Re-Opening Our Schools in the Time of COVID-19

Re-Opening Our Schools

Since we closed our schools back in March 2020, we have had an ongoing debate as to when and how to re-open our schools. It has been a debate involving economics, health and politics, about the needs of individuals, families, political and ideological needs as well as those of society as a whole.

What to do; what to do?

My proposal is serious, although a bit tongue-in-cheek, as I recognize the impossibility of its being implemented, even on a small scale.

I taught both shop and academic classes in SoCal public junior high/middle schools for some forty years, retiring in 2012. Yes, I do have some idea of classroom conditions in a system which places thirty-five to forty teenagers in a room with a teacher for about an hour per class five or six times a day.

Class Size

My History and English classes usually held thirty-six to forty students. Let’s take a class of thirty-six students and “social distance” them. We’ll place them along one wall and the back of the room, imagining that there need be no room between the student and the wall. Assuming six rows with six students in each, we need a class 30 feet by 30 feet; add six feet in the front and one side for teacher and student movement our class needs to be 36 feet by 36 feet = 1,296 square feet/a small 3-bedroom house.

If you believe this is doable, I suggest you go to your child’s school and measure your child’s classroom(s). If your child’s classes have more or fewer students, mark the floor with blocks or legos or tape, lay out student positions, six feet apart and then allow room for the teacher, any aides and movement into, out of, and within the room. See what you come up with.

Air and Water

Does your child’s classroom have good ventilation: door(s), windows that open for cross ventilation or any ventilation at all? How about the heating/air-conditioning system, is it adequate?

Does the classroom have a sink for washing hands? If not, how about the toilet facilities? Check them out. Are they adequate and clean? Would you use them? If not, your child shouldn’t have to either.


There are many other things I could touch on here: movement between classes, lunch, PE, choir and band, arrival and departure, recess/nutrition, custodial services, finances (in a contracting economy), but I’ll leave those for later. After all, you have an imagination — use it.


President Trump and Secretary of Education DeVos and other public figures are pushing for schools to re-open, regardless of the current pandemic.

They are correct in that we need to educate our children. We also need to care for (babysit them) so that their parents can go back to work. If you do not believe that childcare is a function of our educational system, you need to get real and open your eyes; perhaps, you can listen to those parents who cannot go to work because they have young children to tend.

OK, to the nitty-gritty. Our physical facilities (schools) are inadequate to meet the needs for the social distancing of our students and staff. So, let’s forget about social distancing — just send them back to school.

Sanitary facilities are inadequate, so, forget about them (after all, we’ve been doing so for decades) and give our kids their own bottles of sanitizer and hand wipes.

To make sure that things are okay, let’s have our political leaders send their children to our local public schools. After all, if it’s safe for our kids, it’s safe for theirs.


And, let’s make sure that those among us who refuse to wear masks send their children to school without masks and have them enrolled in classes with teachers who share their beliefs. Maybe, they can get jobs as substitute teachers for those teachers who are in high-risk categories or who simply want to be safe?

The rest of us can keep our kids at home and have them attend online classes until this emergency is over.

Child care? Why worry? How about we re-write parental responsibility laws so that parents can leave their underage children at home alone. That way the parents can go to work and get our economy working again. Maybe, we should re-write our child labor laws so kids could go to work rather than go to school.

How old does one have to be to flip burgers or operate cash registers with pictures for buttons? Place kids in jobs for unskilled labor that usually go to immigrants because we don’t want to go to fill low wage, high labor jobs. Childcare will be taken care of and we won’t have to worry about having those kids in school and fewer immigrants. Win-Win-Win.


Like I said, a bit tongue-in-cheek, but we really need to think and plan this re-opening before we send our children and teachers back to school. They are our future (as well as our present).