A teacher in China describes what post-lockdown school reopening looks like

Parents who have been home with their school-age children for weeks and will most likely remain that way until next school year may be wondering what school will even look like when it finally resumes. With the coronavirus pandemic sticking around for the foreseeable future, we clearly can't go back to packed buses and classrooms, school assemblies, close contact sports, etc.

So what will school look like post-lockdown?


A teacher living and working in Hangzhou, China shared a description on Facebook that might offer some clues. Michelle Lomabardi Henry works at Wahaha International School and explained how life has changed for students, teachers, and administrators after a 14-week pandemic shutdown.

"Many of my teacher friends have been curious about life in school after COVID19," wrote Henry. "So, I thought I would explain it in detail once."

First, she described the phased approach to kids returning, with different grades coming back at different times.

"We were out of school a total of 14 weeks, 3 of which were planned Chinese New Year break. The first week, April 13th, all teachers were called back to learn the new protocols in place while continuing online learning. The 2nd week, grades 4-8 were called back, and today is the 3rd week with K-3 joining us. Having the kids come back in stages allowed us to practice protocols without full traffic in the building."

Then she explained the temperature and mask protocols:

"Each morning before we get to school, we need to send in our temperature and verify we have no symptoms. When we get to school we go through a face recognition scan that records our temperature again. We take our temperature for the 3rd time by lunch. Masks on campus are optional now and there are special trash cans for masks on each floor."

Finally, she described what life in the classroom is like:

"In the classrooms, desks are in rows 1 meter apart. Kids get up one at time to do anything. Specialist are doing lessons in the classroom, unless the class has 10 or less students then they can do it in their own room. Each student has their own supplies and they do not share. Four times a day, at scheduled times kids get their hands sanitized with a chemical free spray (Enozo). All afterschool activities, as well as any meetings, assemblies or other crowd gathering events are cancelled. Kids still have recess but are encouraged to keep their distance from one another….not happening. This is very difficult, especially in the younger grades, as you know. Dismissal is in stages and from two locations on campus."

Henry also explained how the school is disinfected by cleaning staff several times a day, and how they use UV lights overnight to destroy any residual virus on surfaces. She says if they have even one case, she imagines they'll have to shut down again.

One of the most striking photos Henry shared is one of children eating lunch at separate tables, spaced apart.

Michelle Lombardi Henry/Facebook

Seeing desks in a classroom spread apart is one thing, but seeing kids separated during lunch, when they would normally be able to socialize with friends, just tugs at the heartstrings.

At least one school, also in Hangzhou, have young kids wearing homemade social distancing hats as a reminder to keep their distance from one another. The same thing could undoubtedly be accomplished simply by kids lifting their arms and staying far enough way not to touch, but anyone who's worked with kids knows what an impossible task that would be.

Primary school in Hangzhou lets children wear "1m hats" to enforce social distancing measures www.youtube.com

The silly hats are a fun visual reminder for kids to leave space between one another—and also a strangely haunting reminder of the serious reality we've found ourselves in.

It's hard to say what will be happening in August or September, when most schools in the U.S. are scheduled to start the next school year. When—or if, perhaps—schools do resume in the fall, these posts give us clues as to the kinds of protocols and provisions our kids may be experiencing.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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