Back to School: Reopening Safely with Delta Variant Raging
As Islamic schools and schools of every sort around the nation prepare to reopen for the new academic year, the Delta variant is wreaking havoc across the United States. Remote learning was necessary beginning in March 2020 as risk mitigation efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus was not as well understood as it is now. However, after more than a year and a half of remote and hybrid learning, many educators and parents alike feel it is necessary that children return to in-person learning, though concerns regarding community transmission remain. In-person learning is also recommended by the CDC in part because the social and emotional impact of isolation have taken a real and substantial toll on adults and children alike.
Many schools have therefore determined to open in-person, with limited virtual or hybrid options. These schools are likely to assure its staff and students safety by following CDC’s new guidelines recommending that everyone age 2 and above wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Other guidance from the CDC can also be engaged, such as screening testing recommendations for K-12 schools based on level of community transmission (see chart below).
Concurrently, a nationwide teacher shortage is affecting schools’ ability to hire highly qualified staff for the new year. Private school leaders are thinking outside of the box to fill vacancies by reevaluating degree and certification requirements, seeking out individuals in their last year of higher ed degree programs and international recruits. Some may use remote learning for specialized courses in order to ensure highly qualified staff for a particular subject, facilitated by an in-school teaching assistant who can monitor class engagement inside the classroom.
While many of us were ready to take a huge sigh of relief, we are now bracing for another academic year with more unknowns. As Muslims, we find solace that Allah is the Best of Planners. While the challenges are very real, we renew our intentions for serving in Islamic education and ask for Allah’s help. We also have to remind ourselves that it may be necessary to scale back on some things to preserve our mental health and emotional well-being.
As an organization and professional community of Islamic school educators, ISLA seeks to remain engaged with our Islamic school professionals, providing as much support as possible during these challenging times.