Schools — Thinking about next year

Schools — During my last decade of teaching, one of my classrooms was in a “temporary” structure. It was the kind of pre-fab you see dotting campuses all across SoCal.

I was teaching 7th grade History in that room. In terms of the number of students that meant forty desks with class sizes ranging from thirty-six to forty-two. Yes, forty-two with a couple of kids sitting in chairs until class schedule adjustments could be made to get the number back down to forty.

There wasn’t much room to move around, less than a desk’s width between rows, the last desks in the rows hard against the back wall. The room also included a teacher’s desk and room to enter (via the one door) and a half dozen free feet in the front of the class to get from the entry to the rows of desks and room for the teacher to move across the room and use the whiteboard.

COVID-19 spacing

Now, let’s assume that we take out the teacher’s desk and add eight desks to the room. That makes forty-eight student desks and very little room in which to move around. If we take out half of the desks, we will get about four and a half feet between students.

Since I cannot say that I remember the exact dimensions of that classroom, let us say that twenty-four desks, evenly spaced, actually gives us six feet between students and adequate room for the teacher to conduct ordinary instruction and other class business. We can now use that classroom, and others of similar size throughout the state, for teaching in a “social-distanced” educational environment. (My wife’s classroom in Santa Ana had a similar square footage with a like number of students.)

What does this mean?

If teachers have similar student loads to their pre-COVID-19 classes (total number of students for whom they are responsible), a typical middle/junior/senior high teacher (five or six classes, 200-240 students) will now have to teach eight to ten classes.

  • Ten classes per day?
  • Shorter classes and/or longer days?
  • Staggered, alternate day, schedules?
  • Hiring more teachers?
  • Building more classrooms?

How about K-6 classes where teachers have the same students all day long? They have similar size problems. When you space the students out, you decrease the number of students per teacher and class.

Do you now cut the classroom hours and have the teachers teach one group in the morning and another in the afternoon? You both increase the number of hours the teacher teaches and decrease the number of instructional hours for the students. Or, perhaps you introduce staggered/alternate day schedules, which also cuts the number of instructional hours for the students.

Of course, you could build more classrooms and hire more teachers.

This means more money: construction, salaries, health benefits.

No, I haven’t forgotten the hit we’ve taken to our economy with the shutdown and loss of employment — this means decreased tax revenues and school district budgets.


Donald John wants schools to re-open next month; Gavin thinks maybe July/August. Seriously? When are we going to have public discussions about the mechanics and financing of it all? Or are we just going to muddle through, schedule things as we did last year and see what happens?

If this doesn’t give you enough concerns, walk over to your child’s school and imagine it in a social-distanced world (at least, for next year).

Oh, yeah, almost forgot, we’ll also have to increase hours for classified employees in order to keep deep cleaning the schools — or do you think current standards are good enough?

And, how about pre-school?

Not scared yet? Think IEPs.