Will schools open in fall? Districts around the country prepare amid COVID-19 crisis

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Parents and school administrators are trying to plan for the 2020-2021 school year as coronavirus cases spike in states such as Arizona, Florida and Texas, among others. Many states are offering broad guidelines while leaving ultimate reopening decisions to local administrators. Here’s what some of the states and local school districts are planning:

Texas

Texas public education students will resume in-person learning in the fall, the state’s education agency confirmed.

“It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall,” Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath said through a statement.

“But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses,” Morath continued. Guidance for the 2020-2021 school year will be released by the agency the week of June 22.

Ohio

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said June 2 that the state intends to reopen schools in the fall, but the start date will be left to local school boards. Gov. DeWine added that he encourages districts to have a backup plan in place if a spike in COVID-19 cases occurs.

In the state’s capital, Columbus City Schools have a Reopening Task Force working on a plan that may include one or both of the following options:

  • A robust K-12 online academy for parents who prefer to keep their students at home
  • A blended learning model with both in-person and online instruction, interventions, and conferences

California

California’s education department released a 55-page how-to manual outlining broad guidelines for the fall, including extensive sanitization precautions and four possible models:

Example A: Two-Day Rotation Blended Learning Model: Students report to school on two designated days based on grade level for in-person instruction (example: Monday/Wednesday for grade levels K–3, Tuesday/Thursday for grade levels 4–6) .

Example B: A/B Week Blended Learning Model: Half of the student population attends in-person learning opportunities four full days per week while the other half is engaged in distance learning opportunities . The students would alternate each week .

Example C: Looping Structure: For schools serving grade levels TK–8, there is an opportunity for students to stay with the same teacher in cohorts for multiple grade levels .

Example D: Early/Late Staggered Schedules: Grade level bands would have staggered start and dismissal times, such as AM/PM rotations (for example, TK–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–10,11–12).

How and when school districts actually reopen will be left to local administrators. The Los Angeles County Office of Education offered recommendations that included students attending school in shifts.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque Public Schools’ first day back is currently scheduled for August 12, but the district is drafting multiple plans to handle potential changes in COVID-19 cases over the summer.

Models for the re-entry plan range from full capacity, to a hybrid of distance learning and alternate days in class, and a third model with solely online instruction. Measures could be tightened up or relaxed over the course of the school year depending on circumstances in each community.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s guidelines for reopening also include a variety of contingencies that may impact the upcoming school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommendations from the state rely on CDC health guidelines such as face coverings for teachers and students as well as extensive hygiene and sanitization protocols. The Return to Learn framework is built on four categories – School Operations, Academics & Growth, Whole Child & Family Supports and School Personnel.

How and when school districts reopen will be decided on a local basis.

Savannah, Georgia

“There’s no going back to normal – whatever normal is – for now,” Savannah-Chatham County School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett said.

The school district is considering providing continuing online instruction for children whose parents want them to remain at home. For students attending school, buildings and transportation vehicles could be reduced by 60 percent capacity to maintain social distancing.

Administrators hope to provide parents with concrete guidelines as soon as possible, but no final decisions have been made.

Henrico County, Virginia

Public schools in Henrico County, Virginia plan to incorporate in-person learning to some capacity for the 2020-2021 school year.

The school system said they are currently focusing on two plans:

  • Hybrid learning: One portion of the student body would attend classes on campus for a period of time, while another portion would learn remotely. The two groups might alternate days or weeks on campus to build a blended learning environment. Having fewer students on campus would make it easier to implement distancing guidelines.
  • Parallel virtual learning: Based on the choice of parents or guardians, students may opt for a fully virtual learning experience that parallels the “in-person” instruction happening in classrooms.

Pasco County, Florida

Pasco County parents will be able to choose from three options:

  • Traditional: “A return to campus and classroom with the standard school schedule and bell times. This option includes a heavy emphasis on health and safety precautions.
  • mySchool Online: “Virtual learning with a connection to the student’s enrolled school. This option requires that students follow the standard school schedule and bell times. It features lessons and virtual interaction with teachers during each class period – all conducted online.”
  • Virtual School: “Online learning through Pasco’s nationally recognized Pasco eSchool. This model offers flexible scheduling and is taught by Pasco County teachers. Students work at their own pace can do school work during non-traditional hours.”

Pickens County, South Carolina

The School District of Pickens County has announced that students K-12 have the option to continue online learning this Fall.

The district said it will support students learning online with devices and software. The degree to which parents would need to be involved depends on the child and their age.



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