is not applicable)

     4) Geographic Reasoning                                                                                                                                          

      5) Economics and Economic Systems                                                                                                                      

     6) Civic Participation

Materials (Human Resources/”Stakeholders”, in alphabetical order):  Administrators, Board of Education members, Bus Drivers, Cafeteria Staff. Engineering and Custodial Staff, Medical Professionals, Parents, Student Support Teams (Guidance Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, etc.), Students, Teachers (and Aides and Assistants), Technology Teams; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Physical/Social Distancing 

The Process:  We operate within a 24-hr. schedule, or, one day at a time.  Within these hours, we eat, sleep, work, enjoy recreational activities, and rest.  We will consider this factor when discussing the re-opening needs of each focus group 

Focus 1 – Children/Students – general daily pattern: Rise; hygiene; might eat @ home; walk to school, or bus stop

•Who/what conditions are children leaving at home, or taking to school?

•Is someone monitoring the walk to school, or bus stop locations to assure students maintain at least 6’ between them, and are wearing required masks?

•Upon boarding the bus, who will properly distance students, in seats?  Will there be a bus aide assigned to every bus to assure compliance of seating and the continued wearing of PPE?  For obvious reasons, this responsibility must not be left to the bus driver.

•Will daily precautions be taken (temperature checks, distribution of masks, etc.), as students enter the building, even at multiple entrances (if used)?

•How will students receive breakfast/lunch?  Will children eat breakfast/lunch in school?  Where?  If in classrooms, will safety be assured as students remove masks to eat?

•What is the amount of time that students are expected to be in their classrooms, wearing masks? If so, when will masks be allowed to be removed?

Classroom separation and use of PPE – How will these be addressed, per grade levels? 

Grades Pre-K – 4 (Primary) – a very active group of students; classes don’t, generally, exceed 20-25 students, and may be the most likely to abide by the rules, especially if teachers create a game or entertaining learning activity that support the use of PPE and recommended practices

Grades 5 – 6 (Middle School) – students who are ‘coming of age’ and establishing who they are; they begin to flock with students of similar character and  commonalities;  extended period of separation, within the classroom, may be difficult as, since Pre K, they’ve been encouraged, and assigned, to work in small groups

Grades 7 – 8 (Junior High School) – the ‘upper class’ of elementary school; opinionated; all of the characteristics of the middle school students x 2; often defiant, yet sensitively emotional; inquisitive about their environment (never afraid to ask “Why?”); enforcing of distancing and use of PPE for prolonged periods will likely be very challenging

Grades 9 – 12 (High School) – the ‘Jr. adults-who-know-just-as-much-if-not-more-than-adults’; all of the middle schools students’ traits x 10;  personal destiny controllers;  independent thinkers and operators, yet will follow and support others of the same mindset; if a few responsible leaders can be determined in these groups, there might be a much greater chance of PPE and distancing compliance.

Specials (Art, Music, Physical Ed.) – Art and Music classes must be given the same considerations as (described above)  in classroom separation/PPE use however, P.E. has its exceptions:

•Will contact sports be eliminated due to physical distancing?  

•Will students be required to wear PPE during P.E., even if classes are held outside? 

•Will asthmatic students be exempt from P.E., due to the mask requirement, and breathing difficulties that may be experienced during activities?  

•Will clean masks be available for all students after P.E., or will they be required to continue to wear the one that may be drenched with perspiration and bacteria from P.E. activities?

Social Interaction – 

•Hallways – Single file, 6ft. apart; stay to the right (easy)

•Lockers – Will there be sharing? If not, will there be enough, distanced, to accommodate all students’ belongings?  Remember, Buffalo’s winter is coming!

•Bathrooms – How often will they be cleaned and disinfected?  Will there be enough custodial staff members to meet the more frequent need for bathroom maintenance?  

Focus 2: Teachers/Staff-

•Who/what conditions are teachers/staff leaving at home or taking to school?

•Who is responsible for cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, multiple times, per day?  

•Will sufficient PPE be provided to each classroom (masks, hand sanitizer, soap, wipes, etc.), for emergency availability?

•Who will, and how often, maintain the staff’s bathrooms, throughout the day, and not just when staff members call for the cleaning and disinfecting of the facilities?

•How will teachers, with pre-existing health conditions, be accommodated, especially those with respiratory illnesses who find it difficult to wear masks (and speak in them) for prolonged periods, or blood pressure issues that can be detrimental due to the heightened anxiety of mask-wearing, teaching, and health concerns?

•What happens if a teacher, student, anybody, coughs, sneezes, complains of a headache/body-ache, or displays any characteristic that has come to be identified with a symptom of Covid-19?  What should be the response?

•Will daily precautions (temperature checks, etc.) be taken as staff enters buildings? 

•Will new protocols be set for fire drills?  Walking up/down stairwells?  Use of elevators for staff and students (with passes)? 

•Must teachers/aides/assistants, be expected to wear PPE and remain in areas where students are eating, without PPE?

•Where will teachers eat lunch, if students are assigned to eat theirs in classrooms?

•How will schools/teachers know if a student, or household member has been infected, or in the presence of an infected party?

•What is the amount of time that teachers are expected to be in their classrooms, wearing masks? If so, when will masks be allowed to be removed?

Focus 3: Virtual Learning-

•Will there be training for parents/caregivers on the virtual learning process? 

•How will parents/caregivers be made aware that, just as it is their responsibility to send their children to school buildings, it is also their responsibility to send their children, according to schedule and on-time, to their virtual classroom?

•How will training be provided, to the entire student body, on the importance of the virtual classroom, and its essential role as part, if not all, of their learning experience, and that they must come to class willing and ready to learn from this new experience?

•What steps will the District’s take to ensure that its platforms, used for virtual teaching/learning must all be fully accessible, operational, and functional, when needed, and that the internet service provider must do so at the highest standard to meet the need of this massive additional network of daily users?

•Will students’ daily schedules, that may include both virtual and building experiences be determined by achievement levels, attained through the 3rd marking period of the 2019-2020 school year?  Who will determine the rosters and schedules?

    Finally, as the day began, it shall end, in reverse, with the same concerns for the walk/ride, to the place where anything could’ve transpired during the time children are in school: home, and the cycle begins again, tomorrow.

Focus 4: Assessment-

•How often will the individual building be assessed for indicators of the presence, cessation, or absence of covid-19?  What will be the assessment criteria and desired levels that deem the environment safe? 

•How will teachers/staff know if a colleague, or student, has been diagnosed and acknowledged such, that it is safe to return to the building?

(this article appeared in the challenger community news as a 2part series august 19 & 26 editions)