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In a world where touch is dangerous and friends can't hug, what will reopening school in America look like?
That is the question on many parents' minds these days. In many states school will be out for the rest of the year, but we could be looking at a new kind of classroom come September.
Here's how schools in other countries are reintroducing kids to classrooms:
In China, children have been back at school for months now and teachers helped the youngest kids with the transition by creating hats and costumes to help the little ones learn what 6 feet apart looks and feels like.
Balloon hats, like those shown above, were popular tools as were costumes with long wings, which are fun and also help kids learn to keep their distance from pals. See more here from Buzzfeed.
Les enfants font leur rentrée aujourd’hui (un petite partie d’entre-eux plutôt). Ambiance très étrange, voire déra… https://t.co/PtVSh7AGB6— Lionel Top (@Lionel Top)1589272273.0
After preschool recently restarted in France, journalist Lionel Top tweeted photos of classes in Tourcoing, France. The pictures show children separated, playing alone in chalk squares.
"There was this sadness," Top told TODAY Parents, but he says that was mostly on the part of the adults. The children were happy.
"They laughed and played together but from far away," Top explained."The pupils did not see it like a punishment."
In British Columbia, Canada, a number of schools remained open over the spring and summer to serve the children of essential workers, providing childcare and education from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to allow first responders to fight COVID-19 in the community.
Sandra-Lynn Shortall, director of instruction for West Vancouver School District, tells the Vancouver Sun that the kids (who previously went to different schools and did not know each other) "were instantly able to connect and play, build friendships and spread joy in this strange new reality."
The kids wash their hands often and play with each other from a safe distance. They're respecting the rules their teachers put in place to keep them safe.
"It's been absolute magic," said Shortall, who does miss seeing kids and teachers be able to connect without distancing themselves. "The hugs, the high-fives, the human touch," she says. "We all still want that and we have to catch ourselves when we get too close."
In Quebec, Canada, primary schools outside of Montreal reopened in May after sitting empty for two months.
As CBC News reports, "Play structures are still off limits in the schoolyards and kids are expected to follow markings on the sidewalks and floors to ensure they are keeping a safe distance from each other."
Rebecca Hamel, a Grade 5 student in Quebec City, told CBC many of her classmates did not come back, and only eight kids were present in her grade. Teachers are making sure the kids play at a distance from each other, similar to the French system. "Outside, it was separated into four parts," she said. "We were in different parts."
Kids in Finland just went back to school on May 14 after eight weeks of lockdown. Teachers unions protested the move but so far, kids and parents are enjoying it.
"It's nice to go back to school and nice to see friends," primary student Lilli Lindgren told Yle. Lilli's mom, Raisa Lindgren, was also happy to see Lilli and her brothers return to school after 2 months of distance learning.
"In the beginning there was a bit of confusion but children and teachers quickly learned to use different communication tools. But it is also nice that the kids get back to school and catch up with daily routines," says Lindgren.
Denmark was the first country in Europe to reopen elementary schools and is making it work by enforcing hourly handwashing schedules and social distancing. Staff say the kids are keeping safety in mind most of the time.
"Most of them are pretty good with it and mindful of space. But they do forget," Dom Maher, head of the international section of St Josef's school in Roskilde, on the Danish island of Zealand tells the BBC.
[A version of this post was originally published May 14, 2020.]
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