Danish Children Are Heading Back to School—Here’s What it Looks Like

Navigating the new normal.

Danish Children

Dividing lines painted six feet apart on sidewalks and hallway floors. Desks separated by two meters. Hand washing stations in every room. These are some of the changes we are seeing in photos this week, as the Danish government cleared the way for their youngest learners to return to the classroom. With a significant decline in the rate of new COVID-19 infections, Denmark is among the first countries to begin to reopen their schools. The move is accompanied by strict hygiene and distancing measures as they proceed cautiously through the first phase of reopening schools after coronavirus quarantines.

And the world of education is watching to see how they manage

reopening schools after coronavirus

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Parents and educators alike share concerns that kids are falling behind academically, especially those students with accessibility issues. In addition, there are social-emotional costs to isolating students from their peers. Children are social creatures and much of the learning in a school environment comes from interacting with classmates and responding to modeling from teachers. In addition, school is a safe haven for an untold number of children, providing routine care and nourishment. The loss of routine has been devastating to many.

When can others follow suit? 

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We all long to return to the normal rhythm of work and school, but the question is: when and how to do so safely? Obviously, it’s a matter of balancing the benefits and the risks. 

A recent article in the Washington Post puts it plainly, “It all points to the central conundrum of this pandemic era: how to move away from the lockdowns without triggering a devastating second wave of infections.” 

All eyes are on Denmark and countries around the world that are a bit further along in the recovery process. They lead the way for reopening schools after coronavirus. And so we watch and wait, hoping for the best and biding our time before we too can return to a semblance of school life as it was.   

Here are some of the precautions Denmark has implemented as they maneuver this new normal:  

  • Stagger arrival and departure times, breaks, and lunchtimes
  • Suggest alternate routes to walk to school
  • Require students to wash their hands immediately upon arrival and at least every two hours throughout the day
  • Disinfect contact surfaces like sinks, toilet seats, and door handles twice daily 
  • Implement a policy of no-contact greetings (think foot taps, air hugs, etc)
  • Split students into smaller groups 
  • Reorganize classrooms so that desks are at least two meters apart
  • Hold classes outside so that children can be outdoors as much as possible
  • Hold classes in gyms and auditoriums to allow more space between students 
  • Keep a closer eye on students to prevent physical contact during breaks

As an educator, what will it take for you to feel safe to return to school? Come share your thoughts on our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. 

Also, check out What Teachers Miss Most About School.

Danish Children Are Heading Back to School—Here's What it Looks Like

Posted by Elizabeth Mulvahill

Elizabeth Mulvahill is a teacher, writer and mom who loves learning new things, hearing people's stories and traveling the globe.

One Comment

  1. Dorothy Groover June 13, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    I am pretty confident that until a vaccine is found, a combination of in school and at home learning will be best. Just online didn’t work for us because of poor feedback from parents and students with and without accessibility issues. It may mean that only one grade comes in to school per day and core classes in the cafeteria or gym to enable social distancing . If the whole faculty works together students can break out into smaller groups for tutoring, activities and sports after attending core classes, utilizing all teachers, coaches and classrooms. This would be perfect for special Ed students to have their needs met during these small break out sessions. When at home, students can practice and complete work. Correspondence from home can still take place virtually to ask questions and teachers can schedule office hours via Google Classroom. This may not be perfect as students would only be able to go to school twice a week, but it would be better than what we have now. While we are at it…let’s start academics later, say 9 a.m. Studies show that students are not functioning cognitively at 8:00 a.m. as well as they are able to after 10 a.m. Begin the day in small group/study hall type setting with all faculty participating so the teacher to student ratio is about 1:8. More learning and positive relationships will take place even during social distancing if we are creative with our scheduling. Some human contact is better than none at all.

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