State and District Recovery Playbooks

Post Jeffrey Grove

State Decisions on School Reopenings

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.

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State K-12 Recovery Plans

Alabama

The Alabama State Department of Education convened educators and other state partners in a Superintendent’s Extending Access to Learning Task Force that developed the state’s Roadmap for Reopening Schools and a Parent’s Guide to the roadmap.

In July 2020, ALSDE began holding a series of webinars designed to support schools and districts in using the Roadmap for Reopening Schools:

Working with the Alabama Department of Public Health, the SEAL task force determined guidelines, percentages and thresholds for traditional, blended and virtual teaching and learning frameworks. The state also maintains a page of COVID-19 information and resources that includes superintendent’s updates for local districts, executive and public health orders, technical guidance and manuals, guidance on special education, nutrition and professional learning services, federal program waivers and funding applications, and FAQs.

Arkansas

Arkansas’s has published Guidance for Schools Regarding COVID-19. The state’s Ready for Learning model focuses on three key indicators for student success: blended learning, a guaranteed and viable curriculum, and a student-focused approach. In part through its back-to-school playbook for tackling unfinished learning, the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education is providing resources and tools that districts and schools can use in planning to (1) implement a blended learning system that allows students to learn grade-level and content-area standards in face-to-face or online settings; (2) pivot to online or in-person instruction as needed; and (3) provide supports to students, parents, teachers and other staff to adapt to a changing learning environment. The state is also providing support for online content, access to an LMS and expedited waivers in addition to helping districts assess their blended learning needs.

Delaware

Delaware has established three COVID-19 School Reopening working groups focused on health and wellness, academics and equity, and operations and services. On its COVID-19 Resources page, the state publishes general guidance and information for districts and schools on topics like summer schools, graduation, attendance policies and waivers, as well as guidance on remote learning plans, special education, assessment, educator support, early learning, English learners, sports and out-of-school programs. Information is also available on student meal sites, remote learning plans, school closure FAQs, resources for free or low-cost internet and mobile service, remote learning activities, and health resources.

Florida

The Florida Department of Education has developed a phased plan to reopen schools, as described in Reopening Florida’s Schools and the CARES Act: Closing Achievement Gaps and Creating Safe Spaces for Learning. Under the plan, school campuses will open in June for activities and camps, further expand for summer teaching and learning in July, and open with a traditional start of the academic year in August. School reopening steps include health and safety recommendations for social distancing, hand-washing and monitoring of symptoms. Early child programs, K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions can use the document to create plans that meet local needs.

Georgia

The Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Department of Public Health co-developed Georgia’s Path to Recovery for K-12 Schools, which offers guidance districts can use to develop their own reopening plans. The document offers steps districts and schools can take before students and staff return to school buildings as well as guidance for the 2020-21 school year, with a primary focus on the health and physical requirements needed to reopen buildings. GADOE will continue to provide guidance on how to mitigate the academic, social and emotional effects of COVID-19 on students and employees.

Kentucky

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Department of Education has released an ongoing series of COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools guidance documents for schools and districts to use in their recovery and reopening planning. To date, KDE has published final guidance on reopening for districts and schools and #HealthyAtSchool safety expectations and best practices as well as recommendations for:

KDE recommends that all schools and districts identify a “Healthy at Work” officer, establish a communications plan, educate and train employees on “Healthy at Work” policies, establish contract tracing protocols, and establish calendar, enrollment and attendance guidelines.

Louisiana

Louisiana’s Strong Start 2020 website includes resources school systems can use to address learning losses, set a foundation for continuous learning in 2020-21 and prepare for potential modified operations. PreK-12 and early childhood planning guides address how systems and schools can create extra time and supports for students with unfinished learning, plan for students and teachers to interact daily and for students to receive feedback on their work, and establish clear next steps for high school students and recent graduates. All school systems are expected to create strong continuous education plans that provide standards-aligned instruction and quality curricula, with provisions for 1:1 device and internet access; strategic communications plans for students, families and teachers; versatile delivery methods for instruction, services and professional learning, adaptive staffing models and flexible calendars.

Drawing on questions and feedback from shareholders across the state, Louisiana has also created and continuously updates a dynamic FAQ containing additional information and clarifications on issues related to health and safety, athletics and extracurricular activities, monitoring symptoms, cleaning, transportation, operational considerations, reopening best practices for teaching and leaning and more.

Maryland

Maryland’s long-term education recovery plan, Better Together – Maryland’s Recovery, outlines strategies and options for school systems to consider as they create their own recovery plans to reopen schools while ensuring all students and educators feel safe. The document includes scheduling and calendar options for accelerating learning and ensuring ongoing health safety practices that can be adapted to suit local contexts. Elements of the plan include instructional programs; support programs; professional learning and certification; food and nutrition, safety and transportation services; physical and mental health services for students; and health considerations for resuming classes.

Mississippi

The Mississippi Department of Education released its Considerations for Reopening Schools in June. The agency is working with the Mississippi Department of Health, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Education and the CDC to take preventive measures in response to COVID-19. The state’s COVID-19 updates and information page includes guidance and resources to support the health and well-being of students, school and district employees, and communities. Ongoing daily updates for districts are available on the site.

North Carolina

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction published an updated version of the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) on July 14. DPI’s operational guidance for school reopening was approved by the State Board of Education and released on June 10. The plan covers details ranging from minimal-to-moderate social distancing to offering online learning only. DPI recently allocated $70 million in CARES Act funding to help schools provide summer programs in literacy and math for students in grades K-4 who need additional learning support.

Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Education published a framework for districts to use as they plan for 2020-21. Return to Learn Oklahoma: A Framework for Reopening Schools offers actions and considerations organized around four areas: (1) school operations —  integrating public health strategies for the prevention of COVID-19 into schools; (2) academics and growth — ensuring continuity of learning and preparing for distance-learning options; (3) whole child and family supports — supporting the whole child, including social and emotional wellness; and (4) school personnel supports for personnel as they navigate new and emerging challenges. The document also includes considerations for contingency planning should the pandemic further disrupt calendars and schedules.

South Carolina

South Carolina’s AccelerateED task force is a group of teachers and leaders from all areas of K-12 education. The task force released its final AccelerateED Task Force Guidance and Recommendations for 2020-21 School Year. Districts can use the recommendations made in this extensive document to create their own plans. Working with a third-party developer, the state also created a user-friendly website, Dedication to Education, that offers an abridged version of the final recommendations as well as targeted resources for parents and students, educators and districts and schools.

The state’s earlier summer learning and operations recommendations addressed building and student services, instruction and operations for the summer months that may also apply in the 2020-21 school year: Building and student services recommendations include reopening plans, school nurses, infrastructure grants, cleaning and PPE, mental health and social-emotional supports, special education, and athletics. Recommendations for instruction address using the summer months to accelerate learning, identify learning losses, formulate reopening plans and transition back to school. Operations recommendations address finances and per-pupil allocations, personnel, professional learning, food service, transportation, and school health, safety and cleaning protocols.

Tennessee

Tennessee has issued Reopening Schools: Overview Guide for LEAs, a document that provides a framework for evaluating when schools are ready to reopen as well as a set of procedures for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Tennessee’s State Board of Education will require districts and charter school leaders to submit plans by July 24 for how their schools will offer instruction in 2020-21, including online, in-person or hybrid models. Per the board’s COVID-19 Continuous Learning Plan Policy, districts are expected to offer 180 days of quality instruction for 6.5 hours daily (4 hours for kindergarten).

The Tennessee Department of Education will continue to develop and release various toolkits and resources to support districts and school leaders and will work with the state Board of Education to update or clarify policies that give districts greater flexibility. The TDOE’s COVID-19 update page includes information on at-home resources and services, preparation and planning tools, and guidance on instruction and assessment, nutrition, special populations, staffing, and more.

Texas

The Texas Education Agency is working with the Office of the Governor, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to coordinate and plan the state’s response to COVID-19. TEA released SY 20-21 Public Health Planning Guidance on July 7. TEA is coordinating the flow of information from the state to districts, helping districts solve problems and providing guidance to aid districts’ decision-making. TEA has published updates on personal protective equipment, summer programs, COVID-19 related waivers, attendance and enrollment, instructional continuity, home learning tools and federal funding and grants.

Virginia

Virginia’s Return to School plan includes a phased reopening of K-12 schools that gradually permits in-person instruction while prioritizing the health and safety of students and staff. The state’s approach prioritizes students who were most impacted by school closures and most need in-person instruction. Virginia schools will be required to deliver new instruction to all students in 2020-21, with some instruction occurring in person and some via remote learning. School reopening phases align with the Forward Virginia Blueprint and its phases.

West Virginia

West Virginia’s Outbreak to Recovery Advisory Council will address three phases to recovery for the public education community: equity and access of remote learning, educational technology and intervention resources. The state’s re-entry and recovery guidance website outlines re-entry scenarios, considerations and nine focus areas: instruction and learning; physical, social-emotional and mental health wellness; career and technical education; child nutrition; special education; safe schools and transportation; finance; extracurricular and extended activities; and technology.

Have a resource to share? Email k12taskforce@sreb.org.