Richard Swerdlow: The Corona Classroom

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 (Richard Swerdlow)

While school communities struggle with how to reopen the classroom safely, Richard Swerdlow is bracing for a sad new reality.

Corona virus has changed the way we live, and among those changes is how kids go to school. After all, schools are not only for kids or parents everyone needs school to resume. We all have a stake in ensuring an educated society and leaders of tomorrow.

As a teacher, the question of what school will look like this fall has been a topic among my teacher friends. We agree days of classrooms crammed with desks, crowded hallways and rows of lockers are over in this era of contagious illness.

But we know lockdown has cost students months of instruction and kids need to start learning again. Education authorities are considering safe ways of operating schools and the proposals seem doable: social distancing, alternating groups with a mix of in-class and online learning.

I'll try to make it work. But these proposals, realistic as they are, are so sad.


This generation of students the corona generation will remember joyless schooldays of fresh air through face masks, 6 feet away from any other student, no laughter-filled lunches shared with friends in a packed cafeteria.

And it's not as if this generation didn't have enough to worry about already with climate change causing destruction to the Earth's ecosystem. A U.N. report found one million animal and plant species are now near extinction. Some experts believe COVID-19 is only one of many pandemic events which will occur in the increasingly ravaged world these students will inherit.

I recently saw a news photo of kindergarten students at a school in Europe. Grim 5-year-olds, masked and silent, toes on social distance tape 6 feet apart, waiting for masked teachers to lead them outside for recess. The children of a ruined planet.

However schools reopen, teachers will do our best to make sure educational opportunities in this changed world are as safe and effective as we can make them.

But, looking at that photo, I remembered a song popular when I was in school in the 70s, speculating on a dystopian future.

“I know we've come a long way, changing day to day, but tell me ... where do the children play?”

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.