School Reentry Considerations

Considerations for School Reentry

While it’s critical for schools to develop school reentry plans that ensure the health and safety of students and staff, it is also important for educators and administrators to take into consideration the effects caused by social and physical distancing and the previous closure of schools.

Students and staff have been affected mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally due to the abrupt interruption of their daily lives. They have had to adjust to a new normal, and many are managing complex emotions such as anxiety, fear, loneliness, and grief.

These feelings should be acknowledged, and teachers and school leaders should recognize how these feelings might affect student learning when developing units, assessments, and learning experiences for the return to school. Instruction in health and physical education can help students manage these emotions through the development of health skills, participation in physical activity, and overall development of health and physical literacy.

Below are school-wide strategies for school reentry as well as teaching strategies for health and physical education related to equity, inclusion and accessibility; social and emotional learning (SEL); and a trauma-sensitive learning environment. Also included below are recommendations for conducting an at-home student survey and strategies for student assessment. The following overarching strategies should be considered no matter what model of learning the school is operating under.

School-Wide Strategies for School Reentry

As schools prepare plans for reentry, they must first comply with all state, city or county, and school district guidelines for COVID-19. Schools should also follow guidance provided by the CDC and create a school-wide COVID-19 response team to prepare and implement reentry plans. This response team will be responsible for putting in place the necessary protocols to ensure school staff and students can attend school safely — which includes providing guidance on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, promote everyday protective measures, and properly wear a face covering.

Prior to school reentry, teachers and staff should be properly trained in required safety protocols and on any new protocols recommended by the school-wide COVID-19 response team. Consider conducting the training virtually, or, if in-person, ensure that physical distancing is maintained. Teachers and staff should also receive sufficient professional development on distance learning strategies and technologies, hybrid learning, and flipped classrooms to prepare for multiple models of learning that may be implemented. In a flipped classroom, what is normally done in class is completed at home and what is normally completed as homework is done during class time (Bergmann & Sams, 2012).

Schools should proactively engage and communicate with students and families throughout the process of developing a plan for reentry. Students and families may be concerned or nervous about the uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and will want assurance that proper precautions are in place to protect the health and safety of students and school staff. Ensure that all school stakeholders can provide feedback on the school reentry plan and can share any safety or health concerns directly with school administration.

Suggested citation: SHAPE America. (2020). School reentry considerations: K-12 physical education, health education, and physical activity. Reston, VA: Author.

The recommendations and strategies provided herein are obtained based on guidance for schools provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and national recommendations for physical education, health education, recess, and classroom-based physical activity. The COVID-19 outbreak is an ongoing, rapidly developing situation. Educators are encouraged to monitor publicly available information and to always follow federal, state and local health organization guidance and government mandates. This information may vary and will be updated as necessary.