What states are requiring and recommending in school reopening plans

Virginia readies for limited summer school while Florida sees a "moral purpose" in reopening
By: | June 11, 2020
As states release plans for reopening schools, officials are urging educators to focus on students who have lost academic ground during remote learning. (GettyImages.com/stevecoleimages)As states release plans for reopening schools, officials are urging educators to focus on students who have lost academic ground during remote learning. (GettyImages.com/stevecoleimages)

More states this week are revealing their plans for reopening schools with face-to-face instruction, with some governors allowing for limited in-person activities as early as this summer.

In Virginia, which is moving into Phase II of its reopening plan, schools can offer limited in-person instruction in preschool through third grade and to English language learners, Gov. Ralph Northam announced this week.

“Resuming in-person instruction is a high priority, but we must do so in a safe, responsible, and equitable manner that minimizes the risk of exposure to the virus and meets the needs of the Virginia students who have been disproportion,” Northam said in a statement.

Virginia’s phased guidelines allow schools to offer extracurricular activities as long as participants can maintain social distancing.

More from DA: Here are the key questions to answer to safely reopen schools

Superintendents have some discretion to expand in-person instruction to more students, based on local public health conditions.

All school systems must submit their plans to the state to show they are following CDC guidelines and other health protocols.

Reopening schools with a focus on equity

Florida’s school reopening is anchored by four concepts:

  • Presume schools can reopen safely.
  • Open schools with a moral purpose—closing achievement gaps.
  • Florida can only hit its economic stride if schools are open.
  • To ensure safety, take a “dimmer switch” (step-by-step) approach rather than flip the light switch approach.

The first section of the plan covers how schools will narrow achievement gaps that have likely been exacerbated by spring school closures. Officials say summer school presents a critical opportunity to help students catch up.

How states are restarting school

Here are school reopening plans from several other states:

Narrowing achievement gaps is also essential to produce workers who can fill jobs that will open during economic recovery, the plan states.

Diversifying curriculums when schools reopen

Oregon’s “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” plan says each district must create a “blueprint for recovery” that covers eight key topics, including public health protocols, equity, instruction, social-emotional wellness, staffing, and family and community engagement.

More from DA: No mandates in California’s guidance for reopening schools

The state’s plan sets some requirements, such as: limiting the number of people in a school building at any one time, face masks for most staff members, and screening staff and students for coronavirus symptoms each day. It only recommends that students wear face masks.

In its section on equity, the plan says educators must recognize the disproportionate impact the coronavirus and school closures have had on students of color, students with disabilities, and families living in poverty.

It urges districts to provide expanded learning opportunities for students who could not participate in remote instruction. It also urges educators to diversify their curriculums and offer lessons that cover issues of white privilege.

DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.