Canadá: Back to school: About a dozen countries have returned kids to classrooms. What Canada can learn from them

Canadá: Jul 25, 2020 /by Sharon Kirkey/ source:

Staggered start times, break times, dismissal times. Alternate shifts, alternate days. Math class in church cemeteries. No playing catch or hugging, however hula hooping permitted.

More than three out of four children and youth worldwide — 1.37 billion students — were affected by COVID-19 school closures as countries, fearful children would be infected and propagate the virus, emptied classrooms in March.

More than a dozen countries have since fully or partially re-opened schools. As Canada’s provinces scramble to bring students back to something resembling “near-normal” learning, there are lessons to be learned from what went well — and not so well.

Ontario’s education minister promises next week to unveil a new plan to reopen schools. “The premier and the government continue to be focused on a safe, conventional, day-to-day return to school,” education minister Stephen Lecee said Thursday. “Maybe a new conventional where kids still can go to school five days a week.”

Toronto’s SickKids hospital is also due to update its guidance after last month laying out a plan that advised not requiring children to wear masks or maintain social distancing while at play.

Alberta has vowed to open schools at “near-normal” levels for K-to-12 students come September. British Columbia is also aiming for a full return of primary and middle school students, rather than a  hybrid model of part-time inclass, part-time virtual learning, that few parents want.

There’s near universal agreement that continued closures would be disastrous. Children’s hospitals are already seeing a spike in mental health consults and vulnerable kids are bearing the physical and emotional brunt of prolonged shutdowns.

What can the experiences in other countries teach us? “We have to be super-careful,” cautions Arthur Caplan, founding head of the division of ethics at NYU School of Medicine in New York City. “People keep saying, ‘we can learn from other countries, we can learn from their experiences.’ This thing’s been around since March. What are we, July? It’s four months of experience (with COVID-19). I wouldn’t call that solid yet.”

Certainly, there are risks of restarting class, of picking up where we left off, says Amy Greer. But they’re hard to quantify. The risks depend on the amount of community transmission happening in a given area, and public health’s ability to rapidly test, contact trace and stamp out flare-ups.

Different countries and different school districts have taken different approaches. And not all children are equal. It’s still hard to get a feel for the true impact on transmission dynamics, “because most of what we know seems to be coming from media reports, which is less than ideal,” Greer, Canada Research Chair in population disease modelling said this week at a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Prevention.

When do kids become more like adults in their ability to get, and spread the virus? The evidence so far suggests that, unlike the flu and other respiratory bugs, children don’t appear to be super-spreaders, that kids aren’t to blame for COVID-19 surges or spikes. A recent commentary in the journal Pediatrics suggests schools should be allowed to remain open, even during periods of COVID-19 spread.

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Canadá: Back to school: About a dozen countries have returned kids to classrooms. What Canada can learn from them – Sarraute Educación María Magdalena

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