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There are so many things to account for in sending children back to the classroom

What is most obvious and lacking, I think, in the effort to reopen schools is a list of specifics; numbered, enumerated specifics that will add to and intensify the protection of children. Beyond the by-now-familiar and repeated calls for masks, hand-washing and distanced interactions, what else is there though? What’s left to do?

What else is there to do?

Well, for one, we should enact measured distance. We should reinstitute riveting desks to the floor at specifically six feet apart. Many of us attended non-mobile classrooms where only face-forward was possible, and turning-around was impossible. Whatever the values of interaction, they were limited for a long time. Conversation, grouping and mobility in classrooms were yet to be discovered.

But now, after decades of such practices, we seem to need to revert. This pandemic may require a return to some old ways of doing things. Whether new construction for increased attendance or specifically to plan for this happening again, we need to build in distance. We need to make it secure. So riveting desks to the floors again would seem like a good thing to do.

At the moment, Vicksburg is undergoing massive new educational construction. Whether at the two public high schools, Vicksburg and Warren Central, or the new and in-process Academy of Innovation, or the new Catholic pre-school on Clay Street, both restrictions on social and academic mobility need to be planned and incorporated, especially in libraries and labs. 

Not to be omitted either are these arrangements for special services such as medical and special needs children. However it may seem like we’re retrograding, this is just part of a new, unrelenting normal.

The other thing is rubber gloves for children. The industry doesn’t make them. It makes them for doctors and nurses and such, but not in sizes for children. Why is that?

I agree they’re uncomfortable over long periods of time, and not at all children-friendly. Children won’t like them very much, I’m afraid. But in pre-K, kindergarten, and other childhood activities, they would prevent them from touching transmissible things, like the same paint, chalk and crayons for instance. And they would have to wear them at play.

Admittedly, rubber gloves protect one child more than they would a roomful of them because of irrepressible conduct in classrooms. Children could still touch each other’s gloves, but not as readily since they’d be six feet apart. But gloves would be one more weapon in the fight; one more way to keep children safe.

Limitations are everywhere, but so are possibilities.

And in this case, we’d have a ready-made industry — and an already operating one — increasing its product and sales to keep children safe from commonly used things that readily transmit in a classroom.

I’ve never had children. But I’ve had a long career teaching. And I’d be scared and reluctant to return. Even if I did though, I wouldn’t go back without a much longer list of things to do for my children’s safety and my own.

They would include nailing desks to the floor and rubber gloves in the classroom.

Yolande Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post.

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