First off, yes, students need to return to school in person in some way, especially the little ones. You cannot have a meaningful connection with your teacher if you’ve never met them in person and those face to face connections are irreplaceable. This might mean having staggered in-person orientations of classes and not returning to the classroom until teachers and students feel ready. Some school days must be virtual.

Schools that are already overcrowded cannot simply have classes in the cafeteria and gymnasium to allow for social distancing. Other facilities will need to be used if in-person teaching is adopted. Federally funded buildings such as libraries, community centers and unused government office buildings are potential alternatives to allow for students to have additional room. They can also be spaces to provide activities or childcare for students when they are not in school.

These changes need to be made before school starts. In addition, we cannot return without the necessary supplies, facilities and health care workers in place. Some students (and teachers) are traumatized by the dislocation and perhaps personal losses from the pandemic and will also need additional support before even attempting to return to a classroom. Mindfulness and meditation should be part of the curriculum.