Mention the word “coronavirus,” and there will be reactions from knee-jerk panic to “who cares?”

Much is still unknown about the virus. The CDC says the virus is spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This virus seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in affected communities.

But even if our county has not had a confirmed case, you and your school must be prepared.

Many communities and regions are implementing various types of quarantines for its residents in the hope of containing its spread to others. One significant hurdle to overcome is timing. Quarantine too soon, and its purpose is defeated. Wait too late, and it’s… well… too late!

Some unintended consequences of wide-scale seclusions are the potential adverse social and economic effects. Also, schools—where kids share practically everything—are potential Petri dishes of germs, so if an excessive number of students or teachers are infected, a long-term district closing will cause family hardships, such as childcare.

But, if there is a threat to our city and county residents that require separation and confinement, parents, administrators, and teachers need to have realistic expectations about what our students can accomplish while at home and away from school.

At the district level, there should be a plan in place to continue student learning should they have to shut down due to an outbreak of coronavirus.

Each school within the district should encourage both students and staff to stay home if they aren’t feeling well. They should be especially mindful of symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Many schools are stocking up on supplies such as hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. A surgical mask doesn’t necessarily protect the wearer from germs, but it helps keep someone who is sick with a respiratory illness from passing it to others. This virus spreads a lot like the flu.

Some schools are even implementing smaller-scale “social distancing measures.”

Teachers should take this opportunity to discuss and promote proper hygiene techniques with their students. Frequent hand washing and remembering to cough and sneeze into your elbow are great ways to prevent the spread of any disease—not just the coronavirus.

Teachers should routinely sanitize classroom surfaces like desks, countertops, doorknobs, and faucet handles.

Students are experiencing the same kind of anxiety as adults. Teachers can ease their students’ fears by addressing misconceptions around the virus.

As we brace for the potential spread of the coronavirus, the CDC suggests that schools prepare to use remote learning or “teleschool.”

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Remote learning may be impossible to offer.

A large percentage of our students don’t have access to Broadband Internet at home. And if they do, many of those do not have a computer.

It is true that most students have cell phones. But have you ever tried to actually type an essay or calculate a complex math problem on one? Moreover, multi-tasking by opening several tabs is often required for an assignment, which is nearly impossible to do on a cellphone.

Reading complex information requires focus, and when using a cell phone, students can be easily interrupted by calls, texts, and notifications. The time and effort of doing academic work on a handheld device is a recipe for frustration.

Finally, developing an online course is time-intensive and requires training that most teachers have not had. It’s not as simple as just doing what is done in class while having a FaceTime session with students!

Regardless of what may or may not come our way, we should listen carefully to the advice of the scientists and physicians, because it is better to be prepared for a potential crisis, than to have a crisis and not be prepared.

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