Wave of big districts choosing to keep students home

Palm Beach County, Prince William County and Houston ISD postpone students' return to in-person instruction.
By: | July 16, 2020
Superintendents and school boards in several large districts have opted to continue with online learning until the summer COVID surge is under control. (GettyImages/Petri Oeschger)Superintendents and school boards in several large districts have opted to continue with online learning until the summer COVID surge is under control. (GettyImages/Petri Oeschger)

Surging coronavirus cases in many parts of the country are forcing superintendents to make the difficult decision of reopening schools with online learning only.

The School District of Palm Beach County on Thursday became one of the latest large districts to announce that students will remain home when classes resume.

The district’s school board, in approving Superintendent Donald E. Fennoy’s reopening plan, has not set a date for the first day of school as the county remains stuck in Phase 1 of Florida’s recovery protocols.

Fennoy’s plan envisions a staggering reopening of classrooms when COVID conditions improve.

More from DA: Why in-person elementary school should be a first step for reopening

In Virginia, the Prince William County school board voted unanimously Wednesday that most students will remain home with remote instruction until at least the end of October.

However, students in special education, the most vulnerable English language learners and other academically at-risk students could return to classrooms when the school year starts on Sept. 8.

District leaders say they hope to open classrooms at 50% capacity in November.

Intentions for in-person instruction

Leaders in Houston ISD decided to push the first day of school back to Sept. 8 and keep students and teachers online for at least six weeks.

Administrators hope to begin offering face-to-face instruction on Oct. 19 should the public health conditions allow, but families will be able to continue to with remote instruction.

San Francisco USD will begin its fall semester on Aug. 17 fully online.

We hope to provide a gradual hybrid approach (a combination of in-person and distance learning) for some students when science and data suggest it is safe to do so,” Superintendent Vincent Matthews said in a letter to families.

Administrators will continue to district technology to new students and students who did not devices or hotspots last year, Matthews said.

More from DA: 6 steps for boosting student engagement in online learning

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly has pushed the first day of school back until after Labor Day, KWCH-TV reported.

And in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolfe said he’s could “pull the plug” on school reopening if COVID-19 infections continue to surge, PennLive.com reported.

Wolf predicted that many students, families and teachers won’t want to return to classrooms even if cases ebb, according to PennLive.com.

Pushing ahead with hybrid learning

Elsewhere, superintendents are moving forward with plans to reopen schools with varying degrees of in-person learning.

The School District of Philadelphia this week announced details of it hybrid learning programs.

“We will prioritize socially distanced face-to-face learning whenever possible, especially for students with complex needs and our youngest learners who research suggests benefit most from face-to-face instruction,” Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr. said in the district’s reopening plan.

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

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