Increased costs in the face of massive budget cuts means that the already difficult task of re-opening school buildings becomes even more complicated. “It’s overwhelming,” says Vincent Romano, principal of Malverne High School in Nassau County, New York.

In this episode of ExtraOrdinary Districts in Extraordinary Times, Romano and Sergio Garcia, principal of Artesia High School in Los Angeles County, California, walk through some of the complications of re-opening, from providing masks and social distancing to installing sinks and barriers between urinals.

“There are all kinds of problems we are not equipped to deal with at this point,” says Garcia.

Garcia’s district, ABC Unified, is looking at several plans for re-opening in the fall, but he is doubtful that they can bring students back into the buildings before a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is available. He says it is better to work on making sure that teachers understand how to build relationships virtually. “It’s about positive relationships. Kids are going to be there listening to you sitting in front of a video camera with you if you have a positive relationship.”

Romano agrees that “just coming back to school in the fall — that’s not happening.” Teachers will have to do “virtual learning on steroids.” Even with that, however, in order to build the relationships that Malverne High School’s culture is built on, “we have to get back in the building.” His district’s task force is considering having an a.m. session and a p.m. session so that only 11 or 12 students will be in a classroom. They are thinking through questions like how to take everyone’s temperature every day and ensuring social distancing. “There are so many complexities and obstacles to what we know work in teaching and learning.”