How States are Reopening Schools | Citizens Against Government Waste

How States are Reopening Schools

The WasteWatcher

When coronavirus hit the United States earlier this year, schools closed down and many continued with online instruction.  Many governors have been formulating reopening plans on how their states are going to return to school in the fall, but teachers’ unions are concerned about reopening school buildings.  Most teachers unions are calling for schools to start virtually, but states are letting school districts decide whether students will return to the classroom and how instruction will be implemented.  Some states will take a hybrid approach to reopening using both online and in-person learning options, while other states will go back to strictly in-person instruction.  And those plans change as cases increase or decrease in a state.

In a July 20, 2020 blog post, CAGW Director of Health and Science Policy Elizabeth Wright wrote, “The science shows returning to their classrooms is doable.  The health and education consequences show it is necessary.”  She cited the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which are working on and making suggestions for getting children back to school.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran (R) has ordered schools to reopen for five days a week, after receiving advice from the Florida Department of Health and local health departments.  The schools in Florida will still have the option to open or close a school and these decisions will be dealt with locally or with a governing board.  The individual district plans are likely to change as cases escalate throughout the state.

Other states, like New Mexico, plan to begin the school year using a hybrid model.  The New Mexico Public Education Department released a plan that would limit in-person attendance to 50 percent of the classroom space.  School staff will have temperatures checked each day, and students and staff will also be required to wear masks.  Students will be provided meals, and different lunch time periods are recommended to comply with social distancing guidelines. 

In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) is requiring each school district to create a reopening plan.  Depending on the region, heavily populated areas, like Detroit, could look different compared to the Upper Peninsula, where there are far fewer coronavirus cases.  The state also plans to provide $256 million in school funding to help the districts prepare for reopening.

Despite plans to reopen schools, there are many teachers’ unions that are concerned about the safety of returning to school buildings and are urging remote learning.  Some teachers’ unions have also created their own separate plans and recommendations on returning to school this fall.

Others, like United Teachers Los Angeles, are making demands that have nothing to do with reopening schools.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) has sued Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and Commissioner Corcoran after they required schools to be open five days a week.  Gov. DeSantis later stated that families should not be forced to send their children back to school and schools should continue to enable remote learning. He also argued that students have a low risk of catching coronavirus, but the risk of keeping schools closed would “exacerbate existing achievement gaps between demographic groups.” 

Meanwhile in Connecticut, as the Department of Education rolled out its own plan to bring students back into the classroom, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) decided to create its own plan.  The CEA plan includes funding for all expenses related to coronavirus in order for school districts to meet public health requirements, provide options for remote education, as well as weekly testing for students, teacher, and staff.

According to a July 13, 2020 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial, “keeping schools closed while awaiting a vaccine isn’t an acceptable alternative” and that children have struggled with virtual education.  In Sweden, schools have been kept open, and only 0.05 percent of children aged 1-19 got coronavirus, while Finland, which closed all of its schools, had about the same rate of coronavirus cases in children. 

As students struggle with continued remote learning, school districts must come to a solution that will satisfy the needs of the students, parents, and educators before the start of the school year.  Each school district must evaluate different proposed models depending on their needs, states and districts need to work on getting children back into the classrooms for the purpose of learning, which will allow parents to return to work, and help to close the achievement gaps in education.