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Will students have to wear masks for the entire school day and other education questions, answered

May 28, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

As states around the country begin to open with different guidelines on how and when schools will restart, parents and school workers are asking many questions about what the future of education will look like. We reached out to the the University of Arizona President and the President of the Michigan Teachers Union to answer some of the questions our viewers sent in.

Paula Herbart is president of the Michigan Education Association, a teachers union representing more than 120,000 teachers, student members and education support professionals throughout the state.

How to keep students, teachers and school workers safe

Would students be required to wear masks for the entire school day, even if class numbers are reduced?

She cautions that parents and school workers will need to be flexible in combining both distance and face to face learning and that communities and legislators will need to provide the necessary support to make that happen.

Robbins says he will highly encourage mask wearing at the university, and plans to wear one himself, but can't mandate students wear masks at all times.

Many elementary schools have bathrooms in classrooms so they've always had a one-on-one experience, but one of the things we're going to do as educators is teach children how to socially distance before we can teach them anything about academics. "

He adds that the majority of their students live off campus, in an "unregulated, uncontrolled environment," that they need to take into account as those students will be coming to and from the school grounds.

Herbart: "We've done preliminary survey results and I can tell you that educators are not concerned about themselves, they're concerned about taking it home to their family, they're concerned about their students getting it and giving it to their families. " She explains how one university is setting up clear dividers in lecture halls, like the ones that shield grocery workers, and says that could be an option, as educators will "always want to roam the class to see how student work is going. "

Herbart: "I don't think it's realistic to test every student. . .

But I do think it's realistic to test every adult who's encountering students, since we know that they're at higher risk. "

We're going to offer it to volunteers who want to be tested and we feel very confident that we'll be able to offer the antibody test to everyone, all faculty, students, staff. "

Robbins says his biggest concern is sick patients or asymptomatic patients refusing to get tested or cooperate in contact tracing efforts but, "I think because of privacy we can't mandate it. "

"If we're going to return to buildings, there has to be a plan and procedure in place that there is somebody from the medical profession who is assessing students in a way that makes reasonable sense for a learning environment. " In addition to isolation rooms, the whole infrastructure of schools needs to be given more attention, she says, including ventilation systems.

In terms of additional teaching staff, Herbart suggests enrolling student-teachers where there is a need.

So we're going to have to think about what it means to re-educate and retrain some of our support staff to do a central functions that will needed to be done.

Will schools be closed for a period of time if a student test positive?

I don't think it's going to be one size fits all. " She suggests closing schools for longer periods of time when coronavirus is at its peak, or cases have been discovered in school or in communities, and shifting to a totally virtual teaching experience during those periods.

Asked about parents who may not have the same job flexibility to stay home for weeks when school is out, she says it's something that needs to be addressed, in addition to means and access to broadband.

Robbins agrees that universities may need to switch to distance learning when a second wave comes and if cases spike and says that's what keeps him up at night.

We know the strongest educational experience is with teachers and students in the classroom, having interpersonal relationships, and having those kind of contacts.

Robbins: "I think that our students want the on campus face to face experience.

Herbart: "We have talked about for years the need for strong mental health services for our students.

"We're going to need to provide mental health supports for students reentering, particularly if they've lost somebody or know somebody who has passed away from Covid-19 and who maybe hasn't had an opportunity to say goodbye in traditional ways that we would normally do. "

And this is not the last, pandemic we'll have, and it's going to change the way we do things. " He agrees that a greater mental health resources need to be provided, adding, "one of the big issues is the angst and the fear of getting this infection.

Robbins: "My best-case scenario would be that students come back, they get the rich and full on campus experience.

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