Elementary schools should not reopen, even in hybrid mode

November 5, 2020 — by Allen Luo
Photo by Sina Salehi

Santa Clara County has recently been placed under the orange tier of California’s four-tier system designed to gauge readiness for the reopening of schools and businesses. Being in this tier means that schools can now reopen with one-to-one or small cohort meetings, and because of this, the Saratoga Union School District has started preparations for reopening in hybrid mode. 

Hybrid mode would allow for groups of students to attend small group instruction in stable cohorts with their teachers on either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday, and Wednesdays, where it will be a mix of online and in-person class and staff development. On asynchronous online days, students would complete asynchronous work. Teachers are currently being trained by the district for safety measures like temperature screening and wearing personal protective equipment.

Despite the safety guidelines, opening schools now will only increase the risk of contracting COVID-19 and endanger families. Schools should not reopen while the pandemic is still going strong.

Anyone who has worked with elementary-aged children knows that controlling everyone and making sure that they keep their hands to themselves is extremely hard. Teachers will have to spend more time ensuring that they stay apart, wasting time that could have been spent on education. It is highly doubtful that every child there will comply with the rules 100 percent of the time.

Younger children also commonly don’t show symptoms of COVID-19 when contracted. This means that some may have the disease but have no idea that they do even as they spread it to teachers and other school staff. 

Unless it is mandated that everyone tests themselves and their families, it would be extremely difficult to mitigate the spread of the disease and to ensure that everyone attending on-campus is negative. It only requires one person to have it for it to spread uncontrollably. 

One of the major arguments for reopening schools is that it is hard for teachers to ensure that students are doing the online coursework without constant parent supervision. But with multiple days of asynchronous work on non-in-person days, the need for parents to oversee their kids will just increase. Aside from having to make sure their children do their homework on in-person days, they will also need to look after them on asynchronous days. One benefit of the current system is that teachers are with the students for half the day.

Another argument in favor of reopening is how students are missing out on a lot of socialization with others. Because of quarantine, many students, especially younger ones, have not stayed connected with friends, missing out on a lot of their development. Even though reopening schools will solve this issue, there are also other solutions that can be implemented now during virtual learning. Specified times can be set apart for students to have breakout rooms during class to chat and talk, and students themselves can still stay connected through a variety of different messaging apps.

Educational time will also lessen if schools are reopened. Currently, students are learning with teachers every day online and reviewing old topics as well as learning new ones. The number of new concepts students can learn on their own will only decrease as they are stuck doing review work during more asynchronous days, compared to learning with the teacher during synchronous online sessions every day. 

Even with the current system, many younger students find it hard to focus with the teacher present, and opening schools now will only lessen their education more than the pandemic already has. While the current conditions are far from ideal, there is still a curriculum that needs to be taught and a less effective education now will only hurt students later on when their foundation isn’t as strong as it should be.

Although technological issues may be a problem for some, it is still not worth endangering students and families over it. Staying inside and continuing virtual learning will be the fastest way for the quarantine to end, and reduce the risk of a possible second wave in the area. As of now, the rush to reopen schools is just dangerous and unneeded.