Thermal scanners, mandatory masks and staggered schedules are some solutions.
8 min read
Much of the world remains on some form of lockdown. But as countries slowly start to loosen restrictions, that has meant schools are back in session for in-person instruction.
What does the classroom look like during a pandemic? As places such as China and Denmark reopen their countries, they provide answers to — or at least experiments in — how social distancing and safety protocols play out.
Face masks, to a degree
Face coverings are a common sight as school children return to their desks. China has been rolling out school reopenings over the past several weeks, from Hubei to Chongqing to Guangdong. And from province to province, students and teachers are sporting face masks, with a few exceptions, like during gym class or lunch.
In France, where a majority of schools reopened this week, masks are required for students ages 11 and up. In towns such as La Grand-Croix and Val-de-Reuil, primary school students have been wearing protective visor caps.
In Germany, where schools started to reopen last month, mask regulations vary by state. They are required for everyone age 7 and up in Bavaria, for instance.
Social distancing indoors and out
How do you enforce social distancing in crowded classrooms and during recess? One way is to have students on a staggered schedule to limit classroom and hallway capacity. New South Wales, Australia’s biggest state, reopened schools on Monday, with students attending in person one day a week and learning from home the rest.
Another solution is to move classes outdoors. In Denmark, which started reopening schools in mid-April, classes are being held outside, such as in parks, as much as possible.
Some schools are enforcing social distancing through means like plastic partitions during lunch, seen in Taiwan, and individual chalk squares for outdoor play, observed at a preschool in Tourcoing, France.
Tests and screenings
The World Health Organization recommends daily temperature checks for students as part of schools’ COVID-19 public health measures. In Shanghai, students and staff enter school through thermal scanners. At Montana’s rural Willow Creek School, one of the first schools to reopen in the U.S., students’ temperatures are checked upon entrance.
COVID-19 diagnostic testing is also being done on school grounds. Testing is commonplace in Wuhan, where students line up along cones to give swab samples. A high school in Neustrelitz, in northern Germany, has students self-administer tests twice a week, according to The New York Times. If they test positive, they stay home for two weeks; if they test negative, they wear a green sticker.
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