Economy

Testing, Cleaning Rules Needed Before Schools Reopen, Public Health Experts Say

school closed

With talk about reopening the U.S. economy come questions around how schools are going to handle reopening.

Labor and public health experts say extending school closures is not sustainable, as parents will have to return to work and won’t be able to do that if the kids are still out of school, a CNBC report noted.

It will be difficult, as predictions from medical officials say another wave of coronavirus could hit by the winter. But schools, looking at reopening in waves and bringing in stringent methods of tracking, could find ways.

Ashish Jha, professor of health policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said rigorous testing, with mass-distributed throat-swab tests nationwide, and strict cleaning procedures will be necessary in order for schools to open. Jha also said schools will need to enforce social distancing by eliminating gatherings such as assemblies, and may need to cancel fall sports as well.

The United Federation of Teachers union in New York City has begun an online petition to the federal government saying certain requirements must be met in order for schools to reopen, including cleaning procedures, temperature checks, testing and tracking.

U.S. schools could follow a model set by China, where older children are returning to school first with restrictions such as social distancing, face masks and temperature checks.

Schools in the U.S. might also cast eyes to Germany, which has explored tentative reopenings as coronavirus cases simmer down there. Chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed students finishing their final years of school to return as of May 4.

For higher education, payment plans to help students afford expensive tuition and payments might be necessary, according to Flywire, which has published guidelines for universities and colleges, to help them “manage budgets, while maintaining enrollment.”

Colleges in North Carolina have been refunding room and board for students unable to use them due to the pandemic, or offering plans to help make up for the losses.

The costs will also be a hurdle for many prestigious schools, where students paid high fees to get in only to be forced to go home due to the pandemic, relegated to digital classes that many did not find to be a suitable replacement. And students worried that the rapidly-changing world due to the virus might not even make their degrees worth it anymore.

Petitions for reduced or refunded tuitions were circulated as the pandemic escalated. But schools did not yield, instead maintaining that the quality of education would be maintained and degrees would still be worth it no matter what.

Flywire’s report also recommended colleges craft clear policies that increase trust in their commitment to fending off the virus, and said they should make sure to have visa requirements squared away for foreign students.

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