Special Report

Every State's Plan to Reopen Schools in the Fall

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All schools in Alabama plan to reopen for the fall season on time. K-12 public schools will reopen as early as August, though it is yet unclear how many students — as well as teachers — will actually be returning for in-person instruction. Parents who would prefer that their children continue to study online will have that opportunity as Alabama is preparing a statewide virtual learning platform.

Alabama’s guidelines for returning to school in the fall include having a designated area of quarantine for children who get sick at school, nurses wearing N95 masks, and parents checking kids’ temperature at home every morning. They also include frequent checks and refills of hand sanitizers, limited use of classroom materials to small groups, and the cleaning of school buildings and classrooms every day.

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Alaska schools will likely implement multiple social distancing strategies when they reopen, including extended school dismissals at the end of the school day, as well as canceling all field trips, sports events, and extracurricular activities. The state’s Department of Education also recommends that schools offer distance learning until local health officials say it is safe to reopen schools.

Students in some school districts, including Anchorage, can choose between physically returning to school and full-time remote learning.

Teachers and school staff are asked to teach and reinforce healthy hygiene and make sure hygiene supplies are readily available throughout the building. A designated staff person whose job will be responding to COVID-19 concerns has also been recommended by the state’s DOE. A virtual or in-person training on how to maintain social distancing is also encouraged.

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has delayed the reopening of in-person instruction until at least Aug. 17 because of a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the state. However, schools have the option to start classes online before then.

The Arizona Department of Education has released a roadmap for the eventual physical reopening of schools. Staff will have to check students for symptoms, which may include temperature checks, or confirm with families that students are COVID-19 symptom-free.

Schools are advised to organize classrooms in such a way that will allow students to be at least 6 feet away from one another. This may include providing physical guides like tape on the floor or signs on walls. When physical distancing is not possible, students and teachers should be wearing masks as a mitigation strategy. Assigned seating is recommended to help track the virus spread if students or teachers test positive for COVID-19. The Arizona DOE also encourages reduced class sizes, designated drop-off times or locations, and closing shared spaces like dining halls and playgrounds.

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The start of the new academic year has been pushed back from Aug. 13 until at least Aug. 24 to give districts enough time to prepare for reopening in the middle of the pandemic. The number of students attending classes in-person will depend on local conditions, including the local outbreak situation and each district’s resources. Remote teaching will be available to supplement traditional schooling if necessary.

The state’s education department has guidelines for each district and school in six areas of operation — such as facilities and transportation and student support. Schools are advised to consider serving lunches in classrooms, determine how to prohibit congregation in hallways and cafeterias, and consider rotating teachers rather than students. Children age 10 and over who ride a school bus are required to wear a face covering.


Most California school districts plan to open in the fall, but classes are not going to return to normal. Schools are free to create their own scheduling based on needs, but the Department of Education released a guidebook with recommendations. One is to have students alternate distance learning days with in-person days. Others include students wearing masks and having their temperatures checked every day.

The two largest school districts in the Golden State — Los Angeles and San Diego — will start the new academic year online-only.

Schools across the state are urged to position desks at least 6 feet apart in order to minimize face-to-face contact between students. Classroom sizes will be smaller as a result, but schools should then use other campus spaces, such as gyms, auditoriums, cafeterias, or the outdoors, for instructional activities. All teachers and staff should wear face coverings or face shields.

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