In planning their reopening, many districts take into account the special needs of certain students. In Seattle, where schools announced this week that their goal was to provide at least two days a week of face-to-face instruction for elementary school students and one day for high school and high school students, officials said children with disabilities, those learning English and those living in poverty would be given priority for additional educational support.
Educators developing reopening plans face a daunting set of challenges this summer, how to get enough masks and cleaning supplies, how to downsize classrooms, and redesign lesson plans to conform to social distancing guidelines.
Instead of huddling around tables for group projects, teens will likely be given more homework, with students seated at desks facing forward. Young children will not be able to pile on a soft carpet for story time; instead, they should sit in clearly marked spaces, six feet apart.
Many districts are investigating parents to better understand their level of comfort with the reopening of school buildings. They find that a large minority – up to a third of parents in some large districts – do not want to send their children to classrooms, according to Mike Magee, chief executive officer of Chiefs for Change, a coalition of leaders from district and state education.
Most districts should allow parents to keep their children at home. Schools in Nashville and Marietta, Georgia, said this week that families would have the choice between face-to-face education and full-time online education.
But the hybrid approach, with limited class time, could become the norm in states that have experienced significant numbers of coronavirus cases and have chosen to take a slower approach to reopen the economy. These states, overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats, also tend to have strong teacher unions, which have repeatedly signaled the health danger of reopening schools – even if they have pushed to limit expectations of teachers working from home.
The American Teachers’ Federation, a national union, has estimated that to reopen safely and effectively, schools across the country will need an additional $ 116 billion to cover costs such as reducing class sizes, increasing staff at cleaning and hiring counselors and educators to help students recover from the emotional and academic impact of the pandemic.