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We have the choice. Either schools aren’t reopening at all or we find a way to send kids back to school during the coronavirus pandemic. There is nothing easy about it, but CDC experts have published advice to help us. So how did a document where all the other words are “if possible” create such a stir?

Social media is inundated with misleading versions of guidelines issued by the CDC for reopening schools. And honestly, if you take them at face value, school next year looks pretty tough. Yet these posts seem intentionally designed to annoy people by omitting key phrases from the original. Phrases like “where appropriate” and “to the extent possible”.

The document begins with a simple risk breakdown. It’s a pretty basic thing. “The more people a student or staff member interacts with and the longer this interaction, the greater the risk of the spread of Covid-19,” explains the directive.

Next, the guideline reviews the risk levels according to the different ways of doing school. The lowest risk? E-learning only. “More risk” comes into play when schools have small in-person classes and take precautions. And schools take the highest risk if they go back to school as usual, with normal classes and business as usual.

It is the “riskier” category that scares everyone. The idea is that keeping children in smaller groups with the same teacher avoids the elaborate spread network we have seen with Covid-19 when groups mingle. It also makes sense that the virus will spread less if children stay six feet from each other, wear masks, and don’t share objects.

Of course, many schools in the United States are packed and there is simply no way to space desks six feet apart. This is where virtual and in-person hybrid class structures can come in handy. Or perhaps a staggered or rotating schedule for school attendance to reduce class sizes, the guideline suggests.

And because crowded hallways and cafeterias could be a problem, the CDC came up with the classroom lunch solution. In addition, sick staff or students should stay home and schools should have lenient leave policies.

If this sounds terrible to you, remember this: “Covid-19 is mainly spread through respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze. It is believed that the virus can spread to the hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Hmmm. Maybe our kids drifting apart a bit isn’t such a bad idea.

Why are we so upset about the school reopening with security measures?

The thought of my kids not being on the playground with their friends pains me. Again, since they only have 15 minutes of playtime a day, that might not be a problem. And it’s hard to imagine how middle and high schools will fare. Their whole structure works by moving to different classrooms and different teachers. No matter how fun it might sound to pretend that kindergarten kids will keep their masks on or stop climbing on top of each other.

And how are we going to get to work if the kids are at home half the day to accommodate the rotating schedules?

But is that really why we are so upset? Consider how even more upset we would be if the CDC had just said “stick with e-learning”. Or worse yet, what if we went back to school without doing anything to avoid catching the coronavirus? No, when you think about it, something has to be done. It can be difficult and disappointing, but we have to make it work.

It is mourning.

For so long we’ve been getting messages suggesting it might only be two more weeks before things get better. Scientists and doctors knew this couldn’t be true, but political leaders continued to hold onto that hope.

Little makes it clearer how serious the coronavirus pandemic really is, so imagine our children in masks sitting with desks six feet away. How sad?

If the problem is grief, then we know what to do.

Grief can be managed. In fact, it is a very productive process. Grieving means accepting our loss and how we feel about it until our minds clear. That’s when we bounce back and find solutions. Maybe it’s time to stop panicking about guidelines to reopen schools and start thinking about what’s doable.

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