Special Report

Every State's Plan to Reopen Schools in the Fall

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The Oklahoma State Department of Education has published a framework for school districts to use as they plan for the 2020-21 academic year. The DOE recommends temperature self-screenings at home to reduce lines before entering school. Masks and other face coverings are encouraged for both staff and students. Signs showing proper hand washing should be placed above sinks and elsewhere throughout the building.

School districts should be prepared for sudden closure scenarios if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in the school. These plans may include short-term closures of a few days, mid-term closures of a few weeks, and longer-term closures. Districts should be ready to offer online learning and should consider offering alternative school calendars to allow for flexibility in responding to the pandemic.

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On July 28, Gov. Kate Brown said schools may not open in the fall for in-person instruction at all due to a surge in COVID-19 infections across the state.

State officials had previously created a Healthy Schools Reopening Council so that various members of the community could have a chance to provide feedback to school districts as they plan to reopen schools in the fall. Schools are required to designate a person who will be responsible for enforcing physical distancing requirements. Schools also have to have a protocol to screen students and staff for COVID-19 symptoms.

Once schools reopen, the DOE recommends schools create opportunities for students who are not able to be psychically present for in-person instruction to interact with other students, including via distance learning. Adding cameras in classrooms to allow interaction between students in the school and those studying from home is one option.

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Gov. Tom Wolf announced on July 7 that schools that plan to open classrooms in the fall have to make masks mandatory, including for students, unless there is enough room for physical distancing.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Education released preliminary guidance for reopening schools. It expects students to return to classrooms “in some capacity” for the 2020-2021 academic year. Restrictions on how to start the school year depend on the phase of reopening at the county in which the school district is located. Schools in “red” counties will only provide remote learning. Schools in “yellow” counties can open for in-person instruction if they can keep students at least 6 feet apart. Schools in “green” counties can open with fewer restrictions.

The DOE recommends having a pandemic coordinator and flexible attendance policies. Other recommendations include checking for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the school, all staff wearing masks, and making regular announcements on how to stop the spread of the virus.

Source: Courtesy of Dillon School District Four

Rhode Island

State officials released on June 19 school reopening guidance for the 2020-2021 academic year. States should prepare for distance learning, even if it is only necessary for students who are home sick or quarantined. Class sizes may have to be reduced as students should be seated at least 6 feet apart. Socializing will also be limited.

Students in elementary and middle school will be placed in groups of no more than 30 that will not mix with other groups. Such stable groups are recommended for high schools but not required. If they cannot stay 6 feet apart, students have to wear masks. Students and staff should occupy the same space as much as possible. Assigned seating is strongly encouraged.

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South Carolina

The state’s Department of Education has so far approved the reopening plans of six school districts. Their measures range from offering full-time in-person instruction for children in elementary school by keeping them in small groups to a blended model that involves livestream classes and pre-planned online courses.

The South Carolina task force charged with developing a guide for safely reopening the schools in the fall is recommending social distancing in classrooms as well as buses. It is also recommending that both students and teachers wear masks and to limit interaction among students. The guidelines also call for one school nurse for every 750 students.

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