Educating Through a Pandemic: From Conflicting Local and State Plans in Connecticut to Homeschooling in Nebraska and Color-Coded Campus Days in SC, 8 Ways Schools & States Are Adapting to COVID-19

This update on the COVID slide collects and shares news updates from the district, state and national levels as all stakeholders continue to work on developing safe, innovative plans to resume schooling and address learning loss. It’s an offshoot of the Collaborative for Student Success’s COVID Slide Quick Sheet newsletter, which you can sign up for here!

The Trump administration may have launched a campaign to pressure districts to find any way to reopen for in-person instruction, but even as their sweeping call to action has crowded news headlines, district officials nationwide find themselves grappling with the fine print, marching through the difficult process of solidifying just how their schools can operate amid a public-health emergency.

Indeed, education reporters, advocates and concerned community members alike are asking the tough questions that schools will have to answer before welcoming students back into classrooms, reminding us that schools will have to respond to local realities and that, even given widespread reopening, equity will remain a central issue for years to come.

To aid districts in this undertaking, a number of national, state and local organizations are stepping up to help.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education and the Collaborative for Student Success joined efforts to offer a planning tool for district use. In addition, a panel of experts in education, advocacy, health and safety, emergency planning, and school leadership will use the planning tool as a rubric by which to evaluate publicly available district plans. Their goal will be to surface best practices, exemplars of innovation and reproducible efforts for the benefit of other districts.

Here are eight updates from across the country about how school systems are working to preserve student learning amid the coronavirus pandemic:

1 SOUTH CAROLINA — Four school schedule options, color-coded campus access proposed for Greenville County schools:

The Greenville County School District has released a plan for flexible school options in the fall ranging from complete remote learning options to a full in-person option. Though the district hasn’t yet made a decision about what school will look like in the fall, the plan includes a color-coded system to inform families the days that students can attend school campuses, if any, given the spread rate in Greenville.

2 CONNECTICUT — Governor blindsides New Haven with conflicting plan for reopening schools:

New Haven Public Schools recently released their “Road Map to Reopening,” which includes guidance on key areas, such as 1) health and safety, 2) operations, 3) curriculum, instruction and assessment, 4) technology, 5) teacher professional development, and 6) meeting the needs of special populations. However, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont released his plan for reopening schools, which conflicts with New Haven’s plan to implement virtual instruction.

3 INDIANA — State Board of Education approves optional administration of reading test:

The Indiana State Board of Education approved the optional use of the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination (IREAD-3) for foutth-grade students for the upcoming fall 2020 term. The goal of the IREAD-3 is to help local education officials make data-driven decisions surrounding the literacy of their students. Additionally, the board approved that the “ISTEP+ 10 be administered to 2020-2021 juniors” during the spring assessment window.

4 NEBRASKA — More parents considering homeschooling:

According to the Nebraska Christian Home Education Association, an increasing number of parents within the state have been considering homeschooling options for their children for the fall. To do so, parents must submit an “exempt school program” form and a plan for course instruction. Currently, the Nebraska Department of Education does not provide a homeschool curriculum to families.

5 NEW YORK — Voices of 1,200 people with stake in public education to be heard:

The New York Board of Regents met to review public comments from 1,200 parents, teachers and health officials about a plan for instruction statewide. Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided guidance for reopening schools and mandated that all districts must submit their plans to the state Department of Education by July 31, 2020, with the intention of making final decisions in early August.

6 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Chancellor Ferebee says DCPS will reopen strong:

D.C. Chancellor Lewis Ferebee reflects on the successes of DCPS’s spring transition to remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic as the district begins to plan for the 2020-21 school year. Using feedback from parents and teachers as well as D.C. health officials, DCPS has begun implementing its plan for next year, which includes an in-person Summer Bridge program for grades 3, 6 and 9 and guidance on school enrollment.

7 VIRGINIA — Richmond Education Association calls for ‘virtual return’ ahead of new school year:

The Richmond Education Association (REA) sent a letter to Richmond Public Schools advocating for virtual instruction rather than a “physical return” to the classroom in the fall. As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, REA expressed concern about the safety of students, referencing research regarding “gathering indoors in large groups at any location,” including schools.

8 ARKANSAS — Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District to give parents options, require masks:

The Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District in Arkansas has released its plan for reopening schools, which largely focuses on allowing families to choose in-person or remote education for their children. However, all children in grades 3 through 12 returning to school buildings will be required to wear a mask, and schools must monitor temperatures of students and staff.

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