If I read the tea leaves right, classrooms are beginning to be populated again in public school systems throughout the country. Many teachers are on the “eligible” list for the Covid-19 vaccine. And school administrators across the fruited plain are trying to come up with ways to keep facilities clean and corona-free so parents, kids, and educators all feel comfortable learning face-to-face once again.
Some real (and imagined) adaptations, though, are afoot. For example:
Classrooms: Scattered desks and see-through barriers will replace the traditional straight rows. That should cut down on note-passing and looking at another’s paper during a test. And forget about bringing the traditional apple to bribe the teacher. He/she’s not going to eat anything of unknown origin that hasn’t been properly scrubbed and sanitized.
School buildings: Speaking of sanitation, it appears that all schools will be thoroughly disinfected at least once a week if not daily. I’m not quite sure what the cleaning staff is going to be spraying all over every classroom surface, in hallways, and throughout offices in each building, but apparently the powers-that-be feel it’s safer than the Covid bug.
Masks: Of course, everyone will be required to wear something over mouth and nose. Teachers, at their own discretion, may suggest all students wear two masks. (Shoot, have troublemakers wear three, four, or five layers. Their voices will be so muffled no one will be disturbed by anything they say.)
School buses: Since there has to be sufficient space between riders, only every other seat can be utilized. Does that mean several students will be forced to stand up and hold on to newly installed “commuter” straps suspended from the ceiling, like on a New York subway train? (There were also unsubstantiated rumors that “open air” seating might become available on top of some buses with particularly crowded routes, but I don’t think that’s come to fruition just yet.)
Gym class: Since close-contact sports such as basketball and wrestling (two wintertime favorites among P.E. teachers) are off-limits, only Chess and Checkers will be offered. Opponents will still sit opposite each other, but there will be a Plexiglas screen between them. Five-card draw poker and Blackjack will also be available, but they require parental approval.
Cheerleaders: They’ll have to adapt to the new sports offerings as well. Forget about cries of “Deeefense! Deeefense!” Instead, shouts of “Crown that King, Crown that King” and “Hit on 16, Stay on 17!” will fill the air during newly approved sporting contests.
Essays: No more “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” The new topic is, “What I Did During the Pandemic.” (There is no right or wrong answer. However, students who write “Nothing” on their papers will not receive a passing grade, even though that may be accurate.) Perhaps a better subject might be: “What Did Your Parents Do They Weren’t Supposed to During Lockdown?” Kids will be honest, you know. And not that any teacher would rat out anyone to the authorities, but it may give them some good leverage during parent/teacher conferences.
Cafeteria: There is no more such thing as a “Cool Kids” table (which is probably a good thing . . . unless you’re one of them). Nobody can sit within several feet of anybody else. So, if students want to spread a little gossip, it’s going to have to be shouted. And if somebody starts a food fight, he or she will have to have a pretty good arm to sling a loaded hamburger and hit the intended target way down at the end of the table.
Clothes: This probably affects teachers the most. They might have been conducting those online classes in their sweats. And, as with most Americans, the pandemic put-on of pounds probably has not spared educational system employees. Visiting the closet in preparation for classroom dress might not go so well. A few duds in slightly larger sizes may be required.
Sharing: There will be none of that. Even though the virus is mainly transmitted through the air, you can’t take the risk that some little germs didn’t fall on the papers everyone is passing around or books that are meant for all. Don’t know what’s going to happen in Chemistry and Biology labs either. Partners generally have to work pretty closely together. Hazmat suits may be required to bubble up a cauldron or dissect a frog.
Body language: This is perhaps the most challenging adaptation. Since that cute girl/guy sitting up front can’t see you smile at her/him, students are going to have to learn to flirt with their eyes. (I’m sure all will adapt well.)
Back to school! Let’s hope for good.