The world is in a headlong rush to resume “normal”, where normal is defined as January 2020 before COVID19 swept into every inhabited part of the biosphere. Schools are re-opening in Japan (primary grades first), Korea (secondary grades first), and elsewhere, and everyone wants to know whether classes will be in person or online come September. Some schools, particularly in the southern United States, are planning to open summer camps in July. The remote learning experiment began as cool, shifted to nice, then became tedious, and now is reviled by many parents who, more than anyone, long for a return to normality.
While understandable, especially among those pressed to manage their own work from home while serving as part-time teachers, we fear this rush is problematic for schools on two fronts, only one of which is epidemiological. The jury will be out until the data come in about whether a wholesale re-opening of the economy triggers the much-feared second wave of COVID19. For this, time will indeed tell.
What worries us just as much–and we are worried about second, third and fourth waves–is that simply rushing toward something that approximates normal elides the essential point captured by McKinsey: “The future is not what we thought it would be only a few short months ago.” January 2020 is a lifetime ago in COVID19 terms. That “normal” is forever gone; how can we make the next normal work for schools? Hint: it won’t look like the old normal.