Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 30, 2020

Each day, we:

  • Track the status of reopening in all 50 states.
  • Compare the status of one industry or activity across the country.
  • Answer key questions about state school reopening plans.
  • Give you the latest stories on other reopening plans and ideas.

Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Maryland (divided government): Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced he will expand the state’s mask requirement, effective July 31 at 5 p.m. Everyone older than five will be required to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, including restaurants, churches, and gyms. Previously, masks were required in grocery stores and pharmacies and on public transit.
  • Michigan (divided government): Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order on July 29 that reimposes some restrictions on several counties in northern Michigan. The restrictions, which include a 10-person limit on indoor gatherings and the closure of bars where 70% of sales come from alcohol, goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on July 31. Whitmer also issued an executive order allowing casinos in Detroit to reopen at 15% capacity on Aug. 5.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): The state’s stay-at-home is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. MT on July 30. We will provide an update if the order is extended in a future edition.

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here. For our last edition, click here.

  • Alabama (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended her Safer At Home Order through Aug. 31. She modified the order’s existing mask mandate to extend to students at schools (second grade and older) and colleges.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced the state would remain in stage 4.5 of its reopening plan until at least Aug. 27.
  • Minnesota (divided government): Gov. Tim Walz (D) released the Safe Learning Plan for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The plan requires a county to have fewer than 9 coronavirus cases per 10,000 residents over a 14 days to fully reopen schools.
  • South Carolina (Republican trifecta): Gov. Henry McMaster (R) announced the state’s guidance for restaurants will become requirements, effective Aug. 3. The order will require employees and patrons to wear masks at dining establishments, prohibit customers from gathering around bar areas, and limit dine-in to 50% occupancy. McMaster also announced that large gathering venues and events like movie theaters, festivals, auditoriums, and concerts will be able to reopen with mask requirements for attendees. Masks will be required in all state buildings starting on Aug. 5.
  • Wisconsin (divided government): Gov. Tony Evers (D) declared a public health emergency and announced a mask mandate will take effect starting on Aug. 1. Everyone five years of age and older will be required to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces.

Tracking industries: Nursing home visits

All 50 states are reopening in some way. Here, we give the status of one industry or activity across the states. Today’s question: in which states may you visit someone in a nursing home? This does not include end-of-life or other emergency-related visits. Visits limited to family members only, or that are only allowed outdoors, are counted as “visitors allowed” in the chart and map below.

We last looked at nursing home visitation in the July 23rd edition of the newsletter. Since then, no new states have allowed or restricted visitation.

This is an in-depth summary of two state plans to reopen public K-12 schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

Iowa’s Return-to-Learn

The Iowa Department of Education (IDE) released reopening guidance on June 25. On June 29, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed Senate File 2310, which outlines educational requirements for the 2020-2021 school year. IDE released three additional guidance documents in response to Senate File 2310 in July. A list of all released guidance is available here. All schools across the state were allowed to reopen beginning July 1.

On March 15, Reynolds recommended that public schools close for four weeks, but left the decision up to individual districts. On April 2, Reynolds ordered all schools to close through April 30 before extending the closure for the rest of the school year on April 17.

Iowa does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in Iowa must start no later than Aug. 24, with the exact date varying by district. On July 27, Reynolds ordered that students spend at least half of their schooling in-person.

Context

Iowa is a Republican trifecta. The governor is a Republican, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state has been a Republican trifecta since 2017.

The following tables show public education statistics in Iowa, including a rank comparing it to the other 49 states. Rank one is the highest number of each figure, rank 50 is the lowest. All data comes from the Common Core of Data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Iowa public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $13,357 23
Number of students (’18-’19) 506,310 31
Number of teachers (’16-17) 35,808 30
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,318 27
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 13.6 38
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 40.9% 39
Iowa public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $6,463,514,000 29
Percent from federal sources 7.4% 37
Percent from state sources 53.5% 20
Percent from local sources 39.1% 29

Details

District reopening plans

Districts are responsible for creating their own reopening plans using a combination of IDE guidance, Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidance, and gubernatorial directives. The guidance does not specify whether districts must submit plans for approval or post the plans publicly.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

Based on Reynolds’ July 17 order, all districts and accredited nonpublic schools are required to educate students in-person at least half of the week. Districts and schools may apply for waivers for this requirement from IDE. Otherwise, the following circumstances can exempt districts and schools from this requirement:

  • A parent or guardian voluntarily selects the remote learning opportunity; or
  • [IDE], in consultation with [IDPH], approves of the temporary move to primarily remote learning for an entire building or district because of public health conditions; or
  • The school, in consultation with state and local public health, determines that individual students or classrooms must temporarily move to primarily remote learning; or
  • A school chooses to temporarily move to online learning because of severe weather instead of taking a snow day.

Mask requirements

The guidance recommends districts leave the decision to wear masks to individuals:

Requiring face coverings for all staff and students is not recommended. Allow the personal use of cloth face coverings by staff and students. Teach and reinforce the prevention of stigma associated with the use or non-use of facial coverings to support a respectful, inclusive, and supportive school environment.

Supplemental guidance released on June 30 says districts and individual schools can consider requiring masks.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance does not provide health recommendations or requirements to districts. In the June 30 FAQ, IDE provides the following reasoning:

Why is the Department’s guidance for reopening schools so brief? Some states have issued very long and thorough guidelines. 

Many states created guidance that joined their Return-to-Learn planning with their reopening guidance. In Iowa we have purposely kept these separate because reopening guidance is based on current recommendations from IDPH intended to supplement Return-to-Learn guidelines and may change.

Reopening guidance is meant to be high-level guidance and should be used with other guidance and resources the Department has provided for schools and districts as they develop their own reopening plans, which are more comprehensive than the reopening guidance, and include considerations to ensure ongoing workplace safety, mitigation strategies, and monitoring the health and safety of teachers, staff, students and families.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance does not specify whether masks are required on buses (see mask requirements section above).

The Return-to-Learn Support Document requires cleaning buses before and after transporting students.

Reactions

  • On July 1, Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek said, “The Department of Ed and the Department of Health reopening guidance was so irresponsible.”
  • On July 24, teachers held a drive-by protest at the state capitol. Organizers of the protest called for “Governor Reynolds to rescind her July 17 proclamation, allowing local school leaders to determine the safest return-to-learn models for their communities; school leaders to make science-based decisions that protect the health of students and staff in their return to school; and school leaders to make educational decisions that uphold best practices for teaching and learning.”

Ohio’s Reset and Restart Education Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts

On July 2, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) unveiled “Reset and Restart,” a set of guidelines and considerations for reopening school buildings. The Ohio Department of Education developed the guidelines with input from education associations, school leaders, educators, school counselors, school nurses, and union representatives. The plan is intended to “spur local-level, partnership-based discussions and decision-making that will result in locally developed Reset and Restart Education Plans.” The Department of Education also released a companion document, “Health and Safety Guidance for Ohio K-12 Schools,” that contains five guidelines for schools.

DeWine said, “Working with educators and health officials, we’ve created K-12 school guidelines – backed by science – for schools to follow when developing their reopening plans. Schools can adjust their rules to what works best for them for a safe environment and that protects students and staff.”

On March 12, DeWine announced schools would close for three weeks beginning on March 16. On March 30, DeWine extended the closures through May 1. He closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year on April 20.

Ohio does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in Ohio typically start the academic year between the middle of August and early September.

Context

Ohio is a Republican trifecta. The governor is a Republican, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

The following tables show public education statistics in Ohio, including a rank comparing it to the other 49 states. Rank one is the highest number of each figure, rank 50 is the lowest. All data comes from the Common Core of Data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ohio public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $14,328 20
Number of students (’18-’19) 1,694,341 8
Number of teachers (’16-17) 102,600 9
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 3,569 7
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 16.7 15
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 44.3% 35
Ohio public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $24,516,266,000 8
Percent from federal sources 7.5% 35
Percent from state sources 45.6% 28
Percent from local sources 46.9% 19

Details

District reopening plans

Districts are encouraged to use the “Reset and Restart” framework and the companion document to develop their own reopening plans. The “Reset and Restart” guidelines are not mandatory. However, the companion document states all staff must wear masks in schools. If requested, schools must provide a written justification to a local health board if a staff member is not required to wear a mask.

“Reset and Restart” encourages schools to create a planning team to implement the state’s recommendations.

Planning teams should include school leaders, local health department officials, local school board members, educators, education support professionals, school health professionals, parents, students, community partners and local business leaders. Plans should be developed in a transparent manner that address the guidelines and considerations contained in this document but are customized to the local needs and attributes of the students, staff and community. Once complete, schools and their partners should have a firm understanding of the educational experience and return to school. Plans should be posted to school and district websites to promote awareness and shared understanding.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

“Reset and Restart” asks districts to be flexible when deciding whether to return students to classrooms or continue the distance learning model adopted when schools first closed.

Because of continuing uncertainty and the need for flexibility, a school or district’s plan likely will need to embrace multiple approaches. While classroom learning still may enjoy a preferred position, more discussions are underway about remote learning, blended learning (combination of online and site-based) and mixed-methods learning (online, self-directed, site-based, work-based, etc.) in the context of reopening. It is important to note that students from the Ohio Association of Student Leaders indicated a blended approach was preferential for meeting the unique needs of individual students, allowing flexibility for both students and teachers (including time, space, socialization).

For classroom learning, the plan states that “Schools may consider ‘looping’ classroom teachers (a practice in which students have the same classroom teacher in a subject and/or grade level for two or more consecutive years) or co-teaching models, where practical, to maximize understanding of students’ current levels of educational attainment.”

For remote learning, the plan recommends:

Remote learning will continue to play a role in the education experiences of Ohio’s students in some manner. At a minimum, should a school find it must close due to a flare-up of COVID-19, or should a student need to be quarantined, remote learning will be an important contributor to sustaining educational opportunities. Even prior to the pandemic, many districts had made significant investments in remote learning capabilities and technology and shifted fairly smoothly to a completely online provision of educational services.

A note in the plan states that “Remote learning should be considered as an option for students and staff for the entire school year, as many families will have higher-risk health concerns and/or may not feel comfortable with in-person instruction until a vaccine is available.”

Mask requirements

Staff are required to wear masks in school buildings, according to the “Health and Safety Guidance for Ohio K-12 Schools” document, and schools are required to develop a face mask policy.

The state does not require students older than three to wear face coverings. The guidance for students states:

It is strongly recommended that students in 3rd grade and higher wear a face mask unless they are unable to do so for a health or developmental reason. Schools should work to reduce any social stigma for a student who, for medical or developmental reasons, cannot and should not wear a mask. It is anticipated that some schools will be comfortable in starting masks in kindergarten and some first grade, or some later. The majority opinion among experts appears to be that children kindergarten through 5th grade can wear masks as long as consideration is given for the age and developmental level of the child and the physical situation the child is in at that moment.

The plan states that face shields can be an appropriate alternative to masks if the shield extends below the chin.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

“Reset and Restart” recommends using square footage to determine the maximum number of staff and students who can occupy a classroom. It also recommends that other non-classroom spaces, such as auditoriums and outdoor areas, be considered alternatives for classroom instruction.

For scheduling and grouping, the plan recommends:

There may be new models of course and student scheduling and grouping as districts rethink the ways they use time and space. Districts may consider split scheduling or alternating days. Districts also may utilize space on weekends or evenings. Districts also may choose to rethink how each building is used and for which students. For example, an elementary school in one part of the district could be configured to also include some middle school students if such a configuration could help address transportation challenges.
Scheduling options that reduce the number of students in each classroom, hallways, cafeterias, locker rooms, on school transportation, etc., also are worth reviewing. Students should be grouped in ways that minimize movement between rooms and into common spaces. This might include placing students into cohorts and scheduling percentages of them on a given day and alternating the cohorts for in-school learning with work that is completed at home. (Remote work can be accomplished in electronic or paper formats to best meet unique needs of students.) Also, teachers could move from classroom to classroom rather than students. Food could be delivered and consumed in classrooms instead of students congregating in the cafeteria.

The plan recommends the following for students and staff transitioning between classrooms:

Schools should consider the possibility of teachers moving rather than large numbers of students doing so to minimize the number of interactions (consistent with promoting social distancing).

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

“Reset and Restart” includes the following considerations for busing and transportation:

Health and Safety Considerations for Buses: The health and safety precautions prescribed by the Ohio Department of Health and local health departments have implications for routine practices on school buses. Implementing daily health routines will require new practices and protocols. Each bus will need to be analyzed for adherence to guidelines, keeping safety of students and drivers foremost. This will result in difficult decisions as to who is transported and how this works.
Logistical Considerations for Buses: A district reopening plan should address school bus logistical issues. This includes the number of buses required to provide transportation in accordance with health guidelines (including students receiving transportation to community schools, nonpublic schools and joint vocational schools). It is important that districts maintain close and frequent communication with community schools, nonpublic schools and joint vocational schools to ensure transportation arrangements are coordinated and disruptions are minimized. Districts should be proactive in obtaining ridership and schedule information for each school participating in the district’s transportation plan to determine how best to meet the transportation needs of students.

The “Health and Prevention Guidance for Ohio K-12 Schools” strongly encourages school districts to require students to wear masks on school buses.

Reactions

  • Scott DiMauro, the president of the Ohio Education Association, said, “OEA understands and respects the long-standing adherence to local control in decision-making around public education, but the state also has a critical role to play amidst an unprecedented public health crisis and a rising number of cases of COVID-19. While we appreciate the consideration given to the importance of social distancing, health checks, and sanitation protocols in the Governor’s plan, it lacks a means of enforcement, even when a county is in the highest tier of the alert system.”

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, as well as influencers relevant to recovering from the pandemic.

  • District of Columbia Public Schools announced that schools would remain fully virtual until Nov. 6. Public charter schools in the district will be allowed to operate in-person.
  • Denver Public Schools announced that schools would remain fully virtual through Oct. 16. Small groups of children deemed to be high priorities for in-person instruction can return beginning after Labor Day.
  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools announced that students would begin the year learning fully virtually, with the start of the year pushed back from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he hoped schools could move to a hybrid model by Oct. 5.



About the author

Ballotpedia staff
Bitnami