Summer School Offers Peek Into Reopening Schools Amid Coronavirus Outbreak As school districts consider their reopening plans, one summer enrichment program offers a glimpse of what in-person school could look like in the fall — from health checks to social distancing.
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Here's How Back To School Might Look In The New Normal

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Here's How Back To School Might Look In The New Normal

Here's How Back To School Might Look In The New Normal

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So if schools decide to reopen to students in a few weeks, there are going to be some changes. Health precautions will be a priority. That means masks, frequent handwashing, also social distancing in the hallways. A summer school program in Missouri offers a peek at how this could work. St. Louis Public Radio's Ryan Delaney donned a mask and checked it out.

RYAN DELANEY, BYLINE: As students arrive at the school door, they're met with their first quiz of the day.

CHARDIAL SAMUEL: Have you experienced any of these in the last 24 hours?

DELANEY: Medical social worker Chardial Samuel asks how they're feeling. Daily health screenings will be a part of any in-person school day this fall.

SAMUEL: 97.7.

DELANEY: The beat of a digital thermometer was about the loudest thing in the school gym. Ten-year-old Jada Randle and the other kids are spaced so far apart in folding chairs to eat their breakfast that they don't talk much.

JADA RANDLE: Well, it's boring. You just got to sit, like, away from people.

DELANEY: Jada is among a few dozen kids who are coming to this school in a suburb north of St. Louis every other day. Jennings school administrator Vernice Hicks-Prophet says they're here to test out a return to the classroom.

VERNICE HICKS-PROPHET: As you see, it's going pretty - really well. It's really going well.

DELANEY: The Jennings district will offer families a choice of virtual school or an option that allows them to come to class a few alternating days a week. The district hopes this combination will keep buildings only a quarter full. With COVID-19 cases rising in the region, some neighboring school systems have opted to keep their schools closed. That's what teachers unions are calling for. But computer science teacher Marc Reid willingly volunteered to return to a classroom.

MARC REID: Since we have a lot of safeguards in place, it made me feel very comfortable in doing so.

DELANEY: Tables in his room are spaced out with just one computer each. He has to remind himself to keep away from students.

REID: But it's becoming difficult to hear them with a mask.

DELANEY: Across the hall...

LAWRENCE PROGRAIS III: Did everybody sanitize?

DELANEY: ...Shop teacher Lawrence Prograis III (ph) asks about clean hands. Co-teacher Albie Mitchell reminds them to pull their masks up.

ALBIE MITCHELL: Is everybody wearing their mask correctly?

DELANEY: No nostrils showing, he reminds them. This trial run shows in part how hard it will be to strictly enforce the social distancing and health rules recommended for schools to reopen. Students, even a teacher, weren't always great about keeping their masks on right or keeping their distance. The masks are too hot, a few kids said. Curtis Grisby, who's 13, says he doesn't mind the mask and distancing.

CURTIS GRISBY: But it's just a new experience for everybody here. And I feel like we can adjust to it as time goes on.

DELANEY: The kids say they have to wash their hands five, even 10 times a day. A custodian roams the hall with spray cleaner. Hicks-Prophet, the administrator, says it's all a process.

HICKS-PROPHET: This is something that we have to work with and make it work for us. So we're working this program and so we can get all the kinks out of it and be prepared when students return in August.

DELANEY: With all the new rules around socializing, I asked Jada Randle how she feels about being back in school.

JADA: I don't want to be back in school. I just wanted to get out the house.

DELANEY: For NPR News, I'm Ryan Delaney in St. Louis.

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