Unfortunately, these are not normal times. We are in still in the midst of a global pandemic, and we have done basically jack-shit as a nation to try to contain the spread of the virus.
When people say stuff like "The schools need to be re-opened," what I mostly hear is "I wish that things could go back to normal and the kids could be off at school and I don’t have to worry about it any more." I wish that too. I wish that working parents could do their jobs and not have to also somehow manage to facilitate learning for their kids. I wish that teachers and instructional assistants and the rest of the school staff were able to do their jobs and stay safe and healthy. I wish that parents, families, and caregivers could send their kids to school without the risk of rampant community spread of the virus.
We all want things to go back to normal. The problem is that things can’t go back to normal as long as the virus is spreading in the community. Trying to force things to go back to normal will only increase the community spread.
What we all need to keep in mind is that, until the spread of the coronavirus is drastically curtailed—which is not likely to happen for a few months at least—any kind of in-person learning that would not make a bunch more people sick is going to look nothing like what we imagine when we think of kids in school. Everyone in masks, no physical contact, no recess, breakfasts and lunches eaten only at desks, and constant cycles of new cases and quarantines… and that is assuming districts even have the staff, budget, and expertise necessary to adequately implement any of these safety measures. I would guess many do not.
Already, districts around the country that have tried to re-open with anything close to what we imagine when we think of kids in school are having to close because of outbreaks.
I’m no fan of online learning, and I am generally skeptical of "ed tech" in all of its forms. That said, I think a well thought-through digital curriculum plus regular and frequent live video meetings between teachers and kids (both 1:1 and in groups) will be better than the completely hobbled experience of even semi-safe in-person learning during the pandemic.
So please stop picturing what school looked like six months ago. That’s not what it will look like this fall, and probably not this spring, either. Stop wasting time and energy on crazy plans to get back to normal before we’re ready as a country to do that. Those solutions are off the table because we have not done the work as a country to control the spread of the virus, and so we are left with figuring out the least-bad solution.