Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: August 6, 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.

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.

  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): The Hawaii High School Athletic Association voted to postpone moderate- and high-risk fall sports to January 2021. The change affects cheerleading, cross country, football, and girls volleyball.
  • Michigan (divided government): Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order on Aug. 6 requiring children over the age of two and all employees to wear face masks at Michigan camps and childcare centers.
  • North Carolina (divided government): Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced on Aug. 5 that the state would stay in Phase 2 of reopening for five more weeks.
  • Rhode Island  (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 5, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced a new metric for determining if schools can reopen to in-person instruction. Schools in any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents will be prohibited from fully reopening to in-person instruction.
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): Gov. Jim Justice (R) released reopening guidance for public schools. Justice set a target reopening date of Sept. 8 and counties are required to submit their reopening plans by Aug. 14.

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 30th 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.

Maryland’s Maryland Together

On June 10, the Maryland Department of Education released Maryland Together, the state’s school reopening plan. Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said, “As we move forward, State and local education leaders must recognize that long-standing gaps in educational opportunity and access have been further exposed and widened by the COVID-19 crisis. We want to ensure that students most impacted receive intense focus and priority in our recovery efforts.”

On July 22, Salmon said the goal for schools should be to return to in-person instruction by the end of the calendar year. She said districts would be left to decide whether to teach in-person or virtually in the fall.

Maryland does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in Maryland traditionally start the academic year in late August to early September, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 12, Salmon ordered all schools in the state to close from March 16 to March 27. The closure was extended on March 25 (through April 24) and April 17 (through May 15). On May 6, Salmon closed schools for the remainder of the school year.

Context

Maryland has a divided government. The governor is a Republican, and Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a divided government in 2015.

The following tables show public education statistics in Maryland, 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.

Maryland public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $16,553 13
Number of students (’18-’19) 896,827 20
Number of teachers (’16-17) 59,703 17
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,418 25
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 14.8 28
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 46.7% 27
Maryland public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $14,521,045,000 13
Percent from federal sources 5.7% 44
Percent from state sources 43.5% 33
Percent from local sources 50.8% 15

Details

District reopening plans

Districts are responsible for developing their own specific reopening plans. Plans are due for state review and approval by Aug. 14. Districts must post their reopening plans on their official website.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidelines leave the decision for how to return to school for the fall semester up to school districts. Districts may choose from in-person, hybrid, or online-only options. The state guidelines recommended the following:

  • One-day rotation where 25% of students would attend once per week on alternating days
  • Two-day rotation where 50% of students would attend twice per week on alternating days
  • Alternating weeks where 50% of students would attend four times per week every other week
  • Elementary in-person learning and secondary distance learning
  • Grade band phase-in with elementary students returning to in-person learning first, followed by middle and high school in successive weeks

Mask requirements

The Maryland Department of Health and Maryland Department of Education released joint guidance on the use of cloth face coverings in schools on July 21.

  • School staff must wear cloth face coverings while in the school building, on school grounds when not contraindicated due to a medical condition, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or other conditions or safety concerns;
  • All students, school staff, and bus drivers must wear a cloth face covering while on school bus when not contraindicated due to a medical condition or developmental or safety considerations;
  • Other adults must wear cloth face coverings when they must enter the school building or grounds for essential functions;
  • Students, especially students in middle and high school, must wear cloth face coverings in the school building and on school grounds as much as possible when not contraindicated due to a medical condition or developmental or safety considerations;
  • The use of cloth face coverings is most important at times when physical distancing measures cannot be effectively implemented especially when indoors;
  • Local education agencies should examine the structure and schedule of the education program to identify when physical distancing may be a challenge;
  • Cloth face coverings should not be worn by children under 2 years and anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidelines recommend the following considerations be made in district reopening plans:

  • Determine if face coverings (not PPE) are to be utilized by faculty/staff/students and what the LSS policy will be for adherence to the policy
  • Review procedures for sending ill persons home from the school facility
  • Determine if pre-designated entry and exit paths will be utilized
  • Determine pre-designated drop-off points for buses, parents
  • Determine if class changes are static (students remain in room, teachers change classrooms) or Fluid (Students change classrooms)
  • If fluid period/topic changes occur, determine:
    • Is locker use allowed, if not, secure from use
    • Determine distance and flow paths through facility, mark flooring, walls appropriately
    • Determine communication and outreach methods to students and parents for notification of above
    • Determine a “Use of restroom” policy that maintains distancing

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidelines say that based on recommendations from the CDC, a 77-passenger bus would only be able to transport 8 students. The guidelines acknowledge districts may not be able to handle such transportation demands and offers the following ways to modify transportation:

  • Encouraging use of face coverings when use of alternate rows for seating is not possible.
  • Allowing siblings from the same household to sit together in the same seat.
  • Recommending passengers sit in the same seat going to and returning from the trip.
  • Allowing for alternate transportation arrangements, such as riding with a parent

Responses

Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, criticized the guidelines for not providing enough specifics. “The newly released Maryland reopening plan is lacking in so many areas and punts on too many decisions,” she said.

Rhode Island’s Back to School RI

On June 19, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green released Back to School RI, the state’s guidance for reopening schools. It includes a blend of recommendations and requirements. The Rhode Island Department of Education required schools to submit reopening plans that take account of four different scenarios ranging from full in-person learning to full distance learning by July 17.

Gov. Raimondo, Commissioner Infante-Green, and Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander said in a joint statement on July 17, “Every step of the way, our state’s response to COVID-19 has been driven by science. We have rejected the false choice of an all-or-nothing approach and taken targeted, data-driven steps to keep Rhode Islanders safe. As we look toward reopening schools, we will continue to put public health first and to rely on facts and science in making the best decisions for the mental, physical, and intellectual needs of our students.”

Raimondo is expected to make a final announcement about when schools can reopen the week of Aug. 16. Previously, Raimondo said all schools would begin the year on Aug. 31.

According to EdWeek, public schools in Rhode Island typically start the academic year in late August or early September.

On Aug. 5, Raimondo announced schools in any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents will be prohibited from fully returning students to classrooms for in-person instruction.

Raimondo first ordered schools to close on March 13. She extended that closure on March 30 and announced schools would not reopen to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year on April 23.

Context

Rhode Island has 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 2013.

The following tables show public education statistics in Rhode Island, 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.

Rhode Island public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $11,531 36
Number of students (’18-’19) 138,444 45
Number of teachers (’16-17) 9,777 45
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 702 41
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 14.1 34
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 37.9% 43
Rhode Island public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $1,254,995,000 43
Percent from federal sources 8.1% 32
Percent from state sources 40.5% 39
Percent from local sources 51.3% 14

Details

District reopening plans

The Rhode Island Department of Education requires all schools to submit reopening plans based on Back to School RI.

In recognition of the uncertainty, the State is requiring all schools to prepare for different scenarios, in accordance with the guidelines established below. RIDE and RIDOH will continue to update this document, and others, as more public health information and guidance become available.

Public schools will be required to submit their plans to RIDE by July 17, and RIDE will give feedback given to each school on an ongoing basis through July 28. Each Local Educational Agency (LEA) will be required to make its plan available to families and post it on their schools’ website no later than July 31.

While this document is written for public LEAs, private schools are also required to complete school reopening plans that are in alignment with the provided guidance and template documents to ensure the health and safety of their school community. While private schools are not required to submit their plans to RIDE, they should be able to produce plans upon request by RIDOH if a positive case or outbreak occurs. Each private school is required to have its plan available on its website by July 31.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The plan asks schools to develop reopening plans for three different scenarios: limited in-person learning, partial in-person learning, and full in-person. Back to School RI covers a third scenario—full distance learning for all—but schools are not required to include that scenario in the plans they submit to the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Back to School RI includes general guidance for how the three in-person scenarios incorporate distance learning:

  • Full In-person: Students who are unable to attend in-person classes must be provided with distance learning. LEA plans should address how distance learning will be utilized for classes, groups of students, or individual students who are home sick, due to quarantine, or other reasons.
  • Partial In-person: Some students attend classes in person while others participate in distance learning. LEA plans should address how distance learning will be utilized for classes, groups of students, or individual students who are home sick, due to quarantine or other reasons.
  • Limited In-person: Many students participate in distance learning classes. LEA plans should address how distance learning will be utilized for classes, groups of students, or individual students who are home sick, due to quarantine, or other reasons.

Mask requirements

According to a Back to School RI FAQ posted on the Rhode Island Department of Education website, masks are required for all students, even when social distancing is possible. A previous version of Back to School RI did not require face masks in situations that allowed for social distancing.

Face coverings play a critical role in mitigating risk related to COVID-19. As of 7/29/2020, the Governor, Commissioner, and RIDOH have decided that face coverings are required for staff and students in the K-12 setting, even when students are in stable groups and socially distanced (6+ feet apart). Schools may want to refer to the CDC guidance for wearing face coverings. Schools should acquire additional face coverings for students and/or staff who may forget them or not have their own. Additionally, when necessary and if available, teachers may use clear face coverings to improve communication, but face shields do not replace the need to wear a face covering. Any visitor must also wear face coverings. Children should be provided with the opportunity for mask breaks when it is safe to do so.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

Back to School RI includes guidance on class and group size limits and classroom layouts for high school students and students in elementary and middle schools under the three scenarios outlined above:

  • Full In-person Reopening Scenario
  • Elementary and Middle Schools: These students will be required to maintain stable groups of up to 30 (analogous to the pod method for summer camp and childcare). This capacity includes both students and staff. Stable groups help to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. It is still expected that individuals within stable groups maintain as much physical distance as possible. Stable groups are designed to spend all or most of the day together as a group. Each class/pod will be expected to physically distance (14 feet) from every other class/pod.
  • High Schools: Recognizing that it is more difficult to establish and maintain stable groups in a high school schedule, more than one approach is possible. Stable groups are recommended and should be maintained whenever possible (i.e., students should stay in the same classroom and teachers should rotate rooms whenever possible). If stable groups are not possible, high school students must maintain six feet of physical distance and require the wearing of face masks if maintaining six feet of distance is not possible.
  • Partial In-person Reopening Scenario
  • Elementary and Middle Schools: These students will be required to maintain stable groups of up to 30 (analogous to the pod method for summer camp and childcare). This capacity includes both students and staff. Stable groups help to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. It is still expected that individuals within stable groups maintain as much physical distance as possible. Stable groups are designed to spend all or most of the day together as a group. Each class/pod will be expected to physically distance (14 feet) from every other class/pod
  • High Schools: High Schools can select which of the following requirements they will follow:
    • Stable groups (up to 30 people) should be maintained whenever possible (i.e., student groups should stay the same and teachers rotate whenever possible); or,
    • If not able to maintain stable groups, approximately 50% of the students in a high school can be present in person at any one time.
  • Limited In-person Reopening Scenario
  • Elementary and Middle Schools: These students will be required to maintain stable groups of 15 or fewer in classrooms. Stable groups help to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. It is still expected that individuals within stable groups maintain as much physical distance as possible. Each class/pod will be expected to physically distance (14 feet) from every other class/pod.
  • High Schools: High Schools can pick which of the following two requirements they follow: o Smaller stable groups (maximum of 15) should be maintained whenever possible (i.e., student groups should stay the same and teachers rotate whenever possible); o If not able to maintain stable groups, approximately 25% of the students in a high school can be in person at any one time.

Guidance for classroom layouts and the use of school spaces include the following:

  • General Spacing and Movement: Stable groups must occupy consistent space as much as possible. This means each stable group uses the same classroom every day, the same entrance every day (if possible), the same hallways, bathrooms, and other areas of the school building. When shared space is used by multiple stable groups or by high school students who are not in stable groups, disinfecting must occur in between the times when stable groups or groups of high school students use the space. Equipment and materials in shared spaces and in classrooms should not change from one student to another. Whenever possible, shared objects should be limited to sharing within that stable group.

The plan requires schools in the partial and limited in-person reopening scenarios to use assigned seating in each classroom. The plan recommends that assigned seating be used even under the full in-person scenario. The plan also requires students to face the same direction as much as possible.

The plan requires the following for hallways:

  • Hallways: During reopening in the fall, outlining a plan for hallway use and minimizing congestion will be an important step in the planning process. LEA plans must include strategies such as staggered passing times or one-way traffic in hallways. Plans must include how lockers may be used, with the strong recommendation of having students carry backpacks instead of using lockers

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

Back to School RI includes guidance on busing and student transportation under the three scenarios outlined above:

Some of the recommendations and requirements under the full in-person reopening scenario include:

  • All students on buses are required to wear masks (with the exception of children younger than age two and anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance).
  • Students using the bus are scheduled as a stable group, and the bus group is considered its own stable group
  • Hand sanitizer must be available and used when entering and exiting the bus.
  • Students are screened when getting on the bus and are seated to physically distance as much as possible.
  • All students have assigned seats on the bus and ride the same bus to and from school.
  • Students must sit one per seat, unless students are from the same household. Siblings and students from the same household should sit together.

The requirements are the same under the partial in-person reopening scenario, except that the overall capacity of the bus is reduced to 50%. Capacity is further reduced under the limited in-person reopening scenario to include one student person seat, using every other seat.

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.

  • Maricopa County Department of Public Health Director Marcy Flanagan said she believed schools in the metro Phoenix area were not yet ready to reopen. “We would not recommend in-class, teacher-led learning at this point,” Flanagan said. Flanagan said her department would release a data dashboard in the next week to help guide reopening decisions.
  • Boston Public Schools released a first draft of its reopening plan. The plan will allow parents to choose between a hybrid and remote learning model. The district set Sept. 10 as the first day of school.
  • Florida Education Association v. DeSantis: On Aug. 3, the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, filed an emergency motion requesting a status conference in its case against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the Florida Commission of Education. The union is seeking to block a state order it alleges mandates that schools physically reopen five days a week or lose critical funding. In response, Judge Spencer Eig, of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, set a hearing for Aug. 6 in which he was expected to rule on whether the suit is currently in the proper court. In its original complaint, the union argued that the state’s emergency order to reopen physical school classrooms “imposes mandates that make it impossible to comply with CDC guidelines on physical distancing, hygiene, and sanitation.” The union also alleges the order “comes with severe pressure” to physically reopen schools, as only those schools with state-approved reopening plans will be granted flexibility on student enrollment reporting, including funding based on pre-COVID full-time enrollment forecasts. According to the union, the state order violates Article IX, Section 1(a), of the Florida Constitution, which mandates safety and security in public schools. The union also alleges the order is an “unreasonable, inconsistent, and arbitrary and capricious” deprivation of the plaintiffs’ due process rights. The union is seeking an “injunction to prohibit all named defendants from taking actions to unconstitutionally force millions of public school students and employees to report to brick and mortar schools that should remain closed during the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.” An attorney representing DeSantis said that if the case is not transferred to a different court, they will file an appeal.



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