Photos from countries that have begun welcoming students back into classrooms provide a peek at what...
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Photos From China, France & More Offer A Peek At How Schools May Look Post-Shutdown

Parents, teachers, school administrators, and even students are beginning to imagine what schools will look like post-coronavirus pandemic. Whether they reopen in the fall, or next year, American classrooms are likely going to look very different as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. But just how different could going to school be? Photos from countries that have already begun welcoming students back into classrooms may shed some light as to what parents and students might expect.

Although schools have begun reopening in China, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, and parts of Australia, it's so far been a vastly different scene in the United States. While at least one school — a private school in Idaho — has returned to in-classroom learning, most states have urged schools to continue remote learning. According to CNN, government officials in at least 48 states and Washington, D.C. have ordered or recommended that schools remain closed for the remainder of the school year.

Unfortunately, an exact timeframe for when U.S. students might expect to return to school remains unknown. However, public health officials' recent warning that a vaccine isn't likely to be ready before the new school year begins in the fall means students can likely expect to see a number of different social distancing precautions in place whenever schools reopen.

Guidance for schools issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend increasing the physical distance between desks, canceling or modifying classes and activities where students would be in close contact, staggering arrival and dismissal times, and having teachers move between classrooms instead of students. Additional recommendations include suspending the use of lockers and modifying lunch and recess to avoid students congregating in groups.

These guidelines, as well as what the school day looks like in countries that have already returned students to the classroom, help provide some clues as to what schools might look like post-pandemic:

Keeping Space Between Students — Inside & Outside The Classroom


Students line up with increased physical space between themselves outside their classroom at Institut Sainte-Genevieve, a private school in Paris, France. Schools in France began gradually reopening to students earlier this week after the country eased some restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Hand Sanitizer Upon Arrival

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A teacher at Ringsted Lilleskole in Ringsted, Denmark, administers hand sanitizer to a student arriving for class. After schools across the country were closed for more than a month, Denmark welcomed back students in grade 5 and below in April, The New York Times reported. Denmark was the first Western country to reopen elementary schools and has implemented a number of new social distancing and hygiene practices, including physically distant desks, increased mandatory hand washing, and small group recess, according to The New York Times.

New Procedures For Entering School

According to a TikTok video shared that's gone viral on Twitter, at least one school in China has implemented a multi-step process for entering school post-pandemic, which includes hand sanitizer, a robot that can scan for illness, and the disinfection of shoes, backpacks, and clothing.

Social Distancing Among Students

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Students at a high school in Wuhan, China, have returned to school with strict social distancing procedures, including face masks, one way hallways, and social distancing markers aimed at helping students stay six feet apart between classes. Reported to be where the novel coronavirus first emerged, Wuhan began easing restrictions in late March but has recently seen a small cluster of new coronavirus infections, according to NPR.

Temperature Checks

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In Haikou, China, a teacher checks her student's temperature before allowing them to enter the classroom, where students sit at their desks wearing protective face masks.

More Physical Distance Between Students' Desks

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Children wearing face masks sit at desks spaced a few feet apart in a makeshift classroom at a primary school in Borgosesia, Italy, while their teacher looks on in a face covering of her own. While most of Italy's schools plan to remain closed through the end of the school year, NBC News reported that Borgosesia launched a pilot program earlier this month to see how schools can impose social distancing when they fully reopen in September.

Social Distancing Hats

Students at Yangzheng Elementary School in Hangzhou, China, returned to school in special handmade hats that teachers and school administrators hope will help them practice social distancing, as CNET reported. While students could decorate their hat however they liked, the basic design remained the same and featured two wing-like blades of cardboard that measure more than 3 feet across.

In-Class Hand Washing


In Germany, students preparing for a higher education entrance qualification test known as the Abitur exam, were allowed to return to school in April, albeit with significant social distancing procedures. In Dortmund, for example, students attended small classes of no more than six students and immediately washed their hands after entering the classroom.

Every Student In A Mask

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In Huaian, China, elementary school students wear face masks while in class.

Outdoor Playtime

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For students at Westermarskoalle, an elementary school in Joure, Netherlands, recess seemed to go on as normal despite some play equipment being taped off. After a nearly two-month closure, children were welcomed back at schools across the Netherlands on May 11.

Social Distancing With Chalk Squares

In France, however, outdoor play looked significantly different. French journalist Lionel Top shared a photo of French school children playing outside in their own individual chalk squares. The chalk squares are one of the ways French schools are encouraging social distancing among students, even during outside play.

Protective Screens

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In Heppenheim, Germany, two staff members at Schloss-Schule elementary school installed a protective Plexiglass panel between where the teacher sits and where students can approach with questions. Schools in Germany reportedly began preparing classrooms and school buildings in mid-April for their eventual reopening.

Transparent Barriers For Each Student

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A student at Wuhan No. 23 Middle School in Wuhan, China, sits at a desk with a clear, plastic divider around her. The dividers, similar to those being seen in the United States at many grocery store checkouts, are part of the school's precautionary efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus as students return to class.

Separated Lunch Tables

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Lunchtime looks different for students in Jiaxing, China. In an effort to help students keep some physical distance between themselves while eating, one school has put up physical barriers between students.

Testing Teachers For COVID-19


In Benin, a French-speaking nation in West African, teachers were tested for the novel coronavirus as part of the country's plans for reopening some schools in select cities on Monday.

Teaching In A Mask


A teacher at Institut Sainte Genevieve, a private school in Paris, France, teaches while wearing a face mask. According to NPR, schools across France gradually began reopening earlier this week, with an initial focus on primary schools. French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told NPR that schools will be implementing a number of safety and social distancing measures and attendance will be voluntary until it becomes clear that there is no risk.