President Trump declares, “Open the schools.”

Though clearly he overlooks the complexity, opening schools is the right thing to do.

However, the process is a three-dimensional Tetris puzzle with constantly moving pieces. Like Tetris, putting them in the right place at the right time is the challenge.

With Evanston Township High School’s announcing remote classes, we’ve given up playing the game before it’s even started.

There are multiple priorities for opening schools, but the number- one priority is the safety of the students, teachers and staff. However, our second-order priority, which should not be overlooked, is the education, socialization, and support of our children.

Is there a way to accomplish both in the setting of COVID-19?

For one, business as usual in schools ended the moment COVID-19 hit our communities. So any attempt to recreate this is futile. Harking back to nine-period days, 5 days a week, with robust sports and extracurricular activities, is nothing but nostalgia and completely useless at this moment.

For ETHS to open, to accomplish the number-one priority of student and staff safety, there needs to be ventilation, distancing, and disinfection.

Masks for everyone is a given.

Handwashing and sanitation are a given.

Temperature checks and screens are a given.

These actually pose no challenge. Ventilation, social distancing and disinfection are the hurdles, but surmountable.

Use the Outside

Take ventilation. ETHS needs an inventory of how many classrooms are adjacent to windows that open. Those that do not are off limits and need to be repurposed.

Fans can be placed in the windows – one as an intake, one as an exhaust – to keep the air circulating in the classroom.

Teachers can be protected in the classroom within a designated “safe space,” preferably near the window. Plexiglass barriers, tape markers six feet apart – the new reality in every other facet of life – can be implemented in schools, and in every indoor classroom, to help keep teachers safe and students distanced.

To augment the number of classrooms, schools should implement outdoor instruction. This would require open-air shelters, such as tents or canopies.

Again, all around us businesses have adapted to provide open air spaces for providing their services because it’s safer to be outdoors. Schools should be no exception.

We are fortunate on the North Shore to have high schools with large outdoor spaces dedicated to athletics. These spaces need to be repurposed for academics.

We are already doing this. Athletic summer camps are occurring, because there’s less transmission outdoors. The athletes are kept apart. Masks are being worn. Hand sanitation is being provided.

It would be easier with academics. So, instead of our football coaches being outside and teaching schemes, it will be our math “coaches” teaching algebra.

Same with English, science, social studies, art.

Will it be too hot or too cold?

Absolutely.

But there’s no Goldilock’s “just right” solution.

If you poll the kids – and I suspect the faculty – I think everyone would prefer to be too hot or too cold than to be online. Online is too much.

So, can we begin the repurposing effort now?

Procure tents and equipment from the National Guard or military – even volunteers.

The President wants schools? Give us the resources to make it happen.

Reconfigure the Day

One of the major hurdles of opening schools is passage in the hallways and the challenge of social distancing. So can we rethink the day?

Do we need kids changing classes nine times a day? Instead, can they change once or twice and have longer classes on given days?

Not every class would need to meet five days a week. And perhaps a four-day school week, with one day online for electives can be implemented. It would be a step toward college preparation, perhaps an unintended silver lining.

Reducing the school day from nine periods to two or three longer will significantly reduce teacher and student exposures on any given day.

Safety and Sanitation

Finally, disinfection.

Teachers need to be empowered to feel safe. Abundant disinfection can provide this.

I am a physician who works in a closed office space with no open windows and with several at-risk staff.

What have we done?

Everything we can. We screen patients. We wear masks. We have streamlined our teams so we are more distant. But most importantly, we have disinfectant spray everywhere. That’s the single most important tool I can give my staff to feel empowered.

And I heard recently a great solution that could work in a classroom from one of my patients who is a Chicago Fireman. He performs EMS transports, puts out fires, rescues people inside homes etc. And in between his runs, their rigs and firehouses are cleaned with a power-spray painter, that instead of containing paint, contains disinfectant (watered down bleach).

What a terrific idea. This three-dimensional Tetris game needs experts in all fields to solve the puzzle. We need teachers, administrators, parents, and staff – but we also need public health experts for guidance, government representatives for procurement, and occupational health experts to implement the plan.

Of all times to get kids in school, particularly where we live, the time is now. The weather is conducive. The number of infections in our area is low. And the kids haven’t been in a learning environment since March.

We have earmarked some businesses as essential (marijuana - really?). Aren’t schools?

Let’s treat our children’s education and our schools like we have our essential businesses, and open them – responsibly, safely, and thoughtfully.

Dr. Chehab is an orthopedic surgeon at Illinois Bone and Joint Institute.

 

President Trump declares, “Open the schools.”

Though clearly he overlooks the complexity, opening schools is the right thing to do.

However, the process is a three-dimensional Tetris puzzle with constantly moving pieces. Like Tetris, putting them in the right place at the right time is the challenge.

With Evanston Township High School’s announcing remote classes, we’ve given up playing the game before it’s even started.

There are multiple priorities for opening schools, but the number- one priority is the safety of the students, teachers and staff. However, our second-order priority, which should not be overlooked, is the education, socialization, and support of our children.

Is there a way to accomplish both in the setting of COVID-19?

For one, business as usual in schools ended the moment COVID-19 hit our communities. So any attempt to recreate this is futile. Harking back to nine-period days, 5 days a week, with robust sports and extracurricular activities, is nothing but nostalgia and completely useless at this moment.

For ETHS to open, to accomplish the number-one priority of student and staff safety, there needs to be ventilation, distancing, and disinfection.

Masks for everyone is a given.

Handwashing and sanitation are a given.

Temperature checks and screens are a given.

These actually pose no challenge. Ventilation, social distancing and disinfection are the hurdles, but surmountable.

Use the Outside

Take ventilation. ETHS needs an inventory of how many classrooms are adjacent to windows that open. Those that do not are off limits and need to be repurposed.

Fans can be placed in the windows – one as an intake, one as an exhaust – to keep the air circulating in the classroom.

Teachers can be protected in the classroom within a designated “safe space,” preferably near the window. Plexiglass barriers, tape markers six feet apart – the new reality in every other facet of life – can be implemented in schools, and in every indoor classroom, to help keep teachers safe and students distanced.

To augment the number of classrooms, schools should implement outdoor instruction. This would require open-air shelters, such as tents or canopies.

Again, all around us businesses have adapted to provide open air spaces for providing their services because it’s safer to be outdoors. Schools should be no exception.

We are fortunate on the North Shore to have high schools with large outdoor spaces dedicated to athletics. These spaces need to be repurposed for academics.

We are already doing this. Athletic summer camps are occurring, because there’s less transmission outdoors. The athletes are kept apart. Masks are being worn. Hand sanitation is being provided.

It would be easier with academics. So, instead of our football coaches being outside and teaching schemes, it will be our math “coaches” teaching algebra.

Same with English, science, social studies, art.

Will it be too hot or too cold?

Absolutely.

But there’s no Goldilock’s “just right” solution.

If you poll the kids – and I suspect the faculty – I think everyone would prefer to be too hot or too cold than to be online. Online is too much.

So, can we begin the repurposing effort now?

Procure tents and equipment from the National Guard or military – even volunteers.

The President wants schools? Give us the resources to make it happen.

Reconfigure the Day

One of the major hurdles of opening schools is passage in the hallways and the challenge of social distancing. So can we rethink the day?

Do we need kids changing classes nine times a day? Instead, can they change once or twice and have longer classes on given days?

Not every class would need to meet five days a week. And perhaps a four-day school week, with one day online for electives can be implemented. It would be a step toward college preparation, perhaps an unintended silver lining.

Reducing the school day from nine periods to two or three longer will significantly reduce teacher and student exposures on any given day.

Safety and Sanitation

Finally, disinfection.

Teachers need to be empowered to feel safe. Abundant disinfection can provide this.

I am a physician who works in a closed office space with no open windows and with several at-risk staff.

What have we done?

Everything we can. We screen patients. We wear masks. We have streamlined our teams so we are more distant. But most importantly, we have disinfectant spray everywhere. That’s the single most important tool I can give my staff to feel empowered.

And I heard recently a great solution that could work in a classroom from one of my patients who is a Chicago Fireman. He performs EMS transports, puts out fires, rescues people inside homes etc. And in between his runs, their rigs and firehouses are cleaned with a power-spray painter, that instead of containing paint, contains disinfectant (watered down bleach).

What a terrific idea. This three-dimensional Tetris game needs experts in all fields to solve the puzzle. We need teachers, administrators, parents, and staff – but we also need public health experts for guidance, government representatives for procurement, and occupational health experts to implement the plan.

Of all times to get kids in school, particularly where we live, the time is now. The weather is conducive. The number of infections in our area is low. And the kids haven’t been in a learning environment since March.

We have earmarked some businesses as essential (marijuana - really?). Aren’t schools?

Let’s treat our children’s education and our schools like we have our essential businesses, and open them – responsibly, safely, and thoughtfully.

Dr. Chehab is an orthopedic surgeon at Illinois Bone and Joint Institute.

Eric. L Chehab, M.D. :

 

President Trump declares, “Open the schools.”

Though clearly he overlooks the complexity, opening schools is the right thing to do.

However, the process is a three-dimensional Tetris puzzle with constantly moving pieces. Like Tetris, putting them in the right place at the right time is the challenge.

With Evanston Township High School’s announcing remote classes, we’ve given up playing the game before it’s even started.

There are multiple priorities for opening schools, but the number- one priority is the safety of the students, teachers and staff. However, our second-order priority, which should not be overlooked, is the education, socialization, and support of our children.

Is there a way to accomplish both in the setting of COVID-19?

For one, business as usual in schools ended the moment COVID-19 hit our communities. So any attempt to recreate this is futile. Harking back to nine-period days, 5 days a week, with robust sports and extracurricular activities, is nothing but nostalgia and completely useless at this moment.

For ETHS to open, to accomplish the number-one priority of student and staff safety, there needs to be ventilation, distancing, and disinfection.

Masks for everyone is a given.

Handwashing and sanitation are a given.

Temperature checks and screens are a given.

These actually pose no challenge. Ventilation, social distancing and disinfection are the hurdles, but surmountable.

Use the Outside

Take ventilation. ETHS needs an inventory of how many classrooms are adjacent to windows that open. Those that do not are off limits and need to be repurposed.

Fans can be placed in the windows – one as an intake, one as an exhaust – to keep the air circulating in the classroom.

Teachers can be protected in the classroom within a designated “safe space,” preferably near the window. Plexiglass barriers, tape markers six feet apart – the new reality in every other facet of life – can be implemented in schools, and in every indoor classroom, to help keep teachers safe and students distanced.

To augment the number of classrooms, schools should implement outdoor instruction. This would require open-air shelters, such as tents or canopies.

Again, all around us businesses have adapted to provide open air spaces for providing their services because it’s safer to be outdoors. Schools should be no exception.

We are fortunate on the North Shore to have high schools with large outdoor spaces dedicated to athletics. These spaces need to be repurposed for academics.

We are already doing this. Athletic summer camps are occurring, because there’s less transmission outdoors. The athletes are kept apart. Masks are being worn. Hand sanitation is being provided.

It would be easier with academics. So, instead of our football coaches being outside and teaching schemes, it will be our math “coaches” teaching algebra.

Same with English, science, social studies, art.

Will it be too hot or too cold?

Absolutely.

But there’s no Goldilock’s “just right” solution.

If you poll the kids – and I suspect the faculty – I think everyone would prefer to be too hot or too cold than to be online. Online is too much.

So, can we begin the repurposing effort now?

Procure tents and equipment from the National Guard or military – even volunteers.

The President wants schools? Give us the resources to make it happen.

Reconfigure the Day

One of the major hurdles of opening schools is passage in the hallways and the challenge of social distancing. So can we rethink the day?

Do we need kids changing classes nine times a day? Instead, can they change once or twice and have longer classes on given days?

Not every class would need to meet five days a week. And perhaps a four-day school week, with one day online for electives can be implemented. It would be a step toward college preparation, perhaps an unintended silver lining.

Reducing the school day from nine periods to two or three longer will significantly reduce teacher and student exposures on any given day.

Safety and Sanitation

Finally, disinfection.

Teachers need to be empowered to feel safe. Abundant disinfection can provide this.

I am a physician who works in a closed office space with no open windows and with several at-risk staff.

What have we done?

Everything we can. We screen patients. We wear masks. We have streamlined our teams so we are more distant. But most importantly, we have disinfectant spray everywhere. That’s the single most important tool I can give my staff to feel empowered.

And I heard recently a great solution that could work in a classroom from one of my patients who is a Chicago Fireman. He performs EMS transports, puts out fires, rescues people inside homes etc. And in between his runs, their rigs and firehouses are cleaned with a power-spray painter, that instead of containing paint, contains disinfectant (watered down bleach).

What a terrific idea. This three-dimensional Tetris game needs experts in all fields to solve the puzzle. We need teachers, administrators, parents, and staff – but we also need public health experts for guidance, government representatives for procurement, and occupational health experts to implement the plan.

Of all times to get kids in school, particularly where we live, the time is now. The weather is conducive. The number of infections in our area is low. And the kids haven’t been in a learning environment since March.

We have earmarked some businesses as essential (marijuana - really?). Aren’t schools?

Let’s treat our children’s education and our schools like we have our essential businesses, and open them – responsibly, safely, and thoughtfully.

Dr. Chehab is an orthopedic surgeon at Illinois Bone and Joint Institute.