Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: August 4, 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?

  • Michigan (divided government): Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed an executive order allowing casinos in Detroit to open at 15% capacity on Aug. 5.
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): Gov. Tate Reeves (R) is expected to make an announcement and sign an executive order regarding school reopenings on Aug. 4.

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.

  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said she believed schools in Arizona should not reopen for in-person instruction yet. Hoffman wrote, “As school leaders, we should prepare our families and teachers for the reality that it is unlikely that any school community will be able to reopen safely for traditional in-person or hybrid instructions by August 17th.”
  • California (Democratic trifecta): The California Department of Public Health created a waiver for elementary schools in counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list. The waiver would allow schools to open for in-person instruction as long as they meet certain criteria.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) modified the mask mandate for schools to allow students to remove masks in a classroom when they can maintain three to six feet of distance between themselves and others.
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) announced the state would not count any remote-learning days towards required instructional time for schools that did not offer at least 50% in-person instruction.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced the state would take a county-by-county approach to coronavirus restrictions. Officials will review data by county and the state will work with counties deemed at risk to determine further restrictions to prevent spread.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) released updated fitness guidance on Aug. 3 for counties in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of reopening, including a requirement that occupancy may not exceed 25% in large exercise facilities (more than 12,000 square feet).

Tracking industries: Indoor gathering limits

All 50 states are reopening in some way. Here, we give the status of one industry or activity across the states. Today’s question: what is the indoor gathering size limit in each state?

We last looked at indoor gathering size limits in the July 28th edition of the newsletter. Since then:

  • New Jersey’s limit decreased from 100 to 25.
  • Oregon’s limit decreased from 50 to 10.
  • Pennsylvania’s limit decreased from 250 to 25.

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

California’s Stronger Together

The California Department of Education released a 55-page guidance document for reopening schools to in-person instruction on June 8. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said the guidance was not mandatory and the document’s goal was to provide multiple scenarios schools could choose from based on need.

On July 17, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list to begin the year with schools using fully remote learning. As of Aug. 4, 37 of the state’s 58 counties were on the watch list. The list is based on new infections per capita, test positivity rate, and hospitalization rate.

California does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen—individual districts in counties not on the watch list can choose how and when to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in California traditionally start the school year between late August and early September.

Context

California is a Democratic trifecta. The governor is a Democrat, and Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Democratic trifecta in 2011.

The following tables show public education statistics in California, 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.

California public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $13,943 21
Number of students (’18-’19) 6,171,666 1
Number of teachers (’16-17) 271,287 2
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 10,437 1
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 23.1 2
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 58.1% 12
California public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $74,395,627,000 1
Percent from federal sources 9.6% 20
Percent from state sources 57.2% 14
Percent from local sources 33.2% 37

Details

District reopening plans

Districts are intended to use the guidelines to develop their own specific reopening plans.

The intent of this document is to be a guide for local discussion on reopening schools. It is not a “one-size-fits-all” document; rather, it is a document that honors the varied local contexts of each of our local educational agencies (LEAs). This guidance document was developed with the most current information known at the time and may be updated as new data becomes relevant. This guide will provide checklists, essential questions for consideration, and examples of best practices. . . . LEAs need to work with their local health departments and local stakeholders to ensure that their protocols align with the most current scientific knowledge and community expectations. It is also reasonable to expect that the protocols schools implement will change as the local conditions change.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidelines do not provide one specific requirement or recommendation for LEAs. Instead, the guidelines provide several scheduling model options LEAs can use to build their own plans. Those scheduling models are:

  • Example A: Two-Day Rotation Blended Learning Model
    • Students report to school on two designated days based on grade level for in-person instruction (example: Monday/Wednesday for grade levels K–3, Tuesday/Thursday for grade levels 4–6). On the other days, students are engaged in enrichment opportunities aligned with academic goals established by the school through various programs, either on site or with community partners, that are coordinated by school instructional staff.
  • Example B: A/B Week Blended Learning Model
    • Half of the student population attends in-person learning opportunities four full days per week while the other half is engaged in distance learning opportunities. The students would alternate each week. All grade bands would be included. The instructional program would be sequenced to accommodate both asynchronous and synchronous learning opportunities for students.
  • Example C: Looping Structure
    • For schools serving grade levels TK–8, there is an opportunity for students to stay with the same teacher in cohorts for multiple grade levels. Looping provides opportunities for improved relationships between students and teachers, more targeted and efficient instruction, and a higher attendance rate. For example, a teacher and student cohort would stay together for first and second grade, increasing the opportunity for literacy rates on or above grade level. Teachers and students staying together over multiple grade levels can build a better understanding of health and safety, decreasing risks to students and staff.
  • Example D: Early/Late Staggered Schedules
    • Grade level bands would have staggered start and dismissal times, such as AM/PM rotations (for example, TK–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–10,11–12). The bell schedule would accommodate multiple recesses and lunch periods and multiple meal distribution points, along with time for students to engage in handwashing before entering classrooms. Students could be in a homeroom with teachers rotating to decrease student congregation in hallways

Mask requirements

The guidelines say that based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, all staff should wear face coverings. Teachers may instead use face shields so students can see their faces.

The guidelines say “students should use cloth face coverings, especially in circumstances when physical distancing cannot be maintained.” If LEAs require the use of face coverings, the guidelines require LEAs to provide face coverings for students.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidelines provide suggestions and checklists for LEAs in building plans in the following 10 areas:

  • Local conditions to guide reopening decisions
  • Plans to address positive COVID-19 cases or community surges
  • Injury and illness prevention plan
  • Campus access
  • Hygiene
  • Protective equipment
  • Physical distancing
  • Cleaning/disinfecting
  • Employee issues
  • Communication with students, parents, employees, public health officials, and the community

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidelines recommend that students wear face coverings while on a bus.

The guidelines leave determining bus occupancy up to LEAs based on physical distancing guidelines. The state also recommends that students be seated in order of boarding/unloading to prevent students from passing one another. Buses should be assigned aides to ensure distancing, enforce seating arrangements, and screen for symptoms.

Responses

On July 9, the California Teachers Association sent a letter to state officials in response to school reopening plans.

Simply said, California cannot reopen schools unless they are safe. Unfortunately, many local districts and communities don’t have the necessary resources or capacity to maintain even the most basic prevention measures of six feet physical distancing and limiting contacts, much less the other important preventative actions such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and tracing, or adequate ventilation and cleaning supplies. While no one method of prevention by itself is 100 percent effective, layered strategies boost prevention with each measure knocking off some percentage of exposure and potential infection. This includes a clear and manageable plan to implement measures like physical distancing of six feet, reducing the number of contacts, face coverings, handwashing, daily health screening, support for sick and at-risk people to stay at home, robust testing, good ventilation (with absolutely no recirculated air), and cleaning and disinfecting.

Connecticut’s Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together

On June 25, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona announced “Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together,” a reopening framework centered around six guiding principles and a series of operational considerations. The plan includes a mixture of requirements and optional guidance based on best practices. The plan was last updated on Aug. 3.

Lamont said, “While we’ve made good strides to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Connecticut, the virus hasn’t gone away and we need to do what we can to keep students and staff safe while also doing our best to provide our young people with access to an education that prepares them for the future. Working with public health and medical experts, and with the support of our educators, we are preparing a number of steps that protect the health and safety of everyone who makes contact with our school system.”

According to EdWeek, Connecticut schools typically start the last week in August. The Connecticut State Department of Education asks districts to plan for all students to return to classrooms this fall so long as public health continued to support the state’s school reopening model.

On March 15, Lamont first ordered schools closed to in-person instruction from March 16 to March 31. He extended the closures on March 23 and April 9, before closing schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year on May 5.

Context

Connecticut is a Democratic trifecta. The governor is a Democrat, and Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Democratic trifecta in 2011.

The following tables show public education statistics in Connecticut, 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.

Connecticut public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $21,628 2
Number of students (’18-’19) 514,698 30
Number of teachers (’16-17) 42,343 26
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,023 35
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 12.3 45
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 35.7% 48
Connecticut public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $11,376,740,000 18
Percent from federal sources 4.2% 49
Percent from state sources 41% 37
Percent from local sources 54.8% 8

Details

District reopening plans

All Local Education Agencies (LEAs), including charter schools, were required to submit reopening plans to the Connecticut State Department of Education by July 24. The State Department of Education said while it would not approve the plans, it would hold on to the plans in case schools required technical assistance.

The guidance states:

While the guiding principles of this document will require all LEAs to approach this with a certain level of consistency, LEAs retain discretion in implementing the approach to full time reopening. School boards are encouraged to develop local teams and secure input from all members of the community regarding the complex approach to resuming classes in the fall. The CSDE will stand ready to provide technical support and anticipates that this document will be followed by ongoing support documents, resources, and a variety of templates to assist local planning.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The plan says schools should plan to return students to classrooms in the fall, so long as the public health data supports doing so.

LEAs should plan to have all students, in all districts, return to schoolhouses for fulltime instruction at the beginning of 2020–2021, so long as public health data continues to support this model. This model will be supported with more intensive mitigation strategies and specific monitoring, containment and class cancellation plans. In addition to full-time instruction plans as indicated above, LEAs must be prepared to modify their plans to support a partial reopening or to allow for scaling back at a future date if the public health data changes.

The plan also says schools should: “Plan for educational opportunities to be primarily in-person, but allow for students and parents to choose not to participate based upon individual considerations.”

The plan includes a tiered system for helping schools determine which education model to adopt. The “Low”, “Moderate,” and “High” tiers correspond to the spread of COVID-19 in an area.

In the “Low” category, schools can operate “up to 100% capacity, students/staff with underlying medical conditions should consider restrictions and blended/remote learning.” Buses can operate “up to full capacity with bus monitors recommended, facial coverings in place during transit, controlled loading/unloading of riders.”

In the “Medium” category, schools can operate  “at reduced capacity, with more reliance on hybrid model, blended/remote learning, prioritize access to school building for students who need the more learning support, including but not limited to those receiving special education, ELs or limited access due to devices or connectivity issues.” Buses can operate at “reduced capacity with bus monitors strongly recommended, facial coverings in place during transit, controlled loading/unloading of riders, spaced seating between unrelated riders.” The plan also calls for indoor extracurricular activities to be suspended.

In the “High” category, schools are “closed, 100% remote learning, bus transportation suspended, extracurricular activities, including sports, should be suspended.”

The plan requires schools to do the following:

  • Develop a plan for school class cancellations and reopening to be implemented in the event that the superintendent, their designee, or state government suspends or cancels in-school classes for some or all participants.
  • Assume that any decision about school closure, reopening, or cancellation of school events will be made in coordination/collaboration with local health officials, and with the advice of the school medical advisor (if any) and school nurse supervisor.
  • Prioritize ongoing educational opportunities when drafting the plan for shutdown. Materials for continuity of learning must be made available to allow for school sessions to continue remotely

Mask requirements

The plan requires staff and students to wear face coverings when inside school buildings and provides suggestions for communicating those policies.

The plan requires the following:

  • Adopt policies requiring use of face coverings for all students and staff when they are inside the school building, with certain exceptions listed below.
    • For anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance, face coverings and masks should not be required, per CDC guidance.
  • Be prepared to provide a mask to any student or staff member who does not have one.

Other suggestions include:

  • Teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings.
  • Set clear guidelines regarding limited exceptions to use of face coverings when other mitigating practices are in place, such as:
    • For students, while eating, drinking, during PE, or when students are outside, and effectively practicing social distancing and any other possible mitigants. Exceptions may also be necessary for certain special education students or other special populations
    • For teachers and staff, while teaching so long as they are properly socially distancing or remaining static behind a physical barrier as described herein, while eating, drinking, or when outside and effectively practicing social distancing and any other possible mitigants.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The plan requires the following for classroom layout:

  • Maximize social distancing between student workstations, achieving 6 feet when feasible, when determining the classroom layout. Desks should face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or students should sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
  • Where necessary, assess other space that may be repurposed for instruction in the school, in municipal or other community space, or if the school will require additional modular space.
  • Maximize space between the teacher and students due to the risk of increased droplets from teachers during instruction. If a teacher removes face covering or mask during instruction, spacing should be increased beyond six feet. For teachers who stay seated, a physical barrier may be an effective option.

The plan encourages schools to sort students into stable cohorts.

  • Implement the key strategy of establishing stable cohorts within the school population, when feasible. Placing students in cohorts is strongly encouraged for grades K–8, and encouraged where feasible for grades 9–12.
  • Assign classroom groups with teams of teachers and support personnel, and as much as possible restrict mixing between teams.
  • When possible, have teachers of specific academic content areas rotate, instead of student groups.
  • Where schools have different entrances, assign cohorts a specific entry and exit that remains consistent day-to-day. Consider similar design for assignment of restrooms, classrooms, and outside space where it is possible to restrict primary use to a single cohort, or consistent group of cohorts.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The plan includes the following recommendations for preparation:

  • Consider gathering data from families to properly plan for resuming classes in the fall, including an assessment of the number students expected to attend, and whether parents or guardians plan to transport their children.
  • Consult with municipal leaders, including public safety officials, to assess the approach if the school determines parents/guardian transportation is an option, including whether the school can safely accommodate the traffic, and whether local streets will be impacted.
  • Understand that parents or guardians generally cannot be compelled to transport their children if they choose not to, in which case the LEA maintains responsibility for transporting the student.
  • Include all transportation providers, including public and contracted bus company representatives where applicable, in planning a return to service.

The plan includes the following recommendations for pick up/drop off:

  • Assess if a staggered arrival and drop off, properly communicated, will enhance safety protocols in place.
  • Plan vehicle flow and logistics particularly if there are more family transport vehicles.
  • Consider arrival/departure procedures that limit unnecessary entrance of parents and guardians into the building.

Responses

On June 25,  Connecticut Education Association (CEA) President Jeff Leake and AFT Connecticut Vice President Mary Yordon released a statement in response to Lamont’s reopening plan:

Governor Lamont’s plan, released today, is short on specifics and doesn’t address some of the most pressing issues associated with reopening our buildings this fall. The new plan raises many concerns and leaves dozens of unanswered questions regarding how schools will operate in a COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) world. Simply directing district officials to follow generic CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations, without customizing requirements for the realities of our school settings, is insufficient for a safe statewide reopening.

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.

  • On July 29, a group of inmates at the Tulare County Jails sued Sheriff Michael Boudreaux in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, seeking the implementation of an array of COVID-19 safety measures. The plaintiffs are asking that the court issue an order directing Boudreaux to:
    • provide universal staff and inmate COVID-19 testing,
    • release inmates who are medically vulnerable and pose a low-flight-risk,
    • provide (and require staff to wear) personal protection equipment,
    • allow attorney access to incarcerated clients, and
    • quarantine those exposed to the novel coronavirus.
  • Plaintiffs allege that because Boudreaux has failed to implement CDC-recommended response measures, he has “actively interfered with incarcerated people’s ability to protect themselves.” The plaintiffs allege they have been placed in “imminent danger of serious illness or death from the virus.” Plaintiffs also allege Boudreaux’s visitation policy “has prevented incarcerated people from engaging in confidential attorney visits.” They say the policy interferes with “efforts to meet confidentially with civil rights attorneys about the appalling conditions in the jail.” The plaintiffs allege Boudreaux’s actions violate the First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Boudreaux said, “We are doing everything that we can with the information and tools available to us to keep our inmates safe and healthy.”



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