What's the right way to open schools?
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What's the right way to open schools?

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You can try all you want to open the country, but without schools and summer camps and child care, the country will not be open.

Modern society is based on the bargain that people can go and add to the economy while their kids get an education paid for by the collective. But no one in the US has completely figured out how to start school back up again in the absence of universal testing, effective treatment or a vaccine for Covid-19.

Colleges are looking at a variety of things. Higher education moved quickly to get students off campus and colleges are now floating various models, including online learning to start next school year and early in-person terms to get in front of an expected second wave, with distance learning after Thanksgiving. They're all over the place.

K-12 is still working it out. It's the elementary and high schools that dictate when Americans can really, fully can get back to work. Daycares too! But educators are trying to figure out plans just as awareness is rising of a scary new side effect of Covid that hits kids with a multi-system inflammatory syndrome.

On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that he wouldn't send his kids to day camp this summer without more clarity about the syndrome, a worrying signal for anyone trying to look ahead to the fall.

Not just a worker headache. An educational one. The least risky thing would be to continue distance learning, but aside from making it impossible for many parents to return to their offices, there's the reality that no one knows how effective distance learning is, so kids are essentially realtime guinea pigs.

Some places will get kids back to school 'normally' and many hard hit areas, including cities, will not. It's not fair to kids that they aren't getting school. It will be even more unfair if some kids are and other are not.

Flexibility is required. Not knowing what the situation will be in the fall, schools are having to plan for different scenarios.

Virginia has created a task force to get the schools open, but it still depends on the virus, the state's superintendent of learning said on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper Thursday.

"We obviously are not going to make any decisions about students returning to school until our health officials, the CDC guidance, the (Virginia Department of Health) guidance, and all of the data shows that it's safe for our students to return to school."

How to deal with risk. Tapper really pushed Lane on what the state is doing to get enough tests to make sure the virus isn't in schools.

Lane said by the time schools open -- after a decline in cases in Virginia -- universal tests might not be necessary.

"I don't think that the Virginia department of Health is going o'require a level of testing that we don't have the capacity to do when we reopen it. So I think you're going to see a much greater focus on -- and this is in the CDC guidance as well. A focus on screenings. A focus on quick checks."

What will the new normal look like?

During CNN's coronavirus town hall on Thursday night, Dr. Tanya Altmann, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said it's going to take everyone following the same rules -- staying phsically distanced, wearing masks and washing their hands -- and maybe doing more classroom activities outdoors. See more of her comments from the town hall.

What the CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for schools thinking about reopening and suggested school openings should be part of a "phase 2."

The Covid criteria for phase two would be downward trajectory of almost zero incidence of new cases for 28 days. Granted, most states entered a "phase 1" of opening without meeting CDC's recommended 14 days of downward trajectory, so the guidelines are not set in stone.

Once schools have opened, the CDC included recommendations like:

Daily temperature checks for staff and students.

Spacing desks at least six feet apart.

Turning desks to face the same direction.

Closing dining halls and playgrounds if possible.

Cleaning and disinfecting shared objects between uses.

Staggering arrival and drop off times and locations.

Putting one child per seat on buses and in every other row, if possible.

Some of those seem unachievable in crammed districts already strapped for cash, can those recommendations be made into reality?

Deficits matter when you get to the school level. Michelle Reid is the superintendent of Northshore Public Schools outside Seattle and she talked to CNN's Kate Bolduan about the challenges, many of which have to do with cost.

Getting kids to school. "We've realized that 60 percent of our bus drivers are in the high-risk category," Reid said. "So even if we minimize students on the bus, they still pass the bus driver to get on the bus. We've looked at alternate ways to board the bus, be safe on the bus. But the resources required to run more buses because we're going to be limited to the number of students. It's going to make things really challenging.

Keeping 27,000 kids safe at school. "The requirement for PPE for our almost 3,000 staff members, it's going to be significant," she said.

Being ready for the kids to not be at school again. "I think that what we're realizing is that having a backbone of a robust distance learning platform is going to be most critical.

They have already updated their remote learning strategy, she said, because what they started out with wasn't working.

"You cannot simply take everything that we did, which was amazing, in our brick and mortar schools and move them into this online climate," she said. "It is not a promising practice. It will not keep our students engaged. It will frustrate our parents and our teachers and that's not why they've signed on."

What's happening in other countries?

Children outside the US are returning to school with mixed results. South Korean secondary school students were back in class today, but dozens of schools closed almost immediately after several students tested positive.

Authorities wanted to contact trace and find out who the positive students had encountered.

Ahem. Both of them had been at a coin-operated karaoke. Now they're shutting down karaokes in that town.

Masks in South Korea. There's a good picture in this story of South Korean high school students all wearing masks and waiting to have their temperatures checked.

Local governments say no reopening. British can schools re-start June 1, but the BBC looks at how parts of the UK are not opening and how many local governments are recommending against re-opening. (Side note: Cambridge University is scrapping face-to-face lectures for the coming academic year.)

No masks in Denmark. CNN's Fred Pleitgen went to Denmark, among the first European countries to reopen school and found kids learning statistics in a graveyard and listening to math lessons in a church as schools try to keep kids outside and separate.

There are staggered start times. No masks, but police tape keeps people apart. Handwashing every two hours.

(If Fred had waited a few hours, he could have tried to sneak into Noma, often cited as the world's best fine dining destination, but which in the time of Covid reopened Thursday as an outdoor burger joint).

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