(WFSB) – What will the future of schools like after the coronavirus pandemic, three months and even three years from now?
As buses sit idle in parking lots and schools are shuttered from the pandemic, what will they look like when the bells ring again?
“I do not believe school in the fall will look like school in the fall of 2019. It will look very different,” said Fran Rabinowitz, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.
Start times are expected to be impacted.
“We are thinking of staggered schedules, grade levels one at a time, one at another. Half classes on one day, half on another and also continuation of distance learning for days when kids are not in school,” Rabinowitz said.
There will be strong state guidelines, but towns will have to come to agreements.
“We don’t want West Hartford, Avon, Middletown, everyone doing something different. Teachers are also parents, scheduling is important,” said Tom Moore, superintendent of West Hartford Public Schools.
Normal first day rituals won’t happen for the foreseeable future. Even getting on the bus will have to change.
“We are used to 50 children on a bus, that will no longer be permitted. It will be 10 children to a bus,” Rabinowitz said.
Back to school shopping for families will include masks.
“We are looking at what’s being done in all European countries,” Moore said.
In places like Denmark, children are learning behind face shields, in Germany, only five children sit apart in an elementary class, and in Switzerland, tape shows children how to social distance.
Moore is looking at how to rearrange kids in his 16 school buildings in West Hartford. It may mean some continue to stay home.
“We keep 6 through 12 [grade] on distance learning, bring in younger kids, and use high schools for them as well,” Rabinowitz said.
The idea of year-round school or Saturday classes is also being considered.
Jennifer Stanish teaches 5th grade. When she was named West Hartford’s Teacher of the Year, she sang about building bridges at the awards ceremony.
She wonders how she will bridge a digital divide without hugs or lunch bunches.
“I worry about being able to focus on what’s most important; building a community and belonging, and that will be a challenge come this fall,” Stanish said.
So, what will school look like in three years from now?
“I think three years from now, especially at high school level, not just in the day, take a history course at night,” Stanish said.
“I believe schools will never be the same again and incorporate wonderful innovations educators have brought about,” Rabinowitz said.
There’s hope new normal will hopefully be better than it was before.