Who is Open, Who is Not
Ready, set, get ready to open K-12 schools. Not quite so fast.
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- July 14, 2020
Plans to open schools were moving along quite nicely, until now. President Donald Trump and his advisors from the Education Department are pushing that schools open on time. The coronavirus might have other plans.
Infection rates continue to rise nationwide, and there are new hot spots popping up.
Opinions conflict and there are no shortages of contradictory plans emerging
Los Angeles and San Diego. After planning to open, or some sort of reopening plan was about to be put in place, both school districts announced earlier this week that schools will not open for in-person instruction when the academic year starts in August. Remote learning will continue, which was implemented in March. These two school districts are the largest districts to halt plans for any in-person learning.
In coming weeks, Los Angeles Unified School District plans to share more details on the start of school, but for now the plan is to welcome students back to class when it is safe to do so. LAUSD is the second largest district in the United States.
The United Teacher Los Angeles, a union that represents the 35,000 teachers in LAUSD asked schools to remain closed as coronavirus cases continued rising. The teachers union sought to focus on remote learning, for now.
"It is time to take a stand against Trump's dangerous, anti-science agenda that puts the lives of our members, our students, and our families at risk," said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz in a statement. "We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance. Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities."
The decision to keep schools closed in Los Angeles and San Diego goes against mounting pressure from the federal government to open schools as soon as possible.
President Trump reiterated his call for schools to reopen on Monday, threatening to withhold funding from states that refuse to host in-person classes. Trump cited a notion that children's immune systems are "much stronger" than adults.
“Kids need to be in school,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “They need to be learning. They need to be moving ahead. We cannot be paralyzed and not allow that or not be intent on that happening.”
New York City. The largest school district in the country, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed that his plan calls for schools to reopen for some in-person learning this fall. The mayor has proposed three models of staggered in-person instruction; a blending learning program that would allow classroom attendance from one to three days a week.
For in-class instruction to be allowed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a region must be in Phase 4 of reopening. Districts also must be in regions where the daily infection rate remains 5 percent or lower over a 14 day average. Final decisions are expected the first week in August.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that in order for in-person class to be allowed, a region must be in Phase 4 of reopening, which New York City is not. School districts also must be in regions where the daily infection rate remains at 5% or lower over a 14 day average. Cuomo said final decisions on reopening will be made during the first week of August.
Nashville. The public schools had to reverse course. Remote learning will be offered through at least Labor Day. The idea that classes would resume for in-person instruction on Aug. 4 is not going to happen.
Two plans were in place for Nashville schools; both an in-person plan and virtual learning. The coronavirus spiked in the area and school officials ruled that they would not return to in-person instruction. Officials have grown increasingly timid because of virus data and other information presented to Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Atlanta. The public schools plan to push back the start of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24, and the first nine weeks of school will be held virtually. Teachers will have the first two weeks of August for time to pre-plan and ready themselves for the start of the year. That time also will be used to assess students’ ability and allow students time to meet their teachers.
Atlanta Public Schools will continue to monitor and re-evaluate the virus situation as the school year progresses. A poll conducted but the superintendent’s office conducted June 30, before peak virus numbers, 37 percent of respondents want schools to be completely virtual, and 57 percent want instruction to be aligned with health recommendations. The poll also found that 57 percent of teachers and 67 percent of bus drivers were somewhat uncomfortable returning to work in person.
Miami. The Miami-Dade County Public School district is currently in Phase 1 of reopening and cannot offer in-person instruction until the region enters Phase 2. As the district prepares, it has called on parents and guardians to decide how they want their students to return to school: either in-person, through a blended model, or strictly online. Those decisions must be submitted to the district by July 15.
Superintendent of Miami Dade public schools Alberto Carvalho talked about the challenges his district faces on a recent appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"The issue of social distancing in any one school in Miami-Dade or Broward or Palm Beach or other districts may be difficult to achieve," said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami Dade public schools.
Carvalho said the start of school is only six weeks away and it is possible with social behavior and the restriction in place, if people wear masks, and if people exercise social distancing that conditions may be appropriate to students to return to in-person school.
Schools are considering blended models of in-person and remote learning, Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed for schools to reopen, making the argument last week that if Walmart and Home Depot can reopen, schools should too.
"We spent months saying that there were certain things that were essential -- that included fast food restaurants, it included Walmart, it included Home Depot. If fast food and Walmart and Home Depot -- and look, I do all that, so I'm not looking down on it -- but if all that is essential, then educating our kids is absolutely essential" the Republican governor said on July 10.
Detroit. Detroit Public Schools opened their doors for summer classes on Monday, the first-time students will be allowed back for in-person instruction since doors were closed in response to the pandemic. Detroit will offer both in-person and virtual learning courses, and families are given the option to decide which model they prefer.
Roughly 4,000 parents signed up for voluntary summer school, with more than half choosing in-person instruction. Roughly 300 teachers signed up for 180 spots to teach in person.
The summer term, which runs through August 6, requires students and staff to wear face masks, practice social distancing, answer questions on a health form, and have their temperature checked. Classrooms and buses will also be disinfected daily.
"The online learning wasn't ideal and our children have fallen further behind" Superintendent Niklai Vitti told CNN, who also said there is a desperate need for classroom learning.
Dallas. There is growing concern at the Dallas Independent School District about being ready to open schools in mid-August. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa noted the spiking rates of coronavirus in his district.
"We were planning on this for a while, so initially I thought we would be ready but I'm starting to have second thoughts about can we actually pull this off by August 17," Hinojosa told MSNBC last week.
The Board of Trustees will convene later this month for a special session to make recommendations for an alternative start for the 2020-2021 school year.
Earlier in July, the Texas Education Agency released their plan for reopening schools detailing that families will have the option of face-to-face or virtual instruction.
Salt Lake City. School starts in just about a month and school districts are getting bombarded with questions and recommendations about how to reopen safely amid the pandemic.
“We’re hearing from a lot of parents on both sides, that they really want their children back in school,” said Jeff Haney, spokesperson for Canyons School District. “And then, of course, we’re hearing from parents who said, ‘You know, I still have some concerns.’”
The Utah State Board of Education requires each of Utah’s 41 school districts to submit a plan by Aug. 1. With interest so high, many have been releasing draft plans in advance to gather parent feedback.
“We want our parents to know that we’re listening,” said Steven Dunham, spokesperson for the Washington School District.
Every district told us they are still finalizing their plan. Some would release only a few details until they make their plans public. Still, several themes emerged. Every district but one plans to reopen for some form of in-person school. Since Salt Lake City remains at orange or moderate risk for COVID-19, instruction for the Salt Lake City District will take place online until the risk level changes.
Every district plans to offer parent flexibility, with options for full-time in-person instruction and learning only from home. Some districts also plan to offer a blended model. Every district will spend millions of dollars on sanitizing and hygiene supplies.
No district was planning to require masks for students — until Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a mandate last week. Now they all will, with some flexibility.“I recognize that for those in kindergarten it may be a bigger challenge to wear a mask,” said Herbert. “Make sure we use common sense application of this mandate.”