As the coronavirus pandemic slows in other countries, children are returning to classrooms with preventive measures such as face masks and temperature checks.
While most U.S. states have closed school for the remainder of the school year, with a few already contemplating delaying a return to classrooms in the fall, seeing kids head back to school in other countries has parents asking what the school day will look like for their children once the COVID-19 crisis ends.
Janelle Hanchett is an American living in the Netherlands, where children will return to schools in May and June. Hanchett, who has four kids who range in age from 5 to 18, said she's not afraid of what will happen when her kids return to their classrooms.
"I am absolutely ready for it," said Hanchett, explaining that the curve is flattening in the Netherlands. "They are going back half days and alternating in-class and online study, meaning they will go to school from 8:30 a.m. until noon and only every other day. The days they are home, they will have Skype lessons."
"From observing my American friends, the Netherlands is much more relaxed when it comes expectations surrounding online learning," added Hanchett, who blogs at Renegade Mothering. "This is a huge relief to me."
As an American living in Korea, Ann-Marie Vallone's young children have been attending school remotely since the end of February. Vallone said her kids, ages 6 and 8, are tentatively scheduled to return to school on May 11.
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"There are many new protocols and procedures in place such as morning temperature checks upon entering school property, mandatory wearing of face masks, strategic placement of hand sanitizer and increased disinfection of handrails and common areas," Vallone told TODAY Parents. "The teachers will also enforce social distancing rules within classrooms and during recess, and the school has postponed all field trips and after-school activities."
Still, Vallone has concerns about sending her kids back to the classroom.
"With spring in full bloom, our family is suffering with allergies and although wearing a mask helps to cut down on breathing in pollen, it does nothing to stop the pollen from entering the eyes, causing some serious itchiness," she said. Her kids' school serves children from a wide geographic area, with some spending an hour on the bus every morning, she added. "I feel that if there were an outbreak of COVID-19 in our school, we could easily assist in the spread throughout the province."
According to BBC News, schools in some parts of China have reopened. Schools in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak began, plan to resume on May 6. In addition to face masks and social distancing, photos have emerged of students wearing special "one meter hats" — hats with tubing extending on either side to remind them to keep a safe distance from others — and students are being checked for fever at the school gates.
CBC reports that students in Taiwan are eating lunch surrounded by personal protective barriers (like little cubicles) and are required to wear face masks. Parents are also required to check their child's temperature each morning before sending them to school.
BBC News reports that in Denmark, which was one of the first countries in Europe to close schools due to the virus, some schools have re-opened with an emphasis on hand washing and social distancing, but no masks.
Most of Germany's classrooms remain closed, but Reuters reports older students returned to the classroom to take final exams last week. Reuters also reports that Finland will resume schools on May 14 for little more than two weeks before summer vacation starts in June, and Austria plans to open schools with students attending in split groups with spaced-apart desks around the same time.
Hanchett said she has less anxiety about sending her kids back to the classroom than her American friends.
"Kids here can hang out ... and hug and kiss," she explained. "This is quite different than what they're doing in America, but this is 17 million people, not 330 million people. And they have a different idea about child transmission."
While some European countries have expressed a lack of concern that children can infect others with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control recommends keeping kids away from older adults and people with chronic medical conditions, an at-risk population that could certainly include teachers.
Vallone said she isn't sure how schools can completely protect students from the spread of coronavirus.
"My son is in kindergarten and I'm constantly reminding him to wash his hands with soap, keep his mask on and try not to touch his eyes," said the mom of two. "It's exhausting and I can't imagine how difficult it will be for the teachers to have to enforce these rules while trying to carry on with lessons."