For the return to school in the fall, the government and school districts need a new approach.
The COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for at least another 18 months, and that's if there is a speedy and effective vaccine. A more likely scenario is two years, or even longer if we have to wait for natural herd immunity.
Rather than guessing our way through unsustainable mixed mode approaches, we'd be better served looking to a country like Taiwan. Taiwan's experience with SARS has allowed them put measures in place so that schools are 100% open, and their COVID-19 numbers remain startlingly low. Of course Taiwan's success in squashing the virus comes from many other prongs than just the education system. But this is the system in which I dwell every day, so it is the system I focus on here.
Yes, there will need to be hefty investment to ramp up production of face masks, sanitizer cleaning products and testing kits. There will have to be investment in the installation of hand sanitation stations at the entrances to schools, classrooms, and better yet all public buildings.
Yes, every student will need a plastic divider to put up around themselves when they take off their mask to eat lunch. Students will need their temperature taken before entering the building. Adequate and regular training in hand-washing, social distancing and space sanitizing is needed for all students and staff to ensure that safety measures become habit. Adequate staffing must be provided to ensure sanitation and safety protocols are followed. There will need to be two week shut downs for schools at which a COVID-19 case has occurred. Students and staff will need to adapt to a new normal.
These are methods that have been proven effective. There is no arguing with Taiwan's stellar numbers. The cost of implementing them may seem great, but not only will it allow for relatively uninterrupted in-person learning during this pandemic, it will ensure that these measures are in place for when the next pandemic comes. And in this great global village in which we are living, it will come.
Karen Spence, Coquitlam