This year, the return from winter breaks looks remarkably different--here's how to help schools keep students safe and engaged in the new year

3 strategies to help schools navigate the new year

This year, the return from winter breaks looks remarkably different--here's how to help schools keep students safe and engaged in the new year

No one could have prepared our children for ten months (and counting) of face shields, distance learning, and minimal peer interaction.

In fact – no one could have predicted much of what transpired last year. None of us could have guessed that come March 2020, a widespread global pandemic would replace many of those shiny New Year’s resolutions with social distancing, masks, an excess of outdoor walks, and perhaps way too much banana bread.

And fast-forwarding to the present, it is now January 2021, a month in which we would typically return to work post-holiday break, and our children would return to the classroom feeling refreshed, re-energized, and ready to get back to work alongside friends and peers. But this year looks a little different.

As the country enters a phased vaccination period with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at the forefront, there is finally a visible light at the end of the tunnel for many of us. There is an action plan. However, the vaccination process is lengthy and may take quite some time before it is appropriately administered cross-country. But there is hope. But as the vaccine becomes accessible to distinct ages, risk categories, and occupations, there is one group noticeably missing from the approved list: People aged 16 and younger.

Studies are underway to determine if children should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but regardless of data, it is more important than ever to protect our kids in the interim. And this protection starts in the schools. Now, more than ever, it is essential that our education leaders have the proper tools in place to ensure a safe, productive, and engaging classroom.

How can our schools safely navigate the new year?

1. Invest in contactless solutions to help mitigate the spread. By investing in contactless solutions that can swiftly and efficiently scan for individual wellness markers such as temperature and facial coverings, school officials can breathe a little easier knowing that all who enter the building have been equally screened. Digital wellness validation has become a key component of the new normal and will continue to be in the months and years moving forward as schools look to be as safe and secure as possible. Such products allow schools to implement contactless, hands-free solutions that scan for overall wellness while allowing students to engage virtually, which is essential.

2. Use nature as the classroom. The school playground isn’t just for recess. Taking the lesson plan outside can be an innovative way to keep kids engaged while controlling the spread to a minimum.

3. Tap into hybrid learning. A combination of classroom-based and online education allows schools to moderate face-to-face activity, keeping students and teachers engaged in-person and virtually while keeping safety at the forefront of all schooling models. Such systems ensure allow more of an opportunity for social distancing, decreasing the number of students in the building at any given time, as well as ensuring that the schools are fully equipped to operate virtually when needed.

Most importantly, take it one day at a time. There is nothing easy about working as an educator in the current landscape, but short- and long-term solutions can help keep the classroom as safe as possible. By venturing outside, investing in contactless solutions to easily keep tabs on symptoms, and staying consistent in CDC-recommended applications, schools can look ahead to a successful new year – even in the interim before full-fledged vaccine implementation. Stay strong – and happy New Year!

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