State Decisions on School Reopenings

Post Jeffrey Grove

All SREB states issued state-level guidance concerning the reopening of schools for the 2020-21 academic year.

In most cases, the state can only provide guidance, advice and assistance, while actual determinations for reopening — both the when and how — are entirely the purview of local districts. In a few cases state guidance or mandates take precedence over local control.

When state-level guidance regarding how or when schools reopen has been announced by the governor, board of education or chief state school officer, we have noted that also, as well as any requirements for school districts to submit plans to their respective state agencies.

Last updated: September 17, 2020



  • Governor’s extension of emergency order requires all educational institutions to comply with social distancing, sanitation and facial covering rules. 







  • Courts struck down the portions of the commissioner’s emergency order that required all schools to be open five days per week and provide full services for all students, and that required department approval of reopening plans. The case is under appeal. 



  • Most districts in metropolitan areas opened later than planned with digital-only instruction and subsequent phased reintroduction of in-person instruction.







  • State reviewed all reopening plans to ensure they meet state department of education requirements.



  • Scheduling decisions made at district level, including first/last days and school holidays. State board of education provided districts three options for reopening — hybrid, in-person and virtual — and reduced required daily instructional hours from 5.5 to 4. 


North Carolina                                                 

  • Governor mandated that schools open under model with blended instruction, limited school capacities, distancing; districts may choose all-digital instruction to begin year.



  • Governor ordered state department of health and the state department of education to develop a plan for monthly or more frequent COVID testing for all teachers and school employees.


South Carolina

  • State superintendent granted authority by the legislature to: waive testing, assessment and reporting requirements; count distance learning days toward the required 180 instructional days; and provide programmatic and financial flexibility.





  • School boards control their district calendar, set their school year start date, may limit on-campus instruction for first eight weeks at local board discretion.



  • Governor’s Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools stressed schools gradually resuming in-person instruction while prioritizing the health and safety of students and staff to bring them back to the classroom as soon as safe/practicable.


West Virginia