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State-by-State: School Reopening Plans

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

by Amy Wang

Art by Aldwin Li, staff artist

It is my great sorrow to inform you, dear reader, that it is that time of year again. The time to brush the dust off your backpack, the time to start scrambling to finish those summer assignments you’ve left alone for the past few months. Yes, school is starting in September, pandemic or no pandemic, and the ceaseless, grinding wheels of education are primed to start rolling again. The languid days of summer isolation and the late night phone calls with friends you haven’t seen in four or so months are drawing to a close, and school, online or in-person for those who live in less risk-averse states, has been set to begin. 

In certain states, New York and California being among them, rising COVID statistics and a rapid climb in case numbers after reopening measures were put in place have ensured that any new school year will be unconventional. Though decisions have varied by location, the blooming of COVID deaths in general has had a dampening effect on any plans to start fresh. Hybrid programs, which allow students to choose a combination of online and in-person classes, are rare, and most school districts are asking students to commit to either online or in-person learning options for at least the first quarter or trimester of the year. 

Due to this uncertainty, most districts have both a plan for online and in-person teaching, prepared in case of sudden fluctuations in cases in the coming school year. Despite the differences in approaches, a universal factor for pretty much all fifty states has been the inclusion of mandatory face coverings in all reopening plans. 

For more state-specific information, refer below:

  • Alabama: State Superintendent Eric Mackey has announced that all Alabama public schools are planning to reopen on time. Districts have final say, however, and all schools are required to provide remote learning opportunities for students who are unable to return to school.

  • Alaska: School reopenings have mostly been based around the framework known as “Alaska Smart Start 2020” a guide to reopening of schools across the state, which provides actionable plans for schools operating at different levels of risks.

  • Arizona: The state of red rock has delayed the reopening of in-person instruction until at least Aug. 17 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Schools can choose to begin online instruction earlier, but no in-person classes can begin before the August start date.

  • Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson has repeatedly said in-person instruction should resume in the fall, but schools need to be ready with a virtual curriculum as well.

  • California: Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised that health and local education officials will make the final decisions regarding the 2020-2021 school year.

  • Colorado: According to the state education website, the next school year will likely be a hybrid mix of both in-person and online teaching.

  • Connecticut: The governor has announced plans to return to fully in-person teaching as soon as possible.

  • Delaware: No official plan has been released, but the governor has said at a press briefing that Delaware’s goal is to allow for “as much in-person instruction as possible in a way that is safe.”

  • Florida: The state commissioner of education, has signed an executive order requiring all schools to open and “provide the full array of services that are required by law.” It has been specified that remote instruction can happen so long as it allows for interaction with students’ peers and teachers.

  • Georgia: The State Board of Education released guidelines encouraging districts to implement remote instruction, in-person learning or a hybrid of the two.

  • Hawaii: Classes are set to resume on Aug. 4, and students will be able to receive instruction in-person, online or through a blended model.

  • Idaho: Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho State Board of Education and State Department of Education released a framework saying that students are likely going to return to in-person instruction in the fall, but schools are also encouraged to prepare virtual and hybrid models of learning.

  • Illinois: The governor has announced his plan to resume in-person instruction for the upcoming school year. Schools will be required to mandate face masks, limit gatherings to less than 50 people, maintain social distancing, increase cleaning efforts and conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks.

  • Indiana: The state will look further into COVID-19 case statistics and other factors like testing and contact tracing ability before determining whether or not to reopen schools. 

  • Iowa: Education officials have guidelines in place that allow schools to resume normal activities on July 1st. Social distancing, masks, and routine health checks are not required.

  • Kansas: Students have the option to enroll in online learning, though in-person schooling is also available.

  • Kentucky: The Department of Education has published a series of considerations for schools as they draft their reopening plan, which includes ideas on transportation, facilities and logistics, safety and alternative learning design strategies.

  • Louisiana: A series of guidelines and resources to help schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year have been released, and the department of education recommends schools should prepare in-person, virtual and hybrid learning scenarios.

  • Maine: The Maine Department of Education has published a framework for schools that are planning to return to in-person instruction.

  • Maryland: Decisions have been left up to individual school districts, though no plans have been put forth by publication time.

  • Massachusetts: Guidelines have been released for schools planning to reopen. The guidelines are primarily aimed to help schools prepare for in-person learning, but the DESE is requiring schools to plan for hybrid and remote learning as well.

  • Michigan: The governor had previously released a series of guidelines June 30 that outline the minimum health and safety requirements necessary for reopening, but more recently has noted that safety concerns prevent a full return to school re-opening.

  • Minnesota: The Department of Health released guidelines for schools that encourage them to prepare in-person, virtual, and hybrid plans for reopening.

  • Mississippi: The governor has said he is committed to opening schools in a safe way as per the original schedule.

  • Missouri: Guidelines have been released for school reopenings across the state. The guidelines include recommendations for screening, social distancing and face coverings.

  • Montana: It's been announced reopenings for school districts will have three phases. The governor's released plan says schools may reopen for in-person schooling, but it ultimately depends the specific community’s circumstances.

  • Nebraska: The Department of Education has a website that will provide guidance on districts returning to in-person instruction, but decisions ultimately are up to individual school districts.

  • Nevada: The governor has signed a directive enabling Nevada schools to reopen buildings and athletic facilities.

  • Nebraska: A reopening proposal is pending approval by the state epidemiologist.

  • New Jersey: A recovery plan released by the governor has said that public schools will open for in-person instruction “in some capacity” at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. It also outlines that schools must allow for social distancing and require face coverings in their district proposals.

  • New Mexico: The governor has stated that if the state takes the necessary precautions and drives down the rate of COVID-19 cases, schools can reopen in the fall. No date has yet been issued for the reopening.

  • New York: The governor has said that New York schools may reopen in regions with less than a 5% COVID-19 infection rate. If cases were to reach a seven-day infection rate of 9%, schools would have to shut down again.

  • North Carolina: Wary of rising COVID-19 statistics, the governor has mentioned moving back the starting date for the 2020-2021 school year.

  • North Dakota: Schools are likely to reopen, with a heavy requirement on testing.

  • Ohio: While each district will ultimately make independent decisions, the Department of Education has created a plan that includes considerations around mask wearing and enforcement of safety precautions.

  • Oklahoma: The State Department of Education has published Return to Learn Oklahoma: A Framework for Reopening Schools. A majority of school districts are planning to return to at least a partial form of in-person schooling.

  • Oregon: The state of emergency having been extended for an additional 60 days, many districts are waiting on guidance from state authorities.

  • Pennsylvania: For the majority of districts deciding to return to the classroom, mask-wearing is mandatory unless there is room for physical distancing.

  • Rhode Island: It has been announced that the goal is to achieve 100% in-person instruction, with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

  • South Carolina: Most districts have yet to make a decision.

  • South Dakota: The governor has said that students will be returning in the fall, but is leaving the details to each district.

  • Tennessee: The governor has stated his hope for a return to fully in-person schooling, but a majority of school districts are planning on giving parents either an option between a return to relative normal or online.

  • Texas: The governor has made the decision to reopen public schools for in-person instruction. A spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency added that students will be required to wear masks or be subject to COVID-19 testing when they return in the fall.

  • Utah: The most likely scenario for students will be a full return to in-person learning, with required mask and testing.

  • Vermont: Officials and the governor gave approval for K-12 schools to reopen in the fall. As part of the initiative, students and staff will be subject to daily temperature checks and districts need to have alternatives in the event schools need to close.

  • Virginia: The Department of Education along with the Governor issued guidelines in June for a relaxed opening of the schools with proper social distancing and safety precautions. Currently, the plan is a blended model with virtual and physical learning, although the goal is to achieve in-person classes for all.

  • Washington: The majority of school districts are pursuing a blended model.

  • West Virginia: The governor has said that he is hoping to reopen school buildings in all 55 counties for in-person instruction by the tentative date of Sept. 8.

  • Wisconsin: Re-opening plans have been left to the discretion of individual school districts.

  • Wyoming: Districts have been submitting their own plans for re-opening for state consideration

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