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Coronavirus presents new challenges

There is much to think about as we begin to plan children’s summer activities and reopening schools this fall. Social distancing may be possible for adults, but how can it be made effective for children who are longing to be actively engaged in activities with their friends again? CDC guidelines can be helpful as teachers and parents begin to consider reopening local programs.

Having small pods that will serve as consistent groups of participants is one way to limit the number of children who are exposed to each other on a daily basis. The recommended class ratio is 1:9 (one adult to nine children). If one child in a small group has the virus, the number of children who will need to be quarantined is limited to the size of the pod.

Members of each group should develop routines for washing hands when they enter the room, and for keeping their work areas clean. Each child should have a sense of his or her own work space and tools. Parents must be encouraged to keep their children home if they are not feeling well.

What does social distancing mean for kids? We know that people need to be six feet apart, and teachers can space the chairs in a classroom six feet away from each other, but it is hard to keep kids in their seats and to monitor their activity when they move out of their assigned spaces. All desks should be facing in one direction to avoid face-to-face disease sharing. During activities children need to think about keeping a three-foot radius free around themselves resulting in a six-foot space between them and the next participant.

Visual clues can be used to make social distancing more recognizable. Try taping two yard sticks end-to-end on a wall, fence, or floor and using blue tape for lines where one person’s space stops and the next persons space starts. Use visual aids like arrows to keep traffic moving one-way around classrooms and hallways.

Open spaces are healthier and CDC recommends holding activities outdoors whenever possible. Large group activities where social distancing is not possible should be canceled.

Teachers’ lounges and other small spaces where people congregate should be closed. The total number of students on a school bus should be limited to the number that can be seated to allow proper social distancing, and seats should be marked where students must sit. Require wearing masks on buses and in hallways and restrooms – anytime when students are in transition from one place to another.

Manage staffing to limit the number of places students will go. Bring the art, music, and physical education teachers into each pod or classroom. Encourage volunteers to help limit the number of students in each pod. Allow teachers and staff who are at-risk of getting Covid-19 to find other ways to help with instruction.

Creating videos and online materials for parents and teachers may be one way at-risk educators can be helpful.

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