Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: August 10, 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 Friday? Click here.

We’ll complete our summaries of all 50 state public school reopening plans on Aug. 17. What do you think we should cover next? What topics do you want more information about—or less? Or do you think there’s something we should look at once again? We want to know what you think! Simply reply to this email with your suggestions and comments. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): Inter-island travel restrictions will take effect. Gov. David Ige (D) announced the restrictions on Aug 6. Individuals traveling to the counties of Kaua’i, Hawai’i, Maui, and Kalawao must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

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.

  • California (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 7, the state released reopening guidance for colleges and universities. The guidance requires students and staff to wear masks in all indoor public spaces. In counties on the state’s monitoring list, only courses like labs and studio arts will be allowed to take place in-person.
  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 7, Gov. David Ige (D) announced that public schools would begin the school year with four weeks of online learning. The school year is scheduled to begin Aug. 17.
  • Maryland (divided government): On Aug. 7, Montgomery County rescinded its ban on in-person instruction at private schools. The county’s policy was in conflict with Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R), and a hearing for a lawsuit on the matter was scheduled for this week.
  • Minnesota (divided government): On Aug. 10, the Minnesota Department of Health released guidance for reopening long-term care facilities. Facilities with no exposure to COVID-19 in the last 28 days may consider reopening to visitors.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced on Aug. 7 that she would issue an executive order mandating face coverings for people working in offices. Brown said she would issue the order and provide more details in a week or more.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Effective Aug. 10, gyms and fitness centers in counties in Phase Two or Phase Three of reopening must allow at least 300 square feet of space per customer. For gyms or fitness centers larger than 12,000 square feet, occupancy is limited to 25%.

Tracking industries: Face coverings

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 must you wear a face covering in public?

We last looked at face coverings in the Aug. 3rd edition of the newsletter. Since then, Mississippi instituted a statewide mask mandate. No states rescinded a statewide mask mandate.

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

Montana’s Reopening Montana Schools Guidance

Montana’s Office of Public Instruction released Reopening Montana Schools Guidance, a set of guidelines and best practices for reopening schools, on July 2. It was most recently updated on July 27.

Governor Steve Bullock (D) said, “We are acutely aware of the role played by in-person teaching, not only in the students’ lives, but also in the lives of the entire family. Public education has shaped who we are today, and we want to make certain that our children have the same experience. This is why we’ve made the safe reopening of our public schools a top priority. Noting the uniqueness of every school district in Montana, our goal for this document is not to be prescriptive, but to provide effective, flexible guidelines to all schools in hopes that we can safely resume in-person instruction in the fall.”

The school reopening guidance allows each school district to make its own decision about when and how it will reopen. The guidance says, “Montana is a ‘local control’ state. The best and final public education decisions are made by school district administrations, local school boards, and community stakeholders who know the context and unique needs of their local communities.”

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

Bullock directed Montana’s public K-12 schools to close on March 16 for two weeks. Bullock extended the order on March 24. After the order expired, local school districts chose to stay closed for the remainder of the school year, opting for online instruction.

Context

Montana has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat, while Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state has had a divided government since 2005.

The following tables show public education statistics in Montana, 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.

Montana public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $13,037 26
Number of students (’18-’19) 147,709 43
Number of teachers (’16-17) 10,555 44
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 826 37
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 14.1 35
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 45.6% 30
Montana public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $1,805,295,000 47
Percent from federal sources 12.2% 6
Percent from state sources 47.9% 25
Percent from local sources 40% 26

Details

District reopening plans

Districts are responsible for developing their own specific reopening plans. The guidance includes the following recommendation for local school districts:

It is recommended that you form a reopening planning team including your school’s/district’s “Emergency Operation Team” (EOP), school leadership, staff, local tribal leaders, and community stakeholders, and assign a lead, at minimum, for the following recovery areas:

  1. a) Social, Emotional, and Behavioral
  2. b) Academic Programming
  3. c) Physical & Structural Safety

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance allows local school districts to choose a reopening model. It provides guidance on how a school could operate fully online, near-full capacity in-person, or in a hybrid model:

  • Scenario 1: Buildings Closed: All students remote learning.
  • Scenario 2: A limited number of students present in school building, with remote learning occurring for students who are off-site.
  • Scenario 3: Increased capacity/number of students in the school building, limiting number of activities to allow for continued physical distancing, and continued remote learning for students who are off-site.
  • Scenario 4: Near full capacity and full operations, continued vigilance in health and safety best practices, with remote learning for students who are off-site.

The guidance says individual districts should consult with local health authorities to “determine which scenarios best fit their local situations.”

Mask requirements

The guidance does not require students, teachers, and staff to wear masks. It does, however, recommend schools follow the CDC’s recommendations on using face masks.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance includes recommendations for each scenario of in-person learning. They appear below.

Scenario 1: Under Scenario 1, buildings are closed and all students learn remotely.

Scenario 2: A limited number of students present in school building, with remote learning occurring for students who are off-site.

If schools plan to reopen they should consider:

  • Implementing an alternative educational delivery model that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning.
  • Providing focused individual education, especially for at-risk students.
  • How to reconnect and meet the educational needs of students who fall behind in a remote learning environment.
  • The importance of maintaining the connection between students, teachers, and parents.
  • The important role that schools play in the health of students, families, and communities.

Scenario 3: Increased capacity/number of students in the school building, limiting the number of activities to allow for continued physical distancing, and continued remote learning for students who are off-site.

  • Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. It is recommended to continue physical distance in gatherings of any size. Groups larger than 50 people should be canceled unless physical distancing can be maintained.
  • ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to adhere to stay home guidance. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate vulnerable residents.
  • It is recommended that gatherings occur in shifts (recess, cafeteria and hallway passing). Larger school events that draw in-person crowds are discouraged (sports, assemblies, dances etc.).
  • All staff are encouraged to continue monitoring for re-emergence of COVID-19 symptoms and be in contact with local health departments and local hospitals/health providers for continued updates on community re-emergence indicators. Continue to monitor attendance for increases in absenteeism.

Scenario 4: Near full capacity and full operations, continued vigilance in health and safety best practices, with remote learning for students who are off-site.

  • For ALL INDIVIDUALS there is no limit on group size, however, everyone should observe physical distancing and minimize contact time with others, and limit time spent in crowded environments.
  • VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS may still need to take precautions, and remote learning for students not onsite should be available.
  • Continue to follow the Governor’s Guidelines for Phase Three.

Confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19

If a student, teacher, or staff member has or is suspected of having COVID-19, the guidance includes the following recommendations:

  • Collaborate with public health to ensure each school has a plan for reporting, contact tracing and both short-term or extended closures in the case of a positive COVID case related to the school or community.
  • Utilize CDC guidelines.
  • Schools may need to implement short-term closure procedures regardless of community spread if an infected person has been in a school building.

Physical distancing

The guidance includes the following physical distancing recommendations:

  • Consider ways to convert outdoor space into learning space for months when weather is accommodating.
  • Keep students in the same groups or classroom, with teachers rotating when practical. *Students may alternate school days. Allow for cleaning time in classrooms between groups. *Space seating/desks at least six feet apart when feasible. Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
  • Prohibit congregation in hallways and lunchrooms; if possible, serve lunches in classrooms to avoid gathering of students in the cafeteria; stagger class changes to avoid large groups of students in the hallway; stagger dismissal for the same reason.
  • Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards or partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least six feet apart (e.g., reception desks, bathroom sinks).  *Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least six feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g. guides for creating “one way routes” in hallways).

Physical education

The guidance includes the following recommendations for physical education class:

  • Make time for wiping down and sanitizing areas.
  • Be thoughtful of passing areas between classes and allowing for corridors that maintain physical distancing recommendations.
  • Develop practices that address class size.
  • Ensure handwashing occurs before and after PE class.
  • Take home clothing used for PE class; clothing should not be kept in locker rooms.
  • Allow time for cleaning of shared equipment between classes.
  • Promote physical distancing in areas of congregation (e.g., locker rooms).

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance includes the following recommendations for school transportation:

Consider CDC guidance on pupil transportation. Schools should consider the need for more buses or alternative schedules to safely transport students. When physical distancing on buses is not possible, schools should consider cloth face masks and other mitigation strategies.

Responses

  • Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson said he wanted more specific guidance from the state on certain issues. Watson said, “The health screenings is a great example. There’s really no clear requirement to do a health screening in either the governor’s plan, nor the OPI plan. They recommend that you monitor students and staff for symptoms. But there’s no specificity, like when you should do it, how often you should do it.”
  • Big Fork Public Schools Superintendent Matt Jenson also said he wanted more specificity from the state. Jenson said, “Anything from facemasks to social distancing to screening and temp check protocols, how many students can be on a bus at the same time.”

New Hampshire’s Grades K–12 Back-to-School Guidance

The New Hampshire Department of Education released its school reopening guidance on July 14. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said, “What we didn’t want to do at the state level is say, ‘You must adhere,’ and have those certain circumstances where it just wasn’t possible, and then those districts come back and say, ‘I guess we have to close; there’s no way to manage what you’ve mandated. That’s the rigidity we have tried to remove from the system.”

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

On March 15, Sununu ordered all schools in the state to transition to temporary remote instruction from March 16 to April 3. On April 16, Sununu closed schools for the remainder of the school year.

Context

New Hampshire has a divided government. The governor is a Republican, and Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state has had a divided government since 2019.

The following tables show public education statistics in New Hampshire, 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.

New Hampshire public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $17,043 11
Number of students (’18-’19) 177,357 41
Number of teachers (’16-17) 14,760 40
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 494 45
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 12.2 46
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 27.3% 50
New Hampshire public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $2,992,501,000 39
Percent from federal sources 5.6% 46
Percent from state sources 33.4% 46
Percent from local sources 61% 2

Details

District reopening plans

Districts are responsible for developing their own specific reopening plans. The school reopening guidance allows each school district to make its own decision about when and how it will reopen. The guidance says, “This guide is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ document. Rather, it recognizes the varied local contexts of each school district and acknowledges that many districts may develop their own operational guidelines utilizing this document as their base of minimum requirements.”

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance includes some recommendations for online, in-person, and hybrid learning scenarios, but it does not require districts to follow them. The guidance says, “There is no single answer and the approach that a district takes will be a reflection of its individual community and community circumstances.”

The guidance included the following recommendations for preparing for dynamic instruction:

  • Establishing a Student Learning Workgroup focused on determining instructional priorities for the 2020-21 school year.
  • Establishing a baseline understanding of student learning upon their return to school.
  • Developing student instruction plans that are responsive to individual student baseline data.
  • Establishing strategies to implement and monitor the student instruction plans.

Mask requirements

The guidance says, “Each district will need to make decisions regarding the use of cloth face coverings for students, educators and visitors to each facility that are specific to their community. Such determinations will be reflective of circumstances on the ground at any given time and will likely be fluid and change as those circumstance [sic] change.”

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance recommends students, teachers, and staff stay six feet apart during instruction, use hand sanitizer, wash their hands, avoid using shared materials, and clean and disinfect desks and other equipment each day.

If a student, teacher, or staff member has or is suspected of having COVID-19, the guidance includes the following recommendations:

  • Any person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be reported immediately to public health by calling 603-271-4496 (after-hours call 603-271-5300 and ask for the public health nurse on call).
  • Public health will conduct a detailed investigation to identify people who may have been in “close contact” with a student or staff member diagnosed with COVID-19 during their infectious period. As part of the public health investigation, investigators seek to identify close contacts starting two days before the person became symptomatic or tested positive for COVID-19 (if asymptomatic).
  • “Close contact” for the purposes of the public health investigation in New Hampshire is defined as a person being within six feet of the individual diagnosed with COVID-19 during their infectious period for 10 minutes or longer. Depending on individual circumstances, and on a case-by-case basis, public health may identify other individuals considered at risk for exposure.
  • Any person who is identified as a close contact or at risk for exposure to COVID-19 based on the public health investigation will be required to quarantine for 14 days from their last day of exposure. Depending on the specific circumstances, this may involve quarantine of only specific individuals (e.g., those sitting next to a person with COVID-19 in a classroom), but could include whole classes (depending on degree or likelihood of close contact, classroom size, age of students, etc.); this will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by public health.

The guidance recommends school districts consider serving “individually plated, boxed, or wrapped meals in the classroom instead of in a cafeteria,” staggering meal times, seating classroom groups together, arranging tables six feet apart, eating outdoors, and disinfecting tables.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance includes the following recommendations for school transportation:

  • Parent/Guardian Pick-Up and Drop-Off
  • Develop a strategy to try to keep at least six feet of social distancing during drop-off and pick-up, and so that students and parents/guardians from different groups do not interact.
  • Consider assigning different entrances/exits for students based on grade, if possible and safe to do so.
  • Avoid congregating outside the school before/after school. When dropped off, students should go directly through their classrooms and be checked in. Similarly, at the end of the day, school should manage the congregation of students while awaiting transportation.
  • Parents/guardians should stay in their cars while dropping-off or picking-up students. They should not enter the building unless necessary.
  • Bus Transportation
  • Those providing transportation to education facilities should maximize space between riders. Students should sit facing forwards and not get up from their seat or exchange seats.
  • If possible, consider assigned seating on buses.
  • Student transportation should adhere to appropriate social-distancing of students while they are waiting prior to embarking and disembarking.
  • All non-driver staff supporting the transportation of students should wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth at all times while boarding, riding, and exiting the bus.
  • All bus drivers should wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth at all times while stopped and students are present on the bus, or while students are boarding/exiting the bus. Bus drivers should also wear a cloth face covering while driving, if safe to do so. If the cloth face covering causes obstruction of the driver’s view, or unsafe driving conditions, it can be removed, but in those circumstances, students should be at least six feet away from the bus-driver, or Department of Safety approved plastic barriers should be installed between seating areas and the bus driver.

Responses

  • According to New Hampshire Public Radio, Gorham superintendent David Backler “welcomed the state’s new guidance, saying it allowed North Country districts to resume school based on local conditions rather than infection rates in the southern tier.”
  • Barrett Christina, director of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, said, “While honoring local control is the New Hampshire tradition, consistency among school districts can help ease some of the public and parents’ concerns about reopening.”
  • Megan Tuttle, president of the NEA-NH, said, “Somehow, when it comes to school children and educators, the Governor believes the virus will act so differently that students and staff don’t need to wear masks, and social distance rules apply only if practical. We had hoped for a set of minimum safety standards for all schools to achieve before they were safe to reopen. Instead, we received 56 pages of ‘shoulds’ not ‘shalls.’ The fastest way to undo the remarkable progress New Hampshire has made against the virus is to allow these guidelines to define how we reopen our school.”

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 Aug. 3, five Texas state lawmakers filed suit in Travis County District Court, asking the court to invalidate a $295 million-dollar COVID-19 contact tracing contract. At issue in the case is Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) use of emergency powers to procure and sign the contract outside normal procurement processes and without legislative approval. The plaintiff lawmakers are Texas state Reps. Mike Lang (R), Kyle Biedermann (R), Bill Zedler (R), Steve Toth (R), and Sen. Bob Hall (R). In their complaint, the lawmakers allege Abbott’s emergency actions are incompatible with Texas law, saying the “request for proposal for the contract was inadequate, the contract bid process was a sham, and the contract impermissibly exceeds two years.”The legislators allege the contract was awarded in violation of Tex. Gov’t Code § 2155.063, which requires “a purchase of or contract for goods or services shall, whenever possible, be accomplished through competitive bidding.” The lawmakers argue that the Texas law is “designed to ensure smooth operation during emergencies.” The legislators allege the executive branch cannot spend “essentially unlimited funds toward a goal unidentified by the legislature.” Abbott said, “Every lawsuit that has been filed against me has either been won in court or dismissed … this lawsuit will meet that exact same fate.” The judge assigned to the case has not yet been announced to the public.



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