Here’s what other states are doing to reopen schools next month

The Oregon Department of Education on Wednesday mandated that K-12 students will need to wear masks if they  return to school in person this fall. Utah and Washington have done the same. 

In Idaho, that decision is up to school districts, charters and local health officials.

The Oregon School Activities Association pushed fall sports back a month, to a late-September start date. Football, a high-risk sport for COVID transmission, is delayed indefinitely.  Washington State pushed high school football to the spring, but will allow tennis, swimming, golf and cross country in the fall.

Idaho and Utah are moving ahead with football this fall.

As the coronavirus continues to surge in Idaho, Governor Brad Little remains steadfast that the best way to handle the outbreak is on a local-level.

Asked in a news conference on Thursday whether he would mandate masks statewide (as Nevada, Washington and Ohio have done), Little replied: “I doubt that very  much.”

The State Board of Education and the Idaho High School Athletics Association have similarly left major decisions in the hands of local leaders, including whether to open schools  in person and whether students should be required to wear masks.

The results are inconsistent.

For example, the Caldwell School District announced this week that it will delay school opening, and begin school in a blended-learning model as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Canyon County.  Masks will be mandatory for students on the days they are in school.

The Middleton School District, eight miles away and also in Canyon County, plans to open with limited face-to-face instruction. But, the district won’t require students and staff to wear masks unless the city or county mandates that.

As Idaho educators consider the best plans for their students, what are other cities and states doing?

Online or virtual or both?

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all schools in the state to begin in-person learning this fall, despite a surge in coronavirus cases in the state. The state’s largest teachers union sued him earlier this week. Check the Tampa Bay Times for more on that case.

The Hill reports that a handful of states, including New Mexico and Hawaii, asked schools to adopt hybrid-education models, where kids do some learning in person and other learning at home.

Far and away the vast majority of states are allowing districts to decide how to reopen, including Idaho.

Some of the country’s large school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified district and the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nev. will resume online only in the fall.

Denver Public Schools, however, will resume in-person learning five days a week.

Click here for a link to state-by-state reopening guidance compiled by Education Week.

Opening with an eye toward equity

Jeremy Anderson, the president of the Education Commission of the States, told a group of reporters at a virtual reporting seminar on Thursday that 26 of the 35 or so published state reopening plans mention “equity” in some way.

Ohio and Virginia’s plans stand out, Anderson said.

Equity, as defined in the Ohio school reopening plan, “means that each child has access to relevant and challenging academic experiences and educational resources necessary for success across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background and/or income.”

The pandemic has exacerbated deeply rooted social and academic inequities, the Ohio Department of Education says. It calls COVID-19 reopening a “perfect opportunity to address equity issues head-on.”

The Virginia Schools reopening plan highlights 10 ways that schools can prioritize equity as students return to school, including:

  • Monitoring the impact of reopening plans on  underserved groups.
  • Prioritizing access to interventions for students who are disproportionately impacted by school closures, including: students in low-income families, students whose families have been impacted by unemployment, English learners and students who have been  disconnected from school since remote learning began.
  • Reducing barriers for students who have challenges out of their control, like caring for siblings, housing instability and transportation issues.
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