How Schools Around the Country Are Planning to Reopen

The coronavirus hit America hard, forcing much of the country to shut down in mid-March. Schools closed their doors for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, and children were forced to continue their education online. Now, as the first day of the school year approaches, school districts across the country are facing the difficult decision of how – and whether – to reopen. The CDC has set safety guidelines for schools to follow, and many states and counties have written out their own plans for reopening based on these guidelines. 

Pushing Back Start Datesback to school post it note with school materials around.

The majority of school districts in the country have announced plans to reopen in the fall, but some states are debating pushing back the start of the school year. Two states that have already decided to delay the start of the school year due to spikes in coronavirus cases are Arizona and West Virginia. The governor of Arizona has announced that in-person classes will be delayed until at least August 17th, with schools beginning remote courses before that date. In West Virginia, the governor has indicated that schools won’t reopen in his state until September 8th at the earliest. Some school districts in Georgia and Alabama have also announced that they plan to push back the start of school by one week.

The Blended Approach

Local Boards of Education will determine whether schools are going to fully reopen for in-person classes or whether they will continue with a remote learning model. Some districts are considering the “blended” approach, which would allow students to be physically in the classroom some days and to learn remotely at home other days. As of now, the following districts are planning to implement variations of this approach:

  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to reopen the nation’s largest school district this fall using a mix of schedules. Most children will be learning in classrooms for 1 to 3 days a week and remotely other days. Classes will likely have no more than 12 people present at a time including teachers and aides. Everyone will be required to wear masks, which will be provided for free. caucasian boy with blonde hair wearing a blue surgical mask.
  • Montgomery County, Maryland plans on cutting capacity at schools to 25%. Students will line up outside 6 feet apart, and once they are inside the school, classrooms will only have 12 to 15 students. A more concrete plan will be set by the end of July. 
  • Columbus City Schools in Ohio will have students in Kindergarten through 8th grade return to school using a blended learning model. Children will attend school two days a week, and spend the other three days engaged in online learning at home. High school students will learn remotely from home full-time for the first half of the school year.
  • Illinois school reopening plans consist of different districts creating their own safety plans, as long as they follow certain guidelines. The guidelines require teachers, staff, and students to wear face coverings, prohibit more than 50 people in one space and require social distancing, screening for symptoms, and temperature checks. Buildings will have to be regularly cleaned and disinfected. Schools will have to stagger arrival and dismissal times in order to maintain social distancing. The state will provide free cloth face masks to each staff member and student. 
  • Florida schools are hoping to reduce their capacity to 25%, in order to give students more space for social distancing in their classroom.
  • Virginia schools are monitoring the number of cases before deciding what the fall semester will look like, but they have indicated that they will most likely do the blended format of in-person and online learning. 
  • Minnesota’s schools might reopen in the fall with strict social distancing guidelines.
  • North Carolina has proposed variations that range from students spending half a day at school to students being in school on alternating days or weeks. The governor has said that school districts can reopen with remote-only instruction if they determine that’s what’s  best for their community. He has also made clear  that if coronavirus cases spike, then the state may switch to requiring all schools to use remote learning. 

    little boy sitting in front of a computer with a teacher on the screen.
    States like California, and some districts in Georgia and Texas will have school virtually for the first couple of weeks.
  • California has seen new infections surge in recent weeks, causing a debate on whether school should reopen in the fall. Its two largest school districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, will not open for any in-person schooling; students will learn remotely full-time in the fall.
  • Atlanta public schools in Georgia will have students attend the first nine weeks of the school year virtually.
  • Houston Independent School District in Texas will begin the school year on September 8th completely remotely, and will begin in-person instruction on October 19. 
  • Texas Public Schools have not officially released any public health guidelines, but as of now, the plan is to have all students return to their school buildings, even as cases continue to spike. Education officials released final guidelines saying that districts can choose to provide live virtual schooling or schooling that is not delivered in real time, including pre-recorded video lessons or paper assignments. The state will not penalize school districts for major decreases in student attendance for the first 12 weeks of the school year. 
  • Public schools in Tennessee are not returning to in-person learning on their opening day of August 4. Instead they will only offer remote learning until at least Labor Day. 
  • Pennsylvania Philadelphia Independent School District plans to reopen schools in September with a hybrid of in-person and online learning. Other counties in Pennsylvania have adapted this plan as well, with most students physically attending school at least 2 days per week. Some school districts are giving parents the option of whether they want their children to go to school physically or to learn remotely full-time.

Northampton School District’s superintendent presented a plan in which Kindergarten would be half-day, elementary school students would have four days of in-person school, and secondary students would have some in-person instruction daily. High school students would be divided into two groups, each of which would spend part of the day at school, overlapping for several hours.

East Penn School District will have middle and high school students on a hybrid schedule of 2 days in class and 3 days at home. Elementary students will return full-time but masks will be required, class sizes will be reduced, and children will be required to be 3-6 feet apart. 

  • Seattle schools in Washington are currently planning for a minimum of two days of in-person instruction per week for all Kindergarten through 12th grade students. The Seattle public school board is also offering a 100% remote plan for families who are not comfortable sending their children back to school.

    empty classroom with chairs and desks
    Classrooms will be disinfected daily.
  • New Jersey’s governor has said that each district in his state will develop a plan that best fits the district’s local needs. The following guidelines will apply to all schools: faculty and staff will wear face coverings and students will also be encouraged to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. The schools will be sanitized daily and temperature checks will be required. School buses will seat one student per row skipping a row between each child if possible. Cafeteria meal times will be staggered. If there is not enough room to keep students six feet apart in classrooms, districts are encouraged to install physical barriers between desks and make sure all desks face the same direction.
  • New Hampshire’s governor announced that he will let schools make the decision to reopen for themselves. The guidance put out by the state encourages schools to develop plans for both in-person and remote learning for those who choose not to return for health reasons.
  • South Carolina’s governor announced that public schools must be available for in-person instruction this fall, but virtual learning will be an option for parents that do not feel comfortable sending their kids to school. He said parents should be able to decide for themselves whether to send students to school or to keep them at home. 
  • Mississippi will follow a hybrid model, as well, with a combination of online and face-to-face instruction. Some counties like Canton will have children be physically present 2 days per week (either Monday & Thursday or Wednesday & Friday) and learn from home virtually three days a week. The first day of school will remain August 10th. Some private schools are planning to have children return to in-person schooling full-time. 
  • Connecticut’s governor has said that students will return to their classrooms 5 days a week this fall. Connecticut has had one of the lowest infection and hospitalization rates in the nation. Because of this, schools will be open this fall with social distancing between student work spaces “when feasible.” Class sizes will be smaller to accommodate social distancing guidelines, and masks will be required for all students and staff.

In order to come up with these plans, many counties sent surveys home to parents asking what they were comfortable with in regards to school reopenings. The list above is by no means exhaustive: some counties are still drafting plans to be submitted to their states. In addition, in most cases, these guidelines only apply to public schools. As of now, many private schools plan to have students attend school full- time in the fall.

The coronavirus has turned everything upside down for schools, parents, and children. Decisions about how to return safely to school can be especially difficult for working parents who want the best for their children, but who also can’t stay at home to teach their children remotely. No matter what the reopening plan is for each state or school district, it will be a tough adjustment for both parents and children.

Coronavirus Update: Week 12

America is reopening and everyone is adjusting to the “new normal.” This new normal consists of businesses being open, but with people still being required to follow social distancing rules and wear masks. Unfortunately, some Southern and Western states have experienced skyrocketing case numbers, forcing their governors to require that people wear face masks in public, with the exception of Florida. Because cases are spiking in these states, many are concerned about a possible resurgence of the virus. Just as worrying, the CDC director says that a second wave this winter could be even worse than the first wave if the coronavirus has a resurgence during flu season. Nevertheless, government officials say that the U.S. needs to continue to move forward with reopening. 

California, Arizona, Florida Hit Record Highssign with record highs just ahead written on it with dessert in background.

So far more than 116,000 people have died from the coronavirus. Record high case numbers were recorded across Southern and Western states this week. On the morning of June 18, Arizona announced 2,519 new cases, Florida announced 3,207, and California announced 4,084. Los Angeles County alone reported 2,115 new cases.

Hospitalizations in Arizona have doubled since Memorial Day. Florida announced 43 new deaths, and new records in case numbers for 11 straight days. On 10 of the 11 days, there were more than 1,000 confirmed cases a day.

Californians Now Required To Cover Faces 

With numbers topping 4,000 cases in a day in California, the governor is now mandating that people wear masks in public. As of Thursday, June 17, California will require its residents to cover their faces in “most settings outside the home.” The state health department says that everyone must wear face coverings when working, when inside any indoor public space, or outdoors in public spaces where it is hard to for people to stay 6 feet away from each other. 

Texas and Arizona have also put out guidelines requesting that the public wear masks when they go out.

an empty outside playground
Playgrounds will be opening up in NY’s Phase 2.

New York To Enter Phase 2 Of Reopening

New York City will begin entering phase 2 of reopening on Monday, June 22, as long as there is no spike in cases before then. Under the state’s plan, outdoor dining, hair salons, barbershops, some in-store shopping, and some offices will be allowed to reopen as long as social distancing rules and restrictions on capacity are observed. Playgrounds will also reopen, leaving many to wonder how to get children to practice social distancing.

CDC Predicts Tough Winter

The director of the CDC, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, warned that the coming winter will have both the seasonal flu and coronavirus. He tweeted, “We must gear up for an additional potential challenge— both flu and #COVID19 could peak simultaneously and place a tremendous burden on local health care systems. Getting a #flu vaccine will be more important this year than ever!”

WHO Ends Hydroxychloroquine Trials

On Wednesday, June 17, the WHO said that they were ending testing of the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, on coronavirus patients. The trial will end based on a recommendation from the agency’s Data Safety and Monitoring Committee. They found no benefits of the drug when used to treat Covid-19. 

dna written with a colorful gene sequence and microscope

European Study Links Genes & Blood Type With Risk Of Coronavirus

European scientists have found two genetic variations that may determine who is more likely to get sick and die from the coronavirus. They found that people with Type A blood have a 45% higher risk of catching the virus, and of developing severe symptoms. On the other hand, those with Type O blood seem to have a lower risk of catching the virus. 

“Our genetic data confirm that blood group O is associated with a risk of acquiring Covid-19 that was lower than that in non-O blood groups, whereas blood group A was associated with a higher risk than non-A blood groups,” the researchers wrote in their report.

Researchers cannot say if blood type is directly causing the difference in how susceptible a person is. “It might be that the genetic changes that affect someone’s risk also just happen to be linked with blood type,” they said.

Brazil reports 32,188 New Cases In A Day

As of Wednesday, June 17, Brazil’s health ministry reported 32,188 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 955,377. Brazil has the second highest number of cases and deaths, behind only the U.S. Out of  desperation to treat children and pregnant women, the health authorities are  recommending hydroxychloroquine as an early treatment. 

red triangle with an exclamation point inside of it

FDA Sends Warning Letters To Companies Selling Covid-19 Tests

The U.S. FDA sent warning letters to 3 companies selling Covid-19 tests because they were “inappropriately” marked, and “potentially placing public health at risk.”

The letters went to Medakit Ltd. of Sheung Wan, Hong Kong; and Yama Group; and Dr. Jason Korkus, DDS and Sonrisa Family Dental d/b/a My COVID19 Club of Chicago, Illinois. The FDA asked these companies to stop selling these products immediately.

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