Children seem to have outgrown online learning. Though some students found it difficult to concentrate or attend online classes on a schedule, majority of them missed the routine of going to school, meeting friends, and interacting with teachers daily. With back to school 2020 plans full swing in Canada, safety measures should be the highest priority as the coronavirus pandemic prevails across the globe. Various provinces of the country are making plans of their own to ensure children can study in a safe environment. 

Did you know, in the20th century, when the world was crippled with fear of the spread of tuberculosis, open-air spaces were favoured over school buildings for conducting classes? Tuberculosis (TB) mainly affects the lungs, but can also damage other parts of the body. It spread through the air when an individual suffering from this ailment coughed, sneezed, or spoke. 

During these times, TB was also dubbed as white death or white plague, which spread due to unhygienic living conditions that were prevalent among workers residing in the United States and Europe since the Industrial Revolution. Similar to the current situation, no vaccine for tuberculosis was discovered to prevent it from spreading. Therefore, the preferred treatment was open-air spaces. This way, patients are exposed to ample sunlight and fresh air. 

Since individuals struggled to maintain immunity, those between 15 and 44 years were the most affected by this disease. Educators and doctors agreed to save the children, crowded classes with little to no fresh air could result in the spread of tuberculosis. To maintain safety and good health, study sessions were held outdoors in open spaces. 

In 1904, Germany pioneered the open-air school movement where students were taught lessons in forest schools. Soon enough, word spread across the globe and classes were held outdoors in countries, such as Canada, the United States, and Europe. This helped reduce ventilation issues and improved kid’s health. 

As schools plan on reopening during the coronavirus, we cannot help but wonder if Canada’s plan of teaching kids in school buildings is safe enough, or are we missing out on a vital lesson taught by history. Though Canada is currently a low-risk country for the coronavirus pandemic, ignoring previously used strategies can prove to backfire and aggravate cases within classrooms. 

However, with the winter months right around the corner, it is difficult to imagine students sitting outdoors and studying at low temperatures. Even if they bundle up and space heaters run, or logs are burnt, the probability of students getting ill due to the cold weather will increase. This is a dilemma that will have to be dealt with when the need arises. 

According to the new federal guidelines issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada, classrooms should preferably have improved air circulation and, wherever possible, should be conducted in open spaces. However, not every school has decent windows for proper airflow, which can pose a threat. In this case, the minimum air ventilation options present should be used entirely, such as opening windows, placing air purifiers to clean the air or installing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filter. 

Yet another dilemma that schools will face are students jam-packed in classrooms without face masks, which can drastically increase the spread of COVID-19. Even if classes are conducted within school buildings, social distancing should be practised, along with a mandatory mask, proper hand hygiene, and ventilation. Regrettably, these measures cannot be taken by all schools, as some have a higher number of students than others. With no comprehensive guidelines issued by the state, parents and teachers are starting to worry if they are setting themselves up for failure and heading in the direction to facilitate the spread of the second wave of coronavirus. 

Experts reckon a good practise to start the school year is to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms at home. Parents can help screen kids every day before going to school and after returning home. Schools also need to be vigilant, screen individuals at the entrance, and actively play their role by keeping a close eye on students and staff members who miss school frequently. 

The school can implement two tactics; the first is to isolate the kid who misses school and have them tested until their test comes clear. Or carry a pooled surveillance that requires random testing conducted on classrooms for coronavirus symptoms. Furthermore, parents can play their part by keeping their sick child at home; this will help reduce the danger of infecting other students. 

Though there is no foolproof method of ensuring there is absolutely no risk of getting the virus. Implementing basic coronavirus preventive measures is the way to go about things. This means making the COVID-19 face mask mandatory for everyone at school, including students, teachers, the janitorial, and cafeteria staff. Individuals may choose from the best reusable face mask, cloth face mask, or best quality disposable face mask. Everyone present within the premises should wear it to protect themselves and the students. 

Alongside the above measures, the best practises begin at home. As parents, we need to teach our little ones the importance of hand hygiene. Teach your kids to wash hands with soap or a hand wash, lather it up thoroughly, and rub for at least 20 seconds. To keep track of time, have them sing Happy Birthday or their favourite nursery rhyme. 

To make things easier, get your child a hand sanitizer with 70% ethyl alcohol or best hand sanitizer wipes for COVID. Teach your little angel to keep hands clean while traveling on the school bus, during class, or in the absence of water and soap. Also, teach kids to sneeze and cough in their sleeve rather than hands to avoid germs. 

Conclusion 

Although schools are responsible for our children’s safety, and the role of teachers is crucial, as parents, we can play our part and teach our kids how to take measures to ensure their health does not get compromised. This includes wearing a face mask, washing hands frequently, and socially distancing, especially from those who cough, sneeze, or appear visibly ill.