TagCoronavirus

Ballotpedia stories covering coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.

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.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 29, 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?

  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): New restrictions on weddings, funerals, restaurants, bars, and gyms will take effect on July 30. Weddings and funerals will be limited to 20% capacity (with a maximum of 30 people) and event receptions will be prohibited. In Phase 3 counties, restaurants will be limited to 50% capacity, members of the same table will have to be from the same family, and the maximum number of people at a table will decrease from 10 to five. Bars will be closed for indoor service (outdoor service will still be permitted). Gym occupancy will be reduced to 25% in Phase 3 (or five people in Phase 2). Additionally, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced on July 28 that he was prohibiting counties from advancing to the next phase of reopening indefinitely.

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.

  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) said that the state would announce its decision next week on how schools will reopen. He said that if current statistics hold, he expects students to be learning in person at least part-time.
  • Michigan (divided government): Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order that allows colleges and universities to convert large spaces into instructional areas without needing approval from the Bureau of Fire Services.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued a directive ordering all staff and students from K-12 to wear a mask in school at all times. The directive also imposed social distancing guidelines of three feet for preschools through middle schools, and six feet for high schools.
  • North Carolina (divided government): Gov. Roy Cooper (D) issued an executive order on July 28 that prohibits restaurants, wineries, breweries, and distilleries from serving alcohol between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The order goes into effect on July 31 at 11:00 p.m.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): On July 28, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that the state health department would issue an order restricting activities at fairs that start on July 31 or later. The order will prohibit carnival activities, including games and rides.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced the metrics that will guide school reopening decisions. Counties must have 10 or fewer coronavirus cases per 100,000 people and a 7-day positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before in-person and hybrid instruction can resume. The state also must have a positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before any in-person or hybrid instruction can resume.
  • Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) extended Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan until August 28. Raimondo also announced gathering limits are reduced from 25 people to 15, effective July 29.
  • Tennessee (Republican trifecta): Gov. Bill Lee (R) released guidelines for reopening schools. The recommendations cover testing and contact tracing, immunizations, and resources necessary for returning students to classrooms or teaching remotely.
  • Wyoming (Republican trifecta): Gov. Mark Gordon (R) announced on July 29 that he was extending three public health orders passed on June 15 that deal with limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and school reopenings. Indoor gatherings will continue to be limited to 50 people, while outdoor gatherings will continue to be limited to 250 people. The public health order that relates to school reopenings includes a modification that requires teachers and students to wear masks indoors and outdoors at school when social distancing isn’t feasible.

Tracking industries: Restaurants

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 dine in at a restaurant?

We last looked at restaurants in the July 22nd edition of the newsletter. Since then, no states have opened or closed dine-in services at restaurants. California and New Jersey remain the only two states that do not allow indoor dining at restaurants.

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

Maine’s Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction

On Friday, July 17, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) and the Maine Department of Education released guidance for reopening schools, titled “Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction.” The framework consists of a series of safety measures, including six requirements for reopening schools, and a color-coded categorization system for classifying the risk of COVID-19 spread in counties. The system was designed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to guide school administrative units (SAU) in deciding the model of instruction to adopt at the beginning of the school year.

On March 31, Mills closed schools through April 30. On April 7, Maine’s commissioner of education, Pender Makin, recommended that schools remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

In announcing the Framework, Mills said, “Decisions on how best to return to school will be made in Maine, not in D.C. Individual districts and communities who know their schools best will, based on the conditions on the ground, decide for themselves how and when to reopen.”

Maine does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in Maine traditionally start the academic year between the middle of August and early September. Individual districts determine the start date.

Context

Maine is a Democratic trifecta. The governor is a Democrat, and Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

The following tables show public education statistics in Maine, 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.

Maine public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $15,724 16
Number of students (’18-’19) 175,254 42
Number of teachers (’16-17) 14,750 41
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 599 42
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 12.0 49
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 45.5% 31
Maine public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $2,737,132 41
Percent from federal sources 7% 39
Percent from state sources 39.4% 42
Percent from local sources 53.6% 12

Details

District reopening plans

Maine’s guidance includes a mixture of requirements and recommendations. It includes six requirements that school administrative units must implement as a baseline to reopen.

School administrative units can decide when to start the school year and how or whether to return students to classrooms. Each school administrative unit is required to develop and maintain an Emergency Operations Plan.

The six requirements for schools are:

  • Symptom Screening at Home Before Coming to School (for all Staff and Students)
  • Physical Distancing and Facilities
  • Masks/Face Coverings
  • Hand Hygiene
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Return to School after Illness

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance includes a color-coded risk classification system that schools can use to determine which model of instruction to adopt based on the risk of COVID-19 spread in the county. The three colors are red, yellow, and green:

  • Categorization as “red” suggests that the county has a high risk of COVID-19 spread and that in-person instruction should not be conducted.
  • Categorization as “yellow” suggests that the county has an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread and that hybrid instruction models should be adopted.
  • Categorization as “green” suggests that the county has a relatively low COVID-19 risk and that in-person instruction can be adopted as long as the school can implement the 6 Requirements for Safely Opening Schools in the Fall (the requirements are listed directly below this green box) – although a SAU may opt for hybrid instruction if its buildings or readiness make adhering to the required Health and Safety Measures for All Schools a challenge.

Schools are not required to follow the guidelines for each color. However, schools must implement the six requirements regardless of the risk categorization of the county in which it resides.

Mask requirements

Masks are required for most students, staff, and teachers in all schools.

  • Adults, including educators and staff, are required to wear a mask/face covering.
  • Students age two and above are required to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth.
  • Masks/face coverings must be worn by all students on the bus.
  • Face shields may be an alternative for those students with medical, behavioral, or other challenges who are unable to wear masks/face coverings. The same applies to staff with medical or other health reasons for being unable to wear face coverings. Face shields worn in place of a face covering must extend below the chin and back to the ears.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

Staff and students are required to check themselves for symptoms before coming to school.

  • Students (parents/caregivers) and staff members must conduct self-checks for symptoms prior to boarding buses or entering school buildings each day. Schools should provide information to families in their primary language to support them in conducting this check.
  • Any person showing symptoms must report their symptoms and must not be present at school.
  • Schools must provide clear and accessible directions to parents/caregivers and students for reporting symptoms and absences.

The guidance requires adults to maintain six feet of distance from other adults and students, while students are permitted to stay three feet from other students in most cases.

  • Adults must maintain 6’ of distance from others to the extent possible. Maintaining 3 ft distance is acceptable between and among students when combined with the other measures outlined in this list of safety requirements.
  • 6’ physical distancing is required for students while eating breakfast and lunch, as students will be unable to wear masks at that time.
  • A “medical isolation room” must be designated for students/staff who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms during the school day.
  • Adequate ventilation is required for classrooms, with schools having flexibility in implementation such as using properly working ventilation systems or outdoor air exchange using fans in open window or door.
  • Groups in any one area, room, or classroom must not exceed the Governor’s gathering size limits.

The guidance includes some of the following recommendations for student learning:

  • Build in learning and practice for remote learning when students are in-person so that everyone is prepared.
  • Emphasize project-based, interdisciplinary learning activities which can provide both organic formative assessment opportunities, high engagement, and efficient delivery of many skills and concepts.
  • Plan to provide equitable services (consider low-tech and no-tech options in addition to online learning; quasi-independent projects that can be completed with minimal resources at home) for each critical skill/concept/set of standards.
  • Keep equity at the forefront of decision-making around grouping.
  • Conduct needs assessments for students regarding access to technology, an adequate at home learning space, basic needs such as nutrition, to gauge their abilities and needs to access remote learning.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

Students are required to apply hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting a bus. All students must wear masks while riding the bus. The guidance includes the following recommendations for transportation:

  • School bus contractors collaborate with SAUs to adopt cleaning and disinfecting protocols, referencing use of products with valid label claims against human coronavirus and product label instructions, that will be used when each run is complete for all school buses and school transportation vehicles.
  • Consider supplementing local SAU transportation protocols with the School Transportation Aligned for the Return to School (STARTS) Task Force national recommendations that are estimated to release mid-July.
  • Adopt local implementation procedures for transportation staff and students who ride the school bus to wear a cloth face covering and accommodate students with special or medical needs that may not be able to wear a cloth face covering. Follow U.S. DOT NHTSA guidance letter about school bus driver shields that is estimated to release mid-June.
  • Work with local special education and McKinney-Vento staff and student families to develop a COVID 19 transportation protocol for each special needs and homeless student.

Launch Nebraska

The Nebraska Department of Education most recently updated its school reopening guidance on July 20. It contains a phased approach to reopening schools based on four levels of risk and community spread: significant spread (red), moderate spread (orange), minimal to moderate spread (yellow), and minimal spread (green). According to the plan, “The purpose of this document is to outline protocols schools should consider given their particular level of risk as determined by their Local Health Department and/or the Department of Health and Human Services.”

Nebraska does not have an official date for public schools to reopen—individual districts can set their own timelines, depending on the virus’ effect on their community. According to EdWeek, public schools in Nebraska traditionally start the academic year in mid-August, with the exact start date varying by district.

On April 1, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) closed K-12 schools in the state through May 31, effectively ending the school year.

Context

Nebraska is a Republican trifecta. The governor is a Republican, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Republican trifecta in 2011.

The following tables show public education statistics in Nebraska, 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.

Nebraska public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $15,176 18
Number of students (’18-’19) 326,392 37
Number of teachers (’16-17) 23,611 36
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,081 31
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 13.7 37
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 44.7% 33
Nebraska public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $4,168,349,000 36
Percent from federal sources 8.2% 30
Percent from state sources 32.4% 48
Percent from local sources 59.4% 3

Details

District reopening plans

The Department of Education’s plan asks schools to coordinate with local health officials to determine their risk level, consider the corresponding guidance in the document, and create a Return to School team to create school or district-specific plans. Plan-makers should then continue to communicate with their “Local Health Department as they review and approve your plan. Finally, communicate the steps with all stakeholders including parents and family, community, and students.”

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

Nebraska’s reopening plan allows for in-person, hybrid, and fully remote learning, depending on a school district’s risk level. In the red phase, the plan says, “Schools should be closed for all in-house activities for an extended period of time,” and directs schools to move teaching to video conferencing. In the yellow and orange phases, the plan encourages schools to use a hybrid schedule to minimize on-site gathering sizes and allow for social distancing. The green phase allows schools to fully reopen for in-person instruction.

Mask requirements

Nebraska’s plan does not require masks in schools. The plan recommends that students and teachers wear masks when feasible, especially when social distancing is not possible. Districts and schools can develop their own mask policies.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The general preparedness guidelines for schools in the green phase include:

  • School preparedness activities primarily focused around awareness and updating emergency operations plans.
  • Close and continuing communication between school and local public health leaders focused on local epidemiology and any changes in disease surveillance that would necessitate a change to “minimal to moderate spread” community spread status.
  • Evaluate whether there are students or staff at risk for severe illness and/or students or staff living with a high-risk individual and develop or refine plans for remote work and education if necessary.
  • Encourage sick students and staff to stay home and consider waiving requirements for doctor’s excuse notes.
  • Clean and disinfect work and school areas regularly (between groups of students, between school day and after school programs, etc).
  • Embed teaching of hygiene practices into regular routines.

In the yellow and orange phases, the plan suggests the following mitigation measures:

  • School preparedness and response activities shift from ongoing surveillance to a series of active mitigation measures.
  • All staff and students should wear facing coverings when feasible.
  • Schools should be prepared to immediately implement physical distancing measures that include:
    • Reducing the frequency of large gatherings,
    • Altering schedules,
    • Limiting inter-school interactions, and
    • Deploying remote learning.
  • Short-term dismissals of 2-5 days and suspension of extracurricular activities should be expected for cleaning and contact tracing purposes
  • Students and teachers at increased risk of severe illness should be prepared to implement distance teaching and learning modalities.

For more information on guidance for in-person operations, click here.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The plan says school bus operations, schedules, and seating schemes can proceed normally in the green phase of reopening. In the yellow and orange phases, the plan outlines the following guidelines:

  • Clean and disinfect transportation vehicles regularly. Children must not be present when a vehicle is being cleaned.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection products, including storing products securely away from children and adequate ventilation when staff use such products. Ensure proper and adequate ventilation after cleaning and before returning students to the area.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in the vehicle (eg. surfaces in the driver’s cockpit, hard seats, arm rests, door handles, seat belt buckles, light and air controls, doors and windows, and grab handles) prior to morning routes and prior to afternoon routes.
  • Keep doors and windows open when cleaning the vehicle and between trips to let the vehicles thoroughly air out.
  • Clean, sanitize, and disinfect equipment including items such as car seats and seat belts, wheelchairs, walkers, and adaptive equipment being transported to schools.
  • Create a policy that if an individual becomes sick during the day, they must not use group transportation to return home and must follow protocols outlined above.
  • Create a plan for getting students home safely if they are not allowed to board the vehicle.
  • If a driver becomes sick during the day, they must follow protocols for sick staff above and must not return to drive students.
  • Encourage the use of hand sanitizer before entering the bus. Where possible, hand sanitizer should be supplied on the bus.
  • Where possible, allow for six feet of physical distancing between students, and between students and the driver, while seated on vehicles if feasible (e.g., by utilizing larger vehicles with more seats, by increasing frequency of routes to reduce occupancy, one rider per seat in every other row)
  • Consider keeping windows open while the vehicle is in motion to help reduce spread of the virus by increasing air circulation, if appropriate and safe.

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.

  • Indianapolis Public Schools announced that the board was considering beginning the school year with fully remote learning and delaying in-person instruction until at least October. If approved, the proposal would also provide devices to all students in pre-K through 12th grade and a mobile hotspot for families without internet access.
  • Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska announced that high schools will open at 50 percent capacity, with two groups of students alternating between in-person and virtual instruction based on last name. The virtual learning will take place in real-time.
  • On July 8, the owner of a beauty salon in Salem, Oregon, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, alleging that Gov. Kate Brown (D) and other state officials and agencies had violated her constitutional rights by temporarily shutting down her salon. In her complaint, salon owner Lindsey Graham argues that Brown’s Executive Order 20-12 requiring salons like Graham’s to cease operations immediately and indefinitely violated her constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Additionally, Graham alleges that various state actors “engaged in a course of conduct intended to harass, intimidate, extort, and bully” Graham for exercising her First Amendment rights to speech and protest after challenging the logic behind, and authority to impose, COVID-19 restrictions. Neither Brown nor her office has commented publicly on the suit.


Kansas education board blocks governor’s order delaying school start date

The Kansas State Board of Education on July 22 voted to block an executive order issued by Governor Laura Kelly (D) that would have delayed the start of public and private school instruction in the state until after Labor Day.

Kelly issued the executive order on July 20 in light of Kansas’ recent spike in coronavirus cases. The order would have barred public and private schools in the state from holding classes from August 10 through September 8 with the goal of providing school personnel with “the opportunity to prepare for safe and effective student instruction.”

Republican lawmakers passed legislation in June that required Kelly to gain approval from the State Board of Education in order to change school opening dates. The State Board of Education is a constitutionally created board that functions as part of the executive branch. However, the board’s 10 members are elected by the public and, therefore, are not subject to direct control by the governor. The board voted 5-5 to block the order—one vote shy of the six votes that would have been required for approval.

“Our decisions must be informed by public health experts not politics,” said Kelly in a statement following the board’s decision. “This vote puts our students, faculty, their families and our economy at risk.”

Board members opposed to the executive order disagreed with the governor’s statewide approach, arguing that school opening decisions should be made at the local level. “This virus is not the same across the state,” said board member Jean Clifford.

Additional reading:



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 28th, 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 two days

What is changing in the next two days?

July 30

  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced new restrictions on weddings, funerals, restaurants, bars, and gyms that take effect on July 30. Weddings and funerals will be limited to 20% capacity (with a maximum of 30 people) and event receptions will be prohibited. In Phase 3 counties, restaurants will be limited to 50% capacity, members of the same table will have to be from the same family, and the maximum number of people at a table will decrease from 10 to five. Bars will be closed for indoor service (outdoor service will still be permitted). Gym occupancy will be reduced to 25% in Phase 3 (or five people in Phase 2).

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): Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced the state would spend $52 million in eight counties in California’s Central Valley to fund improved isolation protocols, testing protocols, and more medical personnel.
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced he is closing bars and limiting restaurant capacity to 25% for two weeks starting July 28. Beshear also asked schools to avoid reopening for in-person instruction until the third week of August.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education signed an agreement with the state’s teachers unions to reduce the length of the 2020-2021 school year from 180 days to 170 days.
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): Gov. Tate Reeves (R) amended the statewide Safe Return order. The new order limits gatherings to 10 people indoors or 20 outdoors, requires bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and only allows bars to serve alcohol to seated customers. Reeves also added six counties to the county-specific mask order.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) said the state was abandoning its phased reopening strategy in favor of what he called a “long-term system of mitigation levels that will allow our businesses and residents to have advanced notice and understanding on what direction their county could be heading based on updated criteria.”
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): On July 27, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) issued updated reopening guidelines that allow restaurants to resume self-serve buffets. Under the new guidelines, which affect restaurants in counties in the orange and yellow phases of the reopening plan, restaurants must replace serving utensils every 30 minutes and customers must use hand sanitizer whenever they enter a new food bar line. The new guidelines also require restaurants open 24 hours a day to close for cleaning and sanitizing every morning and evening.
  • Vermont (divided government): Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced on July 28 that schools will not reopen until Sept. 8. School districts will decide whether to return students to physical classrooms or offer distance learning.
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued an executive order placing new restrictions on businesses in the Hampton Roads area, including the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Restaurants in the Hampton Roads area will be limited to 50% capacity for indoor dining and must stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m., and gatherings will be restricted to 50 people. The restrictions take effect on July 31.

Tracking industries: 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 21st edition of the newsletter. Since then:

  • Mississippi decreased its indoor gathering size limit to 10.
  • We reclassified Utah as having no statewide indoor gathering size limit after several counties moved into the green phase of reopening, which has no limit.

The following is an overview of gathering limits by state:

  • Sixteen states have no statewide indoor gathering size limit. Thirteen of those states have Republican governors and three have Democratic governors.
    • On July 21, 15 states had no limit.
  • Fourteen states have a limit between 1 and 25. Nine of those states have Democratic governors and five of those states have Republican governors.
    • On July 21, 13 states had a limit between 1 and 25.
  • Twelve states have a limit between 26 and 50. Nine of those states have Democratic governors and three of those states have Republican governors.
    • On July 21, 14 states had a limit between 26 and 50.
  • Two states (New Jersey and Vermont) have a limit between 51 and 100. New Jersey has a Democratic governor and Vermont has a Republican governor.
    • On July 21, two states had a limit between 51 and 100.
  • Six states have limits greater than 100. Four of those states have Republican governors and two of those states have Democratic governors.
    • On July 21, six states had limits greater than 100.

Featured school reopening plans: Kansas and Kentucky

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

Kansas’ Navigating Change

The Kansas State Department of Education released school reopening guidance on July 13. The plan contains recommendations and consideration for schools and districts. It does not discuss requirements. The document’s introduction says, “The purpose of this document is not to prescribe what schools should do, but rather what considerations and discussions should happen in schools as they plan to support their students and communities as they navigate the uncharted waters of providing a quality education during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Kansas does not have an official date for public schools to reopen—individual districts can set their own timelines. According to EdWeek, public schools in Kansas traditionally start the academic year in mid-August, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 27, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) closed K-12 schools in the state from March 23 through May 31, effectively ending the school year.

Context

Kansas has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat, and Republicans hold 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 Kansas, 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.

Kansas public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $12,703 29
Number of students (’18-’19) 491,442 34
Number of teachers (’16-17) 36,193 29
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,314 28
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 13.6 38
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 48.2% 21
Kansas public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $6,225,153,000 31
Percent from federal sources 8.9% 26
Percent from state sources 64.3% 7
Percent from local sources 26.8% 44

Details

District reopening plans

Kansas’ school plan encourages school districts to create contingency planning task forces to develop and review district-specific reopening frameworks. The document recommends district plans include input from students, parents, teachers, and medical professionals. Districts are also encouraged to consult with local health officials to ensure compliance with local laws.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The plan contains recommendations for schools conducting on-site, hybrid, and remote operations. Schools and districts are encouraged to consider which method is appropriate for their communities and make changes to their schedule throughout the school year as circumstances allow.

Mask requirements

On July 20, Gov. Kelly (D) signed an executive order requiring everyone five years of age and older entering private and public schools to wear a face covering. On July 23, Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) said local school districts and counties have the constitutional authority to opt-out of the mask order. The governor has maintained that local governing bodies cannot opt-out of the order.

The Department of Education plan encourages school districts to require students and faculty to wear face coverings whenever cohorting and social distancing measures cannot be practiced. It contained the following recommendations:

  • Best practices suggests that visitors, staff, and students should wear masks or face coverings while inside school facilities unless it inhibits the person’s ability to perform his or her job, inhibits a student’s ability to participate in the educational process or is disruptive to the educational environment.
  • Masks or face coverings are also recommended outside when social distancing is not possible.
  • Face coverings, masks and/or shields, should be required anytime social distancing and cohorting cannot be maintained. Unless otherwise required by state or county order, the requirement to wear face coverings could be waived for Pre-K – 5th/6th grade students.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

Kansas’ plan contains the following general recommendations for classrooms:

  • Practice and prepare to model proper hygiene practices, such as handwashing, using hand sanitizer and social distancing techniques, including alternatives to handshakes.
  • Post signage in classrooms, hallways and entrances to communicate how to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Practice and prepare to model the proper wearing and disposal of personal PPE, including masks.
  • Train staff in trauma-informed practices to strengthen the trauma- informed culture for students. Prepare to communicate effectively and empathetically with students about the pandemic and about the necessary changes to school life.
  • Reduce class sizes as needed, and maintain adequate staffing levels for teaching and learning to occur in a safe and equitable manner (i.e. band, choir, physical education).
  • Social distance as possible by increasing space between students during in person instruction. Understand there may be times that it will be necessary to provide close individual contact to provide comfort, private discipline or personal instruction. When in close contact for long periods of time, staff should wear PPE, as feasible.
  • Extra furniture should be removed from the classroom to increase the space available to provide distance between students.
  • As much as possible, furnishings with fabric and other hard-to-clean coverings should be removed from the classroom.
  • Arrange student furniture to have all students face in the same direction.
  • When possible, assign seats and require students to remain seated in the classroom.
  • Utilize outdoor spaces as appropriate.
  • Prepare to accommodate students with disabilities, including students who may be nonverbal, so they are safe from harm.
  • Support equitable access to continuous instruction by ensuring that all students have the required hardware, software and connectivity to be successful.
  • Students who have underlying conditions or risk factors identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should be provided with opportunities to continue learning while prioritizing their health and safety.
  • Staff members who have underlying conditions or risk factors identified by the CDC should communicate with their supervisor about appropriate protective measures and accommodations.
  • Consider delaying academic instructional activity to start school with a focus on social and emotional learning activities that includes trauma screening and supports to help students and adults deal with grief, loss, etc. Assess students’ capacity and readiness to learn and address gaps from previous year prior to focusing on academics and classroom plans. Socio-emotional supports should then be continued throughout the school year and be integrated into students’ regular learning opportunities.
  • Practice what different learning environments may look like as schools fluidly move from one learning environment to another in response to local transmission. Align school response to community response.
  • Districts may consider adopting an alternate calendar for the school year (have multiple calendars ready for several scenarios).
  • Districts might consider staggering the days students are attending (half-day rotation, one-day rotation, two-day rotation, or A/B week) and stagger students’ schedules.

For complete on-site health and safety guidelines, click here (starting on page 1002).

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The Department of Education suggested the following general recommendations for transporting students in buses and other school vehicles:

  • Assigned seating for students on all routes.
  • Have individuals from the same household sit together.
  • Fill the bus seats at the back of the bus first, and then load to the front to avoid students walking past each other in the aisle. Within the scope of this process, school districts still need to be cautious about having students of various age groups sit together due to bullying and other issues.
  • Unload students from the front of the bus first to avoid students walking past each other in the aisle.
  • If the bus is not full, spread students out as much as possible.
  • When possible, open the windows while transporting students to improve air circulation.
  • Minimize loading times by prestaging students for bus transportation home.
  • Masks are recommended for all students. If masks are required by the health department and/or the local school board, a plan needs to be in place on what occurs if a student shows up to the bus without a mask.

For complete transportation guidelines, click here (starting at page 1031).

Kentucky’s Healthy At School

The Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) released school reopening guidance in June. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released additional guidance on July 6 after releasing interim guidance on May 15. The KDE guidance says it is meant to be used as a companion to the KDPH guidance and that both should be used as guides for school districts developing their own individual school reopening plans.

On March 13, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) closed public schools from March 16 through March 30. He extended the school closure on March 20 (through April 2) and extended it again on April 2 (through May 1). On April 20, Beshear closed public schools for the remainder of the school year.

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

Context

Kentucky has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat, and Republicans hold 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 Kentucky, 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.

Kentucky public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $11,518 38
Number of students (’18-’19) 677,821 27
Number of teachers (’16-17) 42,029 27
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,536 23
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 16.2 17
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 58.7% 11
Kentucky public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $7,453,976,000 26
Percent from federal sources 11.5% 11
Percent from state sources 54.9% 18
Percent from local sources 33.6% 35

Details

District reopening plans

Districts must use state guidance to develop their own reopening plans. The guidance says state plans should evolve over time and “districts should work closely with their local health departments and other partners to ensure their policies, procedures and protocols align with the current scientific information.”

The guidance does not say if state-approved plans must be made publicly available.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance released in June and July does not say what sort of model districts must use for learning. The initial guidance released in May asked schools to “prepare for three contingencies for the start of the school year: an early opening, a traditional opening and a late opening” based on local conditions.

KDE established four potential alternative schedules for schools to consider:

  • Rotating schedules where groups of students would attend school on alternating patterns, such as A/B days, AM/PM patterns, or alternating weeks.
  • A synchronous opt-in model where parents could choose whether their children attend school in person or virtually, with instruction delivered synchronously to students both at school and at home through live streaming.
  • A hybrid model between rotating and synchronous opt-in models where students not learning in school are learning at home in real time through live streaming.
  • A fully online model where students receive instruction at home through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning.

Mask requirements

The guidance recommends that staff and all students in first grade or older should wear a cloth mask unless the student has a medical exemption. The following guidelines for masks are also included:

  • Masks can be lowered during classroom time if all students and staff are seated 6 feet apart and no persons are walking around inside the classroom.
  • Masks should:
    • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
    • Be secured with ties or ear loops Include multiple layers of fabric Allow for breathing without restriction
    • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
    • Cover both nose and mouth
  • Schools should develop a standard for masks to assure messaging or images on masks align with school dress code.
  • Schools should develop a plan for purchase/donation of cloth masks for provision to students who arrive without a mask or do not have resources to obtain a mask.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance includes the following safety expectations for schools:

  • Stagger arrival and dismissal times.
  • Increase space between students by rearranging seating to maximize space between students to be 6 feet or greater.
  • If the physical space in the school doesn’t allow for spacing students’ desks 6 feet apart, space desks as far away as possible and require masks at all times in that classroom for students and staff. All desks should be arranged so students’ seats face the same direction.
  • Reduce class sizes to allow for smaller cohorts of students to decrease potential need for contact tracing.
  • Cancel field trips, assemblies, and other large group activities to avoid mixing students in large common areas. Adhere to the Governor’scurrent guidance regarding group gatherings.
  • Limit non-essential visitors on school property.
  • Ensure students go straight from vehicles to their classrooms to avoid congregating.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance says students should wear masks on the bus unless they have a medical waiver. It recommends that passengers from the same household be seated together and that staggered, arranged seating be used.

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 20, Judge William Griesbach, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, dismissed a lawsuit seeking to void local COVID-19 orders enacted in Wisconsin. The local orders, which were enacted after the state supreme court overturned Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) statewide order, originated in various counties and cities across the state. The lawsuit claimed six violations of constitutional rights, including the right of assembly, the exercise of religion, and equal protection. Without addressing substantive issues presented in the plaintiffs’ complaint, Griesbach ruled that, because the lawsuit failed to allege coordinated action between the local officials, the case failed to properly join all the defendants into one lawsuit. Finding that the claims raised were “largely separate and distinct” and that each plaintiff was subject to different orders executed in different parts of the state, Griesbach ruled that “[e]ach of the government entities are independent of each other, and the fact that various governmental officials consulted with each other before they issued local orders in response to the pandemic does not transform their independent actions into a single transaction or occurrence.” Griesbach dismissed the suit without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled. In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said, “I’m happy that this challenge to critical rules to protect public health was dismissed.” Joseph Voiland, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told news outlets he was considering whether to file an amended lawsuit or appeal the dismissal. Griesbach was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush (R).
  • Regal Cinemas announced it would reopen theaters across the U.S. beginning Aug. 21, with theaters opening according to state and local ordinances. The company has 549 locations in 42 states.

 

 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 27th, 2020

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): In a July 24 discussion with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D), Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey said he expected about half of the state’s public school students to attend classes remotely in the fall.
  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): On July 24, the Arizona Department of Health Services released guidelines for gyms and fitness clubs to follow when allowed to reopen. Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said gyms were still required to remain closed until Gov. Doug Ducey (R) permits them to reopen.
  • Florida (Republican trifecta): On July 25, Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears tweeted that she would meet with breweries and bars across the state to discuss ideas for safely reopening those companies. They have been closed since June 26.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) order is taking effect on July 27 requiring everyone 8 or older to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, commercial businesses, transportation services, and in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible. Students in third grade or higher, along with faculty and staff, must wear face masks in school.
  • Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On July 24, the Tennessee Board of Education reviewed waiver requests for the 2020-2021 school year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The board denied requests from 60 districts to waive the requirement that districts offer at least two physical education classes a week for at least 60 minutes. The board granted waivers to 56 districts to eliminate duty-free lunch breaks for teachers in districts where students will use classrooms for lunch rather than cafeterias. The board also denied waivers seeking to increase the state’s maximum class size.
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued an order allowing all public and private colleges and universities to reopen, effective July 24. The order allows schools to choose their own reopening dates.

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 July 20th edition of the newsletter. Since then, a mask mandate took effect in Indiana on July 27.

Featured school reopening plans: Arkansas and Illinois

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

Arkansas’ Ready for Learning

The Arkansas Department of Education released public school reopening guidance on June 5. According to the Arkansas Division of Elementary & Secondary Education (ADESE) guidance website, “with state support, districts will be able to create systems that adhere to components of Arkansas’s model.”

On March 15, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) ordered public schools to close from March 17 through March 27. Hutchinson extended the closure through April 17 on March 27 and closed schools for the remainder of the school year on April 6.

Public schools in Arkansas were initially set to reopen for the school year on Aug. 13. On July 9, Hutchinson delayed the start date until Aug. 24.

Context

Arkansas is a Republican trifecta. The governor is a Republican, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Republican trifecta in 2015.

The following tables show public education statistics in Arkansas, 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.

Arkansas public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $11,395 39
Number of students (’18-’19) 491,804 33
Number of teachers (’16-17) 35,730 31
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,080 32
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 13.0 41
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 63.6% 4
Arkansas public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $5,283,244,000 32
Percent from federal sources 11.5% 11
Percent from state sources 51.5% 22
Percent from local sources 37.0% 30

Details

District reopening plans

Districts were required to submit plans for approval by ADESE before June 26. On or before Sept. 1, districts will post their plans to district websites. Each plan is required to:

  • Ensure the continuity of teaching and learning by providing a guaranteed and viable curriculum that includes blended learning (K-12) and diagnostic assessments (K-8);
  • Identify how they will address unfinished learning from the prior year by using the Arkansas Playbook: Addressing Unfinished Learning or district developed resources;
  • Utilize a Learning Management System;
  • Schedule teacher training for how to use the LMS;
  • Schedule teacher training for blended learning (delivery of instruction);
  • Use effective technology for parents and students; and
  • Provide a written communication plan for interacting with parents, students, and the community regarding day-to-day expectations.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

Each district is required to offer what is referred to as Blended Learning and a remote learning option. Blended Learning is a traditional school day with on-site instruction that can transition to virtual learning in the event of a school closure. Remote learning is a fully virtual option with district teachers facilitating learning. Parents can decide between the two options.

According to the guidance, “funding through the state portion of the CARES Act will provide a full K-12 digital curriculum aligned to Arkansas Academic Standards to all students statewide in all public and non-public schools through a digital platform provided by the approved digital provider. Districts may choose to utilize the content on the digital provider’s platform or the content from any licensed platform already used by the district.”

Mask requirements

The guidance requires schools to follow the Arkansas Department of Health’s Face Coverings Directive issued July 18. It summarizes that directive’s effect on schools as follows:

With some exceptions, the Directive requires every person 10 years of age and older to wear a face covering completely over the mouth and nose in both indoor environments and outdoor settings when distancing of six feet or more cannot be assured. Although not required by the directive, face coverings are highly recommended for younger children. However, under no circumstance should a mask be placed on a child younger than 2 years of age.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance requires each district to consider the following daily school operations when creating a reopening plan:

  • Review facilities to determine how modifications can be made to accommodate as much physical distancing as possible, including repurposing unused spaces or modifying existing spaces to allow for maximum distancing of students/staff.
  • Suspend assemblies and other large group gatherings until ADH guidance allows for these types of gatherings.
  • Schedule restroom breaks to avoid congregating. Create a schedule to ensure disinfecting of frequently touched areas such as light switches, faucet levers, paper towel dispensers, and flush levers.
  • Consider suspending the use of water fountains and plan for alternative hydration stations (e .g . bottled water, disposable water cups/cones, bottle filling stations) if feasible.
  • Establish drop-off and pickup to limit close contact between parents and staff members
  • Limit group activities and interaction between classes. Stagger class dismissals in middle and high schools.
  • Consider rotating teachers rather than students.
  • Determine how to prohibit congregation in hallways and cafeterias.
  • Post signage at entrances and throughout buildings with the latest health guidance.
  • Review teacher and student schedules.
  • Consider alternatives for holding areas for large groups of students before and after school.
  • Re-Entry Guidance document will be updated as information becomes available.
  • Ability to quickly move between different modes of instructional delivery.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance provides the following requirements and recommendations for transportation:

  • Drivers must wear a face covering or mask (including cloth face covering) at all times. Districts may need to make special accommodations on mask type for drivers as needed.
  • Students should utilize district-provided hand sanitizer at the service door of each bus in the morning and before they enter the bus each afternoon.
  • Adding additional bus stops is recommended to reduce the number of students being picked up at one place.
  • Students should maintain a distance of 6 feet apart while waiting on the bus to arrive.

Illinois’ Starting the 2020-21 School Year

The Illinois State Board of Education released its school reopening guidance on June 23. The plan’s introduction says, “No amount of technology can replicate the effect of face-to-face interactions and instruction between teachers and students. This Part Three document endeavors to guide schools and districts in transitioning back to in-person learning, while holding paramount the health and safety of students and communities.”

Illinois does not have an official date for public schools to reopen, but schools have been allowed to reopen in-person operations since the state entered Phase 3 of its economic and social reopening plan on May 29. According to EdWeek, public schools in Illinois traditionally start the academic year between mid-August and early September, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 13, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) closed public schools through the end of March. The closure was extended on March 20 and again on March 31. Pritzker ended the public school year on April 9.

Context

Illinois is a Democratic trifecta. The governor is a Democrat, and Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Democratic trifecta in 2019.

The following tables show public education statistics in Illinois, 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.

Illinois public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $17,066 10
Number of students (’18-’19) 1,966,209 5
Number of teachers (’16-17) 128,893 5
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 4,345 4
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 15.0 24
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 50.2% 20
Illinois public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $27,304,004,000 6
Percent from federal sources 8.3% 29
Percent from state sources 24.9% 50
Percent from local sources 66.8% 1

Details

District reopening plans

School districts are required to develop and publicly post a Remote Learning Days and Blended Remote Learning Day Plan, which the district superintendent must approve. The plans must address the following:

  1. Accessibility of the remote instruction to all students enrolled in the district;
  2. When applicable, a requirement that the Remote Learning Day and Blended Remote Learning Day activities reflect the Illinois Learning Standards;
  3. Means for students to confer with an educator, as necessary;
  4. The unique needs of students in special populations, including, but not limited to, students eligible for special education under Article 14; students who are English Learners, as defined in Section 14C-2; students experiencing homelessness under the Education for Homeless Children Act [105 ILCS 45]; or vulnerable student populations;
  5. How the district will take attendance and monitor and verify each student’s remote participation; and
  6. Transitions from remote learning to on-site learning upon the State Superintendent’s declaration that Remote Learning Days and Blended Remote Learning Days are no longer deemed necessary.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

In-person operations at schools are encouraged to resume in Phase 4 regions with precautions to allow for social distancing. Schools and districts are allowed to use hybrid schedules and online integration as necessary. According to the plan, “Data and feedback should be analyzed through an equity lens to determine what student groups may need greater supports to meet high standards in a Remote or Blended Remote Learning environment.”

Mask requirements

All individuals older than the age of two who can safely do so must wear a mask in public and nonpublic school buildings. According to the plan, “Face coverings must be worn at all times in school buildings even when social distancing is maintained. Face coverings do not need to be worn outside if social distance is maintained. It is recommended that schools require physicians notes for students and staff who are not able to wear a face covering due to trouble breathing. It is recommended that schools and districts update policies to require the wearing a face covering while on school grounds and handle violations in the same manner as other policy violations.”

In-person health recommendations and requirements

In-person instruction was permitted in Phase 3 and the state encourages it in Phase 4, in compliance with the following requirements for public and private schools:

  • Require use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;
  • Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;
  • Require social distancing be observed, as much as possible;
  • Require that schools conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require that individuals self-certify that they are free of symptoms before entering school buildings; and
  • Require an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.

For more information on health protocols, click here (page 30).

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

Illinois’ plan contains the following requirements for student transportation:

  • All individuals on a bus or van must wear a face covering.
  • No more than 50 people are allowed on a bus in Phase 4.
  • Drivers and students must undergo symptom and temperature checks before boarding.

Illinois’ plan also says buses should be disinfected at least daily. It also recommends districts implement visual guides (such as tape or decals specifying where students can and cannot sit) and assigned seating charts.

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 24, Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop announced that the school district would begin the year under its high-risk scenario for school operations, meaning students would start the year with virtual learning.
  • On July 24, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Nevada church’s request for permission to hold in-person services larger than those allowed under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s executive order. The court split 5-4 in the decision. In its emergency application to the court, the church asked for an injunction pending appellate review that would bar enforcement of Directive 021. An injunction would “allow the church to host religious gatherings on the same terms as comparable secular assemblies.” At issue in the case was the church’s argument that the capacity limit violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment in that it “treats at least seven categories of secular assemblies ‘where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time’ better than religious services.” The directive, which imposes a 50% fire-code capacity limit on places of business, such as casinos, restaurants, and movie theaters, limits gatherings at places of worship to a 50-person maximum. The majority did not comment, a common practice when acting on emergency applications. In a dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the state’s argument that “allowing Calvary Chapel to admit 90 worshippers presents a greater public health risk than allowing casinos to operate at 50% capacity is hard to swallow.” Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh joined Alito’s dissent. Justice Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh each wrote separate dissents.

 

 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 24, 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 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On July 22, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced that anyone 8 or older would be required to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, commercial businesses, transportation services, or in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible. Students in third grade or higher, along with faculty and staff, must wear face masks in school. The requirement takes effect on July 27.

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): Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered bars, gyms, and water parks to remain closed for two additional weeks. Ducey issued an executive order closing those businesses on June 29 that was set to expire July 27. Ducey also ordered public schools to reopen for on-site learning on Aug. 17 for students who have nowhere else to go. Superintendent Kathy Hoffman clarified that the order meant each school district must open at least one site for students to go, but did not have to open every school or require every teacher to work in-person.
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) extended the state’s public health emergency for 30 days to Aug. 23. Reynolds did not add any new restrictions as part of the extension.
  • Louisiana (divided government): Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) extended Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan through Aug. 7, including the statewide mask mandate.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): The state released guidance regarding a remote-only learning option for public school students. During the 2020-2021 school year, parents will be able to enroll their children in a fully online learning schedule.
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced schools will not be able to open for in-person instruction until after Sept. 7. Individual school districts decide when classes begin in New Mexico, so there is no statewide reopening date.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): A statewide mask mandate went into effect. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced the mandate on July 22. DeWine previously imposed mask requirements on counties with high numbers of COVID-19 cases. The mandate will require all individuals 10 years and older to wear a mask indoors and outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Effective July 24, the state’s mask requirement applies to every person five years of age or older. Bars and restaurants also have to stop serving customers at 10 p.m. every night. The state also released draft guidance for early learning and childcare programs.
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): The state added Missouri and Wyoming to its 14-day self-quarantine travel advisory list. Travelers from 20 states are now advised to self-quarantine when visiting or returning to Pennsylvania.
  • Vermont (divided government): Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued an executive order requiring people older than the age of two to wear masks in public places. The mandate will take effect on Aug. 1.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced new activity restrictions, effective July 30. Weddings and funerals will be limited to 20% capacity (with a maximum of 30 people) and event receptions will be prohibited. In Phase 3 counties, restaurants will be limited to 50% capacity, members of the same table will have to be from the same family, and the maximum number of people at a table will decrease to five. Bars will be closed for indoor service (outdoor service will still be permitted). Gym occupancy will be reduced to 25% in Phase 3 (or five people in Phase 2). Indoor entertainment venues (like bowling alleys and arcades) will not be allowed to open in Phase 3, while movie theaters will be limited to 25% capacity. Secretary of Health John Wiesman also said he would expand the state’s mask order to require face coverings in all common spaces, effective July 25. Such spaces will include elevators, hallways, university housing, hotels, and nursing homes.

Tracking industries: Bars

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 go out for a drink?

We last looked at bars in the June 29th edition of the newsletter. Since then, three states—California, Colorado, and Louisiana—have closed bars. Two states, Maryland and New York, have opened bars.

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

Alabama’s Roadmap for Reopening

The Alabama Department of Education (ADOE) released public school reopening guidance on June 26. Superintendent Erick Macey said the guidelines were not mandated and that school districts would create their own individualized plans.

On March 13, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) ordered public schools to close from March 18 through April 5. Ivey closed public schools for the remainder of the school year on March 26. On May 21, Ivey announced that public schools could reopen beginning June 1 if they followed social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

According to ADOE’s checklist and guidance for school-sponsored activities, public schools will reopen for the 2020-2021 academic year in August. School districts have the authority to set their exact start date.

Context

Alabama is a Republican trifecta. The governor is a Republican, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Republican trifecta in 2011.

The following tables show public education statistics in Alabama, 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.

Alabama public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $10,780 41
Number of students (’18-’19) 739,304 24
Number of teachers (’16-17) 42,533 25
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,529 24
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 17.6 10
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 51.6% 18
Alabama  public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $7,435,758,000 27
Percent from federal sources 11.2% 14
Percent from state sources 55.5% 17
Percent from local sources 33.2% 37

Details

District reopening plans

School districts are responsible for developing their own reopening plans. The roadmap provides three levels of recommendations for districts in creating their plans:

  • Essential – Required by law, policy, or governmental order, or a critical practice.
  • Guidance – Best practices gleaned from research and long-term experience and highly recommended for implementation where feasible.
  • Consideration – Additional best practices informed by emerging research, recent studies, and practical experience.

The guidance gives school districts the authority, based upon the recommendation of their superintendent and in consultation with the Alabama Department of Public Health and local public health officials, to determine whether and how campuses may reopen for the school year.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance outlines three instructional scenarios for the 2020-2021 school year:

  • Traditional – Students attend classes in a traditional, on-campus setting.
  • Remote – Students attend classes “remotely” using a variety of virtual and paper resources. Teachers have regular check-in times and can provide virtual instruction.
  • Blended – Students transition between traditional and remote and back again based on need and preference.

School districts are responsible for developing and implementing procedures for each of these three instructional scenarios. ADOE recommends all public schools provide access to both traditional and remote options throughout the 2020-2021 school year at a minimum.

Mask requirements

The roadmap defers to state guidance on face coverings. On July 15, Ivey issued a mask mandate for all individuals in public spaces and in close contact with other people through July 31. The order exempts children six years old or younger.

The roadmap also allows individual districts to issue mask mandates in the absence of a state order. It says that facial coverings can be recommended or required by a local school board.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The roadmap does not provide specific guidance for the operation of schools in the traditional and blended instructional scenarios. School districts will determine their own guidelines.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The roadmap offers the following as a consideration for transportation in the 2020-2021 school year:

“School busing operations proceed normally unless otherwise indicated; handrails should be disinfected often. Students should face forward and not lean across seats.”

Alaska’s Smart Start

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) most recently updated its school reopening guidance on July 15. The plan contains recommendations and best practices for schools and local districts—it does not contain requirements. Schools and local boards have the power to develop their own frameworks.

Alaska does not have an official date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in Alaska traditionally start the academic year between mid- and late August, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 13, Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) closed public schools through March 30. On March 20, the state announced schools would remain closed through May 1. Dunleavy ended the public school year on April 9.

Context

Alaska has a divided government. The governor is a Republican and Republicans hold a majority in the state Senate, but power in the state House is split.

The following tables show public education statistics in Alaska, 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.

Alaska public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $19,456 6
Number of students (’18-’19) 130,963 47
Number of teachers (’16-17) 7,825 49
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 510 44
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 17.1 14
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 45.3% 32
Alaska public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $2,935,538,000 40
Percent from federal sources 11.8% 10
Percent from state sources 69.4% 4
Percent from local sources 18.7% 47

Details

District reopening plans

School districts are encouraged to submit their detailed reopening plans to the state. According to the plan, “DEED is requesting each district use this framework to build a comprehensive plan for teaching and learning in the upcoming school year and submit the plan to the department. DEED will post district plans online for the public to view.”

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

Districts are allowed to choose between in-person, hybrid, and fully remote learning depending on the effects of the virus in their community. The plan advises school and school board leaders to coordinate with local health officials to determine whether their district is at high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk.

In high-risk communities, online learning is encouraged. The plan recommends considering hybrid and in-person learning for medium- and low-risk communities.

Mask requirements

The plan recommends that students and faculty wear face masks when possible, especially when distancing cannot be consistently maintained.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The state’s guidelines recommend the following actions for all schools, regardless of risk level:

  • Coordinate with local health officials and monitor changes in community spread.
  • Teach and reinforce healthy hygiene. Ensure hand hygiene supplies are readily available in school buildings.
  • Designate a staff person to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns.
  • Monitor health clinic traffic. School nurses and other healthcare providers play an important role in monitoring health clinic traffic and the types of illnesses and symptoms among students.
  • Establish and implement a cleaning and disinfection plan following CDC guidance.
  • Train all teachers and staff in the above safety actions. Consider conducting the training virtually, or, if in-person, ensure that social distancing is maintained.

For medium-risk schools, Alaska’s plan suggests:

  • Implement multiple social distancing strategies for gatherings, classrooms, and movement through school buildings.
  • Limit the number of students per class and attendees per gathering to maintain six feet social distancing.
  • Alter schedules to reduce mixing of students (ex: stagger recess, entry/dismissal times).
  • If feasible, conduct daily health checks (e.g. temperature screening and/or symptoms checking) of staff and students safely, respectfully, as well as in accordance with any applicable privacy laws or regulations. Confidentiality should be maintained.
  • Consider distance learning in some settings or with vulnerable students and staff.
  • Intensify cleaning and disinfection plan.
  • Implement social distancing strategies on buses and other transportation of students.
  • Have a plan to protect vulnerable students and staff, those with chronic conditions, special health care needs or disabilities.

For low-risk schools, the plan recommends:

  • Consider ways to accommodate needs of children and families at high risk, including supports for at-home learning.
  • Follow cleaning and disinfection plan.
  • Follow local community health guidelines for guidance on social distancing and group size for classrooms based on community spread.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance included the following recommendations for bus operators:

  • Keep children socially distanced on school buses (one student per seat, unless the children are siblings)
  • Disinfect buses at least daily according to CDC guidelines
  • Encourage or require bus drivers and students to wear masks

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.

  • Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett (D) closed bars, taverns, and nightclubs in the city until at least Aug. 12. Restaurant capacity was limited to 50% indoor seating, churches were limited to 50% capacity, and gyms were limited to 25% capacity.
  • Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon announced that the first nine weeks of class in the district would take place remotely. Gordon said that the district is planning to eventually transition to a hybrid teaching model with students learning in-person and remotely.
  • On July 17, a group of California churches filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeking an injunction against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) COVID-19 restrictions on indoor worship services. In their complaint, the churches challenge Executive Order N-33-20, Public Health Guidance, and Guidance for Places of Worship, arguing these policies unconstitutionally restrict gatherings for indoor services and home Bible study. Under these policies, in-person services are permitted only if certain measures, including social distancing and use of masks, are followed. Attendance is limited to 25% of building capacity with a maximum of 100 attendees. Additionally, guidance suggests that indoor singing and chanting be discontinued, as these present “increased likelihood for transmission [of Covid-19] from contaminated exhaled droplets.” According to the churches, these restrictions violate their First Amendment rights. The churches seek a court order “preventing plaintiffs, their pastors, and their congregants from being subject to criminal sanctions for participating in indoor worship services this Sunday, or singing or chanting therein, during which plaintiffs will implement social distancing and hygiene protections on an equal basis with permitted non-religious gatherings.” The case has been assigned to John F. Walter, an appointee of George W. Bush (R).


Coronavirus Weekly Update: July 23

The Coronavirus Weekly Update summarizes major changes due to the coronavirus pandemic in politics, government, and elections. Today, you will find updates on the following topics, with comparisons to our previous edition released on July 16:

  • Stay-at-home orders
  • Federal responses
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies
  • Election changes
  • Ballot measure changes
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Travel restrictions
  • State legislation
  • State legislative sessions
  • State courts
  • Prison policies
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies
  • Diagnosed or quarantined public officials

For daily news on state reopening plans and which industries and activities are permitted across the country, subscribe to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery.

State stay-at-home orders

Read more: States with lockdown and stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

As of July 23, stay-at-home orders have ended in 41 states. Nineteen of those states have Republican governors and 22 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state supreme court invalidated the stay-at-home order).

California and New Mexico, both of which have a Democratic governor, are the only remaining states with an active stay-at-home order.

Read more: 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu) and the 1918 midterm election cycle

The United States held midterm elections as scheduled during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. More than 50 million people perished from the disease worldwide, including about 675,000 in the U.S., making it one of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history. Each week, we’ll look back at a story from the 1918 elections to see how America met the challenges of holding elections during a national health emergency.

On Oct. 30, The Birmingham News reported that Alabama schools would be reopening soon, after having been closed for a number of weeks in response to the influenza pandemic.

“Practically all schools of the State will reopen Monday after having been closed for several weeks on account of the influenza epidemic, according to State Superintendent of Education Spright Dowell, who passed through Birmingham Wednesday en route to Colbert County. 

Mr. Dowel said that the influenza had caused closing of all schools in the State except in four or five counties. However, no time would be lost as the teachers have been doing their State reading circle work. He gave several different ways in which the time would be made up by the pupils. One of the most practical, he suggested, would be to teach one hour later in the afternoons, do some work on Saturday and cut the holiday time down usually taken for Christmas. One county, he said, instead of taking 10 days for Christmas holidays as is the custom, would only take two days this year.”

Click here to read the original article, courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On July 22, Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company BioNTech announced they had entered into a $1.95 billion deal with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense to supply 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine to Americans by the end of 2020 if their vaccines prove safe and effective.
  • On July 20, President Donald Trump (R) announced he would resume his daily coronavirus briefings. He discontinued the briefings in late April.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 516 lawsuits, in 47 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 202 of those lawsuits.
    • Since July 16, we have added 83 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 27 court orders and/or settlements.
  • Ballotpedia has separately followed another 142 lawsuits, in 39 states, dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 76 of those lawsuits.

Here are two lawsuits that have either garnered significant national media attention or involve major advocacy groups.

  • Kemp v. Bottoms: On July 16, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) and members of the Atlanta City Council, seeking to have the Superior Court of Fulton County invalidate and prohibit enforcement of local orders related to COVID-19. The local orders mandate that people wear face coverings inside all businesses and restrict the number of individuals who can congregate on city property, exceeding current state requirements. Kemp’s complaint argues Atlanta “may only exercise the powers delegated to it by the state, and Mayor Bottoms’ attempts to exercise an undelegated power against the state are” beyond her legal authority. Kemp also claims Georgia law provides him “the power to suspend municipal orders that are contradictory to any state law or to his executive orders.” Kemp has asked the court to invalidate the orders and prohibit Bottoms from making press statements indicating she has the authority to impose measures beyond those ordered by the governor. Bottoms responded to the suit on Twitter: “3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19,” adding that “[a] better use of taxpayer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing.” The case was originally assigned to Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe, who later recused herself and canceled a hearing scheduled for the morning of July 21
  • Pritzker v. Board of Education of Hutsonville CUSD #1: On July 16, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) filed suit in Sangamon County Circuit Court against three schools that announced their refusal to comply with mandatory COVID-19 health and safety protocols for students and faculty returning to the classroom in the fall. At issue are Executive Order 2020-05, which closed all schools across the state, and Executive Orders 2020-40 and 2020-44, which allow schools to resume in-person instruction subject to Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) health directives. IDPH and ISBE guidance says public and nonpublic schools must implement certain health and safety measures before reopening. This includes a requirement that individuals in school facilities wear face coverings. Pritzker’s suit comes after the defendants, a public school district and two private schools, told the state they would not abide by the guidance, arguing it “is unlawful, is arbitrary and unreasonable, and was issued without legal authority.” Pritzker countered in his complaint that the Illinois Constitution and the Emergency Management Act give him emergency powers during disasters, and are the legal basis for his school guidance. Pritzker’s suit seeks a judicial declaration confirming the legality of his executive orders and the reopening guidance, as well as a court order requiring the three schools to comply with the orders and guidance.

Election changes

Read more: Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Twenty states have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
    • No new states have postponed elections since July 16.
  • Eighteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
    • One state has made candidate filing modifications since July 16.
  • Thirty-nine states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
    • Three states have made voting procedure modifications since July 16.
  • Political parties in 19 states have made modifications to party events on a statewide basis.
    • No state parties have made modifications to party events since July 16.

Details:

  • Alabama: On July 17, Secretary of State John Merrill (R) issued an emergency rule allowing any qualified voter to cast an absentee ballot in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • California: On July 17, the California Supreme Court ordered that the constitutional and statutory deadlines for congressional, state legislative, and Board of Equalization redistricting be extended by at least four months to account for anticipated delays in receiving data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Iowa: On July 17, Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) announced that absentee ballot application forms would be sent automatically to all active registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Maryland: On July 20, Judge Richard Bennett, of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, ordered that the nomination petition signature requirement for unaffiliated candidates be reduced by 50 percent.
  • North Carolina: On July 17, Karen Brinson Bell, the executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, issued an emergency order mandating a number of modifications to in-person voting in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Texas: On July 18, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit blocked a district court ruling that had allowed the Republican Party of Texas to proceed as planned with its in-person state convention. The Fifth Circuit’s ruling effectively reinstated the cancellation of the convention issued by Houston officials on July 8.

Ballot measure changes

Read more: Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • At least 18 lawsuits were filed in 13 states seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines.
  • Rulings or settlements have been issued in all 18 cases. Appeals, however, are pending in a number of cases.
  • Ballotpedia has tracked 26 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
  • Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures through executive orders or legislative action.
  • At least four initiative campaigns initially targeting 2020 reported they would shift their focus to 2022.

School closures and reopenings

Read more: School closures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • In March and April, 48 states closed public schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. Those states accounted for 99.4% of the nation’s 50.6 million public school students. Montana and Wyoming did not require in-person instruction for the year. Montana schools were allowed to reopen on May 7 and Wyoming schools were allowed to reopen on May 15.
  • Seven states (Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and Wyoming) have reopened their campuses for students and staff.
    • No new states have reopened campuses since July 16.
  • Thirteen states have released reopening guidance and also announced a scheduled reopening.
    • No new states have done so since July 16.
  • One state has announced public schools will reopen in the fall but have not released reopening guidance.
    • No new states have made reopening announcements since July 16.
  • Officials in 20 other states have released guidance for reopening schools to in-person instruction, but have not indicated when or whether they plan to do so.
    • Three new states have released guidance for reopening schools since July 16.

Details:

  • California – On July 17, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list would begin the public school year with online education only. As of July 20, 33 of the state’s 58 counties were on the watch list, which is based on new infections per capita, test positivity rate, and hospitalization rate.
  • Colorado – On July 20, the Colorado Department of Education released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines contain separate criteria for elementary schools and secondary schools. Decisions about public school start dates and remote learning would be left to local districts.
  • Iowa – On July 17, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) ordered that students in public and accredited nonpublic schools spend at least half of their schooling in-person. She said districts could seek waivers to the requirement from the state Department of Education. Des Moines, the state’s largest district, had previously announced one day of in-person instruction for students each week.
  • Kansas – The Kansas State Board of Education voted 5-5 on Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) executive order delaying the start of the public school year from Aug. 10 until Sept. 9. The order required board approval before taking effect, so the tie vote effectively cancels the governor’s executive order.
  • Maryland – Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that public schools had until Aug. 14 to submit reopening plans to the state board of education. Schools will be allowed to open in-person so long as they follow specific CDC and state health guidelines and meet state-approved benchmarks.
  • Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) administration released updated guidance for reopening public schools. The plan requires districts and charter schools to develop reopening plans for approval by the school’s governing body. Each plan must be posted on the school’s website before in-person operations resume.

Travel restrictions

Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Governors or state agencies in 24 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 13 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since July 16, four states have modified their travel restrictions.

Details:

  • Kentucky – Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued a travel advisory on July 20 requesting visitors from nine states self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Officials said the advisory was not a requirement. The nine states in the advisory are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.
  • Connecticut, New Jersey, New York – Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on July 21 that 10 additional states had been added to their joint travel advisory. Travelers from Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington will need to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. Minnesota was removed from the list, bringing the total to 31.
  • Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine (R) issued a travel advisory on July 22 that asks travelers from states reporting positive coronavirus testing rates of 15% or higher to self-quarantine for 14 days. DeWine said the advisory was not a mandate. The states affected by the advisory are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas.

State court changes

Overview:

  • Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide
    • Since July 16, one state court extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level

Details:

  • North Carolina – On July 20, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley extended emergency directives that included the suspension of jury trials for another 30 days.

Eviction and foreclosure policies

Read more: Changes to rent, mortgage, eviction, and foreclosure policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Twenty-one states have current moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
    • Since July 16, two states extended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
  • Twenty-one states have ended moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
  • One has current local moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
  • Seven states did not issue a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures on the state or local level.

Details:

  • Arizona – Gov. Doug Ducey (R) extended a moratorium on residential evictions through Oct. 31. The moratorium had been scheduled to expire on July 22.
  • Massachusetts – On July 21, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures an additional 60 days. The moratorium was set to expire on Oct. 17.

State legislative responses

Read more: State laws in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, 2,632 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We have tracked 68 additional bills since July 16.
  • Of these, 365 significant bills have been enacted into law, 14 percent of the total number that has been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.
    • We have tracked 16 additional significant bills since July 16 (also omitting ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business).

State legislative session changes

Read more: Changes to state legislative session dates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Five state legislatures have suspended their sessions. All of those have since reconvened.
    • One legislature that had suspended its session has reconvened since July 16.
  • Thirty-eight legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
    • Two legislatures have adjourned regular or special sessions since July 16.
  • Six state legislatures are in regular session.
  • One state legislature is in special session.
    • One legislature has convened a special session since July 16.

Officials Diagnosed with Coronavirus

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Federal
    • Eight members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-three federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Sixty-two state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Seventy-four state-level incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least two local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 20 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since July 16, one city councilmember and three state representatives have tested positive for coronavirus.

Details:

  • Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, who represents District 7 on the St. Petersburg City Council in Florida, announced she tested positive for COVID-19 on July 14.
  • Mississippi State Rep. John Read (R) revealed on July 16 that Rep. Manly Barton (R), who represents District 109, was hospitalized due to COVID-19.
  • Mississippi State Rep. Trey Lamar (R), who represents District 8, confirmed on July 5 he had tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Kentucky State Senator Max Wise (R), who represents District 16, announced on July 20 he had tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Florida State Rep. Randy Fine (R), who represents District 53, announced on July 22 he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Learn more



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 23, 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?

  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): The state is expected to release guidance on July 24 regarding a remote-only learning option for public school students.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced the state’s mask requirement will apply to every person five years of age or older starting on July 24. Bars and restaurants will have to stop serving customers at 10 p.m. every night.

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.

  • Maryland (divided government): Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that school boards had until Aug. 14 to submit reopening plans to the state board of education. Districts will be allowed to open in-person so long as they follow specific CDC and state health guidelines and meet state benchmarks.
  • Michigan (divided government): The Michigan House of Representatives voted 55-49 in favor of a package of four bills related to reopening schools. The bills require school districts to offer in-person instruction to students in elementary school. The bills head to the Senate for consideration. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has already released her own reopening plan allowing for in-person instruction if the state remains in Phase Four.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): A statewide mask mandate is taking effect on July 23. The order requires all individuals 10 years and older to wear a mask indoors and outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) previously imposed mask requirements on counties with high numbers of COVID-19 cases.
  • South Dakota (Republican trifecta): The South Dakota High School Activities Association board voted unanimously to allow sports practices to begin on Aug. 3 with the first competition scheduled for Aug. 11. Masks are not required at competitions but spectators are recommended to wear them.

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 16th 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.

West Virginia’s Re-entry Toolkit

The West Virginia Department of Education released school reopening guidance on July 8.

West Virginia does not have an official date for public schools to reopen, but Gov. Jim Justice (R) said the state is aiming to re-start on Sept. 8. According to EdWeek, public schools in West Virginia traditionally start the academic year between early and mid-August, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 13, Gov. Justice closed public schools indefinitely. On March 21, the state announced schools would remain closed through April 17. On April 1, the closure was extended through April 30. Justice ended the public school year on April 21.

Context

West Virginia is a Republican trifecta. The governor is a Republican, and Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Republican trifecta in 2017.

The following tables show public education statistics in West Virginia, 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.

West Virginia public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $12,736 28
Number of students (’18-’19) 267,976 39
Number of teachers (’16-17) 19,356 38
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 725 40
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 14.2 33
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 44.6% 34
West Virginia public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $3,525,371,000 38
Percent from federal sources 10.3% 17
Percent from state sources 57.5% 13
Percent from local sources 32.2% 39

Details

District reopening plans

County school boards are free to develop their own schedules and re-entry plans as long as they comply with state requirements. State guidance does not indicate that such plans need to be formal, publicly posted, or submitted to the state, though schools and counties are advised to “Clearly communicate re-entry plans with students, families and school staff. Identify and address concerns related to re-entry.”

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The reopening plan allows county boards of education to choose between fully in-person, blended, and online schedules depending on the effects of the coronavirus and the needs of students in their districts. Counties are required to offer a fully online curriculum option for families who want such an option. Parents who want to enroll their children in an online program must contact their county’s board of education. The plan also notes, “Districts must be prepared to implement full remote learning should it be required by the Governor.”

Mask requirements

West Virginia’s reopening plan contained the following mask requirements for staff and students:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff when they cannot provide instruction in a socially distanced manner.
  • Unless medically waived, students grades 3 and above are required to wear face coverings when outside of their core classroom group or in congregant areas.
  • Any student who cannot wear a mask or face shield due to a medical condition, including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or disability, and students who would be unable to remove a mask without assistance are not required to wear face coverings. Individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or who has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication, are not required to wear a mask; however, individuals should consider using another type of face covering such as a plastic face shield.
  • Students in middle and high school are required to wear face coverings in congregant areas and in classrooms if they are not in their core groups and/or social distancing cannot be maintained.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

Schools and county boards that choose to reopen for in-person and blended instruction are required to implement the following safety precautions:

  • Provide social distancing floor/seating markings in waiting and reception areas.
  • Mark or designate six feet of spacing to remind students and staff to always stay six feet apart in lines and at other times when they may congregate.
  • Provide marks on the floors of restrooms and locker rooms to indicate proper social distancing.
  • Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups or organizations.
  • Monitor arrival and dismissal of students to discourage congregating and ensure students report directly to classrooms or designated areas.
  • Develop policies and procedures to address appropriate social distancing to accommodate essential parent/ guardian meetings, such as IEPs, disciplinary action, etc.

The plan also includes the following recommendations to limit the spread of the coronavirus:

  • Minimize opportunities for sustained exposure (15 minutes or more) by ensuring sufficient social distancing with at least six feet between people whenever possible (e.g., adequate space exists in hallways, classrooms are large enough or class sizes are small enough, students and staff utilize large outdoor spaces).
  • Provide frequent reminders for students and staff to stay at least six feet apart from one another.
  • When feasible, arrange desks or seating so that students are separated from one another by six feet. If it is not possible to arrange seating six feet apart, consider having all students sit facing the same direction (i.e., all sitting on the same side of a table).
  • Designate hallways as one-way, posting directional reminders on the walls and/or floor.
  • Designate entrance and exit doors for classrooms and restrooms to reduce people meeting face-to-face.
  • Keep students and teachers in small core groups as much as possible during the day, and from day-to-day. Limit mixing between core groups (e.g., during recess, lunch, arrival and dismissal).
  • Suspend activities that involve bringing together large groups of people or activities that do not allow for social distancing, including assemblies, large groups using playground equipment simultaneously, etc.
  • Whenever possible, conduct events such as field trips, parents/family meetings, assemblies and performances virtually.

To view cleaning and hygiene guidelines for schools, students, and staff, click here (page 12).

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

West Virginia’s reopening plan contains the following requirements for schools and counties coordinating transportation for in-person and blended learning:

  • Require bus drivers to wear face coverings/shields any time children are entering or exiting the bus.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in the vehicle (e.g., surfaces in the driver’s cockpit, hard seats, arm rests, door handles, seat belt buckles, light and air controls, doors and windows, and grab handles) before all routes.
  • Fully clean and disinfect transportation vehicles regularly and/or as needed. Children must not be present when a vehicle is being cleaned.
  • Develop procedures for the proper disposal and/or laundering of cleaning supplies after use.
  • Keep doors and windows open when cleaning the vehicle and between trips to let the vehicles thoroughly air out.
  • Clean, sanitize and disinfect equipment including items such as car seats, wheelchairs, walkers and adaptive equipment being transported to schools.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfectant products, including storing products securely away from children and providing adequate ventilation when staff use such products.
  • Provide hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) to support healthy hygiene behaviors on all school transportation vehicles for safe use by staff and older children.
    • Hand sanitizer should only remain in school vehicles while they are in use as heat and direct sunlight can degrade its effectiveness.
    • Systematically and frequently check and refill hand sanitizers.
  • Require teachers and students to view “Safe Bus Loading & Unloading Procedures” video to address best practices related to transportation safety.
  • Develop seating arrangements and protocols to limit the number of students to no more than two per seat. Face coverings are recommended. The school county may provide face coverings for students if they do not have one.

West Virginia recommends schools take the following steps to ensure safe transportation for students:

  • Utilize seating arrangements that require siblings and/or any students who cohabitate to sit together. Students living in the same household may be permitted to sit three to a seat, when possible. Keep bus stop groups of students together in the same section of the bus. WVBE Policy 2525 stipulations for pre-k students still apply.
  • Design appropriate bus loading and unloading procedures and/or seating charts to minimize contact between students.
  • If appropriate and safe, consider keeping windows open while the vehicle is in motion to help reduce spread of the virus by increasing air circulation.
  • Evaluate each bus route to safely maximize occupancy and capacity to ensure bus loads are equalized.
  • Create a contingency plan for the transportation of students who may experience any COVID-19 symptoms during the course of the school day.
  • When feasible, utilize procedures for loading and unloading buses to limit the number of students entering/ exiting the building at one time.
    • Mask policy on buses
    • Capacity limits on buses
    • Changes to rules for student drop-off

Wyoming’s Smart Start

The Wyoming Department of Education released public school reopening guidance on July 1. School districts will use the guidance to craft individual reopening plans.

On March 20, Gov. Mark Gordon (R) ordered public schools to close through April 3. Gordon extended the closure three times: March 27 (through April 17), April 3 (through April 30), and April 29 (through May 15). Schools in the state were allowed to reopen beginning May 15 pending approval from local authorities.

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

Context

Wyoming public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $20,317 5
Number of students (’18-’19) 94,313 49
Number of teachers (’16-17) 7,506 50
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 363 46
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 12.9 43
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 38.60% 41
Wyoming public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $1,961,721,000 46
Percent from federal sources 6.2% 42
Percent from state sources 56.9% 15
Percent from local sources 36.9% 31

Details

District reopening plans

The state’s 48 public school districts are responsible for developing reopening plans in accordance with the guidance and for submitting those plans for state approval. Each plan must account for three scenarios: traditional learning, hybrid learning (a mix of in-person and distance learning), and distance-only learning. The plans are due by Aug. 3.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

Districts are to develop plans that include scenarios for in-person, hybrid, and online-only learning. The state labels these different scenarios as tiers, defined as follows:

  • Tier I – Open
    • In-person classes and activities, as appropriate. Minimal adapted learning on a limited, as-needed basis. Most students in school at the same time under the provisions of current health orders. Social distancing and face coverings to the greatest extent possible. Buildings open to all students.
  • Tier II – Hybrid
    • Combination of in-person and adapted learning is required due to local or state health directives. Social distancing and face coverings to the greatest extent possible for those attending in person. Buildings open to some students.
  • Tier III – Closed
    • School buildings closed to students due to local or state health directives or orders. School districts will follow provisions in the approved adapted learning plan. Buildings not open to students.

Mask requirements

The guidance says that in both Tier I and Tier II, face coverings should be used “to the greatest extent possible” for those attending school in person.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance recommends that during Tier I and Tier II, physical education classes meet outside if possible and that schools adhere to local health department recommendations regarding recess and other outdoor activities.

The guidance recommends that schools serve students food in classrooms or other designated areas rather than cafeterias. Each district is required to “operate district nutrition services in a way that maximizes social distancing, use of face coverings, and appropriate hygiene measures.”

The guidance recommends that desks be placed six feet apart when possible. It also recommends that districts develop protocols to ensure social distancing in hallways, during arrival and dismissal, and during moments of student movement during the school day.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance requires each district to transport students “in a way that maximizes social distancing, use of face coverings, and appropriate hygiene measures.” It recommends that students wear face coverings “to the greatest extent possible” when social distancing is not possible.

The guidance recommends that members of the same household are seated together on the bus and that each bus have an area for students that are visibly sick.

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.

  • AMC Theaters announced it was delaying its reopening date to “mid to late August.” Previously, the theater chain had announced reopening dates of both July 15 and July 30.
  • Baltimore Mayor Bernard Young ordered restaurants in the city to suspend indoor dining services for two weeks effective July 24 at 5 p.m. The city will also require everyone over the age of 2 to wear a face mask in public.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 22, 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?

  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): On July 22, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that a statewide mask mandate will go into effect the evening of July 23. DeWine previously imposed mask requirements on counties with high numbers of COVID-19 cases. The mandate will require all individuals 10 years and older to wear a mask indoors and outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible.

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): EdSource reported that school districts could petition their local county health departments to reopen elementary schools to in-person instruction. The petition would waive Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) July 17 order closing all public schools in the counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list. The waiver provision appeared as a footnote in a document on reopening schools to in-person learning released by the Department of Public Health (DPH) on July 17 but was not included in the “Industry Guidance: Schools” document released by DPH or in a press release from Newsom’s office announcing the closure.
  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jared Polis (D) ordered that bars and restaurants statewide make their last call for alcohol at 10 p.m. The order will last at least 30 days.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced that anyone 8 or older would be required to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, commercial businesses, transportation services, or in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible. Students in third grade or higher, along with faculty and staff, must wear face masks in school. The requirement takes effect on July 27.
  • Kansas (divided government): The Kansas State Board of Education voted 5-5 on Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) executive order delaying the start of the public school year from August 10 until Sept. 9. The order required board approval before taking effect, so the tie vote effectively cancels the governor’s executive order.
  • Louisiana (divided government): Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced he will extend Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan through August 7.
  • Minnesota (divided government): On July 22, Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced that he will issue a statewide mask mandate effective July 25. The order will require all people except small children and those with documented medical conditions to wear a mask in businesses open to the public.
  • Connecticut, New Jersey, New York (Democratic trifectas): Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on July 21 that 10 additional states had been added to their joint travel advisory. Travelers from Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington will need to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. Minnesota was removed from the list, bringing the number of states on it to 31.

Tracking industries: Restaurants

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 dine in at a restaurant?

We last looked at restaurants in the July 15th edition of the newsletter. Since then, no states have opened or closed dine-in services at restaurants. California and New Jersey remain the only two states that do not allow indoor dining at restaurants.

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

Tennessee’s reopening guidance

The Tennessee Department of Education released school reopening guidance on June 8. The guidance is presented as “a framing document and not an implementation document. It is intended to provide broad questions and considerations for local districts.” The guidance is split into an overview document and several toolkits focused on specific areas that require consideration in crafting a reopening plan.

On March 16, Gov. Bill Lee (R) ordered public schools to close by March 20 and remain closed until March 31. On March 24, the Department of Education extended the closure through April 24. Lee closed schools for the remainder of the academic year on April 15.

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

Context

Tennessee public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $10,402 42
Number of students (’18-’19) 1,006,309 16
Number of teachers (’16-17) 64,270 15
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,862 20
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 15.7 19
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 58.80% 10
Tennessee public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $9,428,987 23
Percent from federal sources 12.0% 8
Percent from state sources 45.2% 30
Percent from local sources 42.9% 24

Details

District reopening plans

Both local districts and individual schools are tasked with developing their own reopening plans. The guidance does not say whether the plans need to be approved by the state or posted publicly.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidance lays out four different scenarios that schools should prepare for, and recommended several options for how the school could function in each of those scenarios. The scenarios are:

  • Scenario One – All students physically in school buildings
    • Traditional return
    • Staggered return
    • Staggered schedules
  • Scenario Two – All students participating in virtual and distance education
    • Full-time distance education
    • Self-paced or semi-independent programs
  • Scenario Three – Some students in physical buildings and some students virtual
    • Split days
    • Alternating days
    • Physical attendance based on need
  • Scenario Four – Cyclical or intermittent physical and virtual education
    • Staff and family choice
    • Emergency or responsive situations only (i.e. – virus resurgence)

Mask requirements

The guidance refers to recommendations released by the Tennessee Department of Health on June 30 for managing COVID-19 in schools. The Department of Health recommended the following for face coverings:

  • All staff should wear a cloth face covering at all times while on campus unless medical conditions dictate they cannot.
  • All middle and high school students should wear a cloth face covering at all times while in the school building unless the student is unable to remove the covering without assistance.
  • All elementary school students should wear a cloth face covering at all times while in the school building unless the student is unable to remove the covering without assistance or is sleeping.
  • Preschool children under the age of two should not wear cloth face coverings.
  • Young children or elementary school students who continuously play with, suck on, or chew their face covering should be excused from wearing one.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance offers the following recommendations when schools are operating with students physically in the building:

  • Limit the daily movement of students in non-classroom environments for meals or recess and implement one-way hallways.
  • Rotate teachers through classrooms and allow students to remain in cohorts together.
  • Use non-traditional classroom space to allow for 6-foot distancing.
  • Implement plans that allow for social distancing measures during extra-curricular activities (clubs, sports, band, etc.).

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance’s transportation toolkit published as part of the guidance does not include a recommendation or requirement on the use of face coverings on buses. Instead, it asks local districts to consider whether or not drivers and students should wear cloth face coverings and whether the district can provide these coverings.

The toolkit recommends that districts follow CDC guidelines on social distancing between the driver and students. It recommends taping off every other row and allowing only one student per seat. To support contact tracing efforts, the toolkit recommends that districts use assigned seats.

Texas’ SY 20-21 Public Health Planning Guidance

On July 7, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released a framework for returning students to classrooms in the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance, a mix of requirements and recommendations, covers health and safety procedures for students, teachers, and staff, and provides guidelines for the length of time schools can offer distance learning before reopening classrooms.

The Texas Education Agency released updated guidance on July 17 allowing schools to limit in-person instruction during the first four weeks of the school year. The guidance states that schools can continue to limit in-person instruction for an additional four weeks if the school board votes to do so. Under the original guidelines released on July 7, that transition period had been limited to three weeks. The guidelines state that schools can continue to limit in-person instruction for an additional four weeks if the school board votes to do so.

When the original guidelines were released, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said, “Both as Commissioner and as a public school parent, my number one priority is the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff. That is why the guidance laid out today will provide flexibility to both parents and districts to make decisions based on the ever-changing conditions of this public health crisis. The state is and remains committed to providing a high-quality education to all Texas students, while ensuring the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, and families.”

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) first ordered schools to close on March 20. He extended the closure on March 31 and ordered schools to stay closed to in-person instruction for the remainder of the year on April 17.

Texas does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, the school year typically starts in August, with the exact date varying by district.

Context

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

Texas public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (16-17) $12,051 33
Number of students (18-19) 5,433,471 2
Number of teachers (Fall 2016) 352,809 1
Number of public schools (18-19) 9,423 2
Student:teacher ratio (18-19) 15.1 22
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (16-17) 59 9
Texas public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue 56,127,791 3
Percent from federal revenue sources 10.8 15
Percent from state revenue sources 40.6 38
Percent from state revenue sources 48.6 16

Details

District reopening plans

Schools are required to develop and publicly post a plan for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 based on the guidance developed in the Texas Education Agency’s framework. The plans must be posted on the system website at least a week before the start of on-campus activities and instruction.

Schools are not required to submit the plans to the TEA or any other government agency.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The latest guidance says that schools may limit in-person instruction at the beginning of the school year for up to four weeks. During that time, most students can engage in distance learning. Schools must provide in-person instruction to students who do not have access to the internet or computers.

Schools can delay returning most students to physical classrooms for an additional eight weeks with the permission of the local school board.

The guidance allows parents to decide if their children will learn remotely or on-campus and provides them with the option of transitioning between one form of instruction or the other at different points during the school year. The Texas Education Code requires that students attend 90% of the days a course is offered to earn credit, but this requirement can be satisfied through virtual instruction.

Mask requirements

Students, teachers, staff, and visitors, must follow Gov. Abbot’s July 2 executive order mandating face coverings in indoor and outdoor areas in counties with 20 or more coronavirus cases.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance provides a list of recommendations for reducing the spread of the virus when students are on-campus. The list includes some of the following:

  • In classroom spaces that allow it, consider placing student desks a minimum of six feet apart when possible.
  • In classrooms where students are regularly within six feet of one another, schools should plan for more frequent hand washing and/or hand sanitizing and should consider whether increased airflow from the outdoors is possible.
  • When feasible and appropriate (for example, in physical education classes as weather permits), it is preferable for students to gather outside, rather than inside, because of likely reduced risk of virus spread outdoors.
  • Campuses must plan for entry, exit, and transition procedures that reduce large group gatherings (of students and/or adults) in close proximity. Consider staggering school start and end times, assigning students to entries to ensure even distribution of students entering/exiting at each door, providing guidance to students to enter one at a time and wait six feet apart outside the entrance, and, where appropriate, encouraging parents to remain outside during drop-off and pick-up.
  • Consider adding dividers between bathroom sinks, especially when students cannot be at least six feet apart while using the sinks.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidance includes the following transportation recommendations:

  • School systems should consider requiring students and staff to use hand sanitizer upon boarding the bus.
  • When possible, schools should open windows to allow outside air to circulate in the bus.
  • School systems should encourage families to drop students off, carpool, or walk with their student to school to reduce possible virus exposure on buses.
  • Buses should be thoroughly cleaned after each bus trip, focusing on high-touch surfaces such as bus seats, steering wheels, knobs, and door handles. During cleaning, open windows to allow for additional ventilation and air flow.

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.

  • The Clark County School Board in Nevada unanimously voted to begin the 2020-2021 school year with full-time remote learning. The board will revisit the decision at least once every 30 days based on information from health officials.
  • On July 16, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) filed suit in Sangamon County Circuit Court against three schools that announced their refusal to comply with mandatory COVID-19 health and safety protocols for students and faculty returning to the classroom in the fall. At issue are Executive Order 2020-05, which closed schools across the state, and Executive Orders 2020-40 and 2020-44, which allow schools to resume in-person instruction subject to public health directives issued by Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). IDPH and ISBE guidance says that public and nonpublic schools must implement certain health and safety measures before reopening. This includes a requirement that individuals in school facilities wear face coverings. The preemptive suit comes after the defendants, a public school district and two private schools, informed the state that they would not abide by the guidance, arguing that it “is unlawful, is arbitrary and unreasonable, and was issued without legal authority.” Pritzker countered in his complaint that the Illinois Constitution and the Emergency Management Act provide him emergency powers during disasters, and thus form a legal basis for his school guidance. Pritzker’s suit seeks a judicial declaration confirming the legality of his executive orders and the reopening guidance, as well as injunctive relief requiring that the three schools cease their refusal to comply with the orders and guidance.
  • Orangeburg County Circuit Court Judge Edgar Dickson temporarily blocked South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) from using federal coronavirus funds for private and religious school vouchers.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: July 21, 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.

  • California (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced guidelines for hair salons, barbershops, and other personal care services. Those services are required to close indoor operations in counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list, but may continue operations outdoors with customers and staff wearing masks at all times.
  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): The Colorado Department of Education released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines contain separate criteria for elementary schools and secondary schools. Decisions about school start dates and remote learning would be left to local districts.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): At a press conference, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey requested Georgia residents wear a mask in public or when social distancing inside is not possible. Georgia is one of 20 states with a Republican governor to not have a face mask mandate.
  • Kansas (divided government): Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed an executive order delaying the start of the public school year until Sept. 9 and requiring students, faculty, and visitors to wear face coverings in school buildings.
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced he was limiting social gatherings to 10 people. The state had permitted social gatherings of up to 50 people since the end of June.
  • Maryland (Divided government): Health officers in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City sent a letter to Maryland Deputy Secretary of Health Fran Phillips asking the state to roll back some of its reopenings. The letter focused on reducing gathering sizes, mandating face coverings for indoor and outdoor activities, and closing indoor service at restaurants and bars.
  • Nebraska (Republican trifecta): The Loup Basin Public Health Department became the first public health district in the state to proceed to Phase Four of reopening. Phase Four removes the capacity limits on bars, restaurants, and childcare facilities. Outdoor venues can operate at 100% capacity, while indoor venues can operate at 75% capacity.

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 14th edition of the newsletter. Since then, the following changes took place:

  • Kentucky’s limit decreased from 50 people to 10.
  • Washington’s limit for counties in Phase Three decreased from 50 people to 10. The limit for counties in Phase Two did not change.
  • West Virginia’s limit decreased from 100 people to 25.

The following is an overview of gathering limits by state:

  • Fifteen states have no statewide indoor gathering size limit. Twelve of those states have Republican governors and three have Democratic governors.
    • On July 14, 15 states had no limit.
  • Thirteen states have a limit between 1 and 25. Nine of those states have Democratic governors and four of those states have Republican governors.
    • On July 14, 11 states had a limit between 1 and 25.
  • Fourteen states have a limit between 26 and 50. Nine of those states have Democratic governors and five of those states have Republican governors.
    • On July 14, 17 states had a limit between 26 and 50.
  • Two states (New Jersey and Vermont) have a limit between 51 and 100. New Jersey has a Democratic governor and Vermont has a Republican governor.
    • On July 14, one state had a limit between 51 and 100.
  • Six states have limits greater than 100. Four of those states have Republican governors and two of those states have Democratic governors.
    • On July 14, six states had limits greater than 100.
This is an in-depth summary of two state plans to reopen public K-12 schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

Reopening Pre-K to 12 Schools in Pennsylvania

On June 3, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released preliminary guidance to assist schools in reopening for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance applied to school districts, charter schools, regional charter schools, cyber charter schools, career and technical centers, and intermediate units. It was informed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) phased, color-coded reopening plan. On July 16, the Department of Education released updated guidance.

In a press release announcing the updated guidance, Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera said, “The health and safety of students, teachers and staff must be paramount as schools prepare for the upcoming school year. The Department of Education has been focused on supporting schools with resources and best practices to help school leaders make informed decisions within their local contexts and in response to evolving conditions.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Education must approve district plans to reopen. Direct governing bodies (like school districts) must approve individual school plans to reopen.

On March 13, Wolf first ordered schools to close on March 16. He extended the closure on March 23 and again on March 30, before announcing on April 9 that students would not return to physical classrooms for the remainder of the academic year.

Pennsylvania does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, school districts in Pennsylvania traditionally select the start of the academic year, which can vary from late August to early September.

Context

Pennsylvania has a divided state government. Democrats hold the governorship, while Republicans have majorities in the House and Senate.

Pennsylvania public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (16-17) $17,810 9
# of students (18-19) 1,710,571 7
# of teachers (Fall 2016) 122,552 6
# of public schools (18-19) 2,973 8
Student:teacher ratio (18-19) 14 36
% qualifying for free/reduced lunch (16-17) 47.5 26
Pennsylvania public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue 28,983,071 4
Federal revenue % 6.9 40
State revenue % 37.1 44
Local revenue % 55.9 5

Details

District and school reopening plans

Before resuming in-person instruction, all local education agencies in Pennsylvania must submit a Health and Safety Plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. All plans must follow Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine’s July 1 order mandating universal face coverings.

Similarly, individual schools must also develop Health and Safety Plans before returning students to physical classrooms. A school’s governing body must approve the individual plan, and it must be made available to the public online. The plans should consider how schools can pivot to remote learning when necessary with minimal disruption to student learning.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The Phased School Reopening Health and Safety Plan Template that schools and Local Education Agencies must fill out includes four options for reopening. Schools can determine which options to adopt based on local conditions and the county’s current designation under the state’s reopening plan:

  • Total reopen for all students and staff (but some students/families opt for distance learning out of safety/health concern).
  • Scaffolded reopening: Some students are engaged in in-person learning, while others use distance learning (i.e., some grade levels in-person, other grade levels remote learning).
  • Blended reopening that balances in-person learning and remote learning for all students (i.e., alternating days or weeks).
  • Total remote learning for all students. (Plan should reflect future action steps to be implemented and conditions that would prompt the decision as to when schools will re-open for in-person learning).

Mask requirements

On July 1, Health Secretary Rachel Levine issued an order requiring individuals to wear face coverings outside of the home, including on school property. The order applies to all individuals aged two and above.

All students, staff, and visitors are required to wear a face covering while on school property. Details include:

  • Individuals must wear a face covering (mask or face shield) unless they have a medical or mental health condition or disability, documented in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, that precludes the wearing of a face covering in school.
  • Teach and reinforce use of face coverings among all staff.
  • Face coverings may be removed to eat or drink during breaks and lunch periods; however, at those times, social distancing must be practiced.
  • Staff are not required to wear a face covering in situations where wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition to operate equipment or execute a task.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidance calls for all schools to implement social distancing strategies for adult and staff interactions, as well as for students in hallways and classrooms.

For adult and staff interactions, the guidance calls for some of the following:

  • Hold group meetings such as parent-teacher conferences, staff meetings, and curriculum planning virtually.
  • Implement strategies to increase adult-adult physical distance in time and space, such as staggered drop-offs and pickups, and outside drop-offs and pickups when weather allows. Discourage parents from entering the school building.
  • Use physical barriers, such as plexiglass, in reception areas and employee workspaces where the environment does not accommodate physical distancing.

When students are in classrooms, the guidance calls for students to be seated at least six feet apart and facing the same direction. Additionally, the guidance recommends holding classes in gyms, auditoriums, or outdoors, where physical distancing can be maintained, when possible.

The guidance recommends the following for hallways:

  • Create one-way traffic pattern in hallways.
  • Place physical guides, such as tape, on floors or sidewalks to create one-way routes.
  • Stagger class times to limit numbers of students in hallways at any time.
  • Assign lockers by cohort or eliminate lockers altogether.
  • When feasible, keep students in the classroom and rotate teachers instead.

The guidance recommends some of the following for meals and cafeterias:

  • The best option is to serve individual meals and have students eat in classrooms or other spaces as an alternative to the cafeteria.
  • If meals are served in a cafeteria setting, sit students at least 6 feet apart and have students wear face coverings when walking to and from the cafeteria as well as when getting their food.
  • Seat students in staggered arrangements to avoid “across-the-table” seating.
  • Have students eat in cohorts.
  • Utilize outdoor space, when possible.

For outdoor playground spaces, the guidance recommends students be grouped within a cohort, and that the size of groups should be limited at any one time. Students and staff should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after playground use.

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The following guidance is included for transportation and busing. This is not a complete list.

  • Require students and parents/guardians/caregivers to perform a symptom screening prior to arriving at school or the bus stop each day.
  • Bus drivers and passengers must wear face coverings while on the bus, in accordance with the Secretary of Health’s Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings issued July 1, 2020.
  • Promote social distancing at bus stops. Consider adding more bus stops to minimize the number of students waiting together.
  • Load the bus by filling seats from back to front to limit students walking past students to find a seat.
  • Assign seats by cohort (same students sit together each day) or encourage students from the same family to sit together, or both.
  • Disinfect buses after each run. Thoroughly clean and disinfect buses daily.

Nevada’s Path Forward

The Nevada Department of Education released school reopening guidance on June 9. According to the plan’s introduction, “This document is designed to help districts and schools make community-based decisions regarding the re-opening of school buildings and builds on their unique strengths to address local challenges. We hope the Framework will serve as a starting point for conversations. It is not formal guidance or a directive. While we hope that the Framework will be a valuable resource, districts and schools may apply the concepts and guidelines of the Framework at their discretion and as relevant to local circumstances.”

On the day the Department of Education released the guidance, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued a directive requiring school districts, charter schools, and private schools to develop individualized reopening plans. The plans must be made public and approved by a district or school’s governing body at least 20 days before the 2020-2021 school year begins.

On March 15, Gov. Sisolak closed public schools through April 6. The state extended the closure on March 21 and again on April 1. Sisolak ended the public school year on April 22.

Nevada does not have a statewide date for schools to reopen, but they have been allowed to reopen since June 10. According to EdWeek, public schools in Nevada traditionally start the academic year between mid- and late August, with the exact start date varying by district.

The plan encourages decision-makers to refer to the CDC’s school reopening decision tree in assessing whether or not they should resume in-person operations.

Context

Nevada is a Democratic trifecta. The governor is a Democrat, and Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Democratic trifecta in 2019.

The following tables show public education statistics in Nevada, 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.

Nevada public school metrics
Category Figure Rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $10,528 43
Number of students (’18-’19) 498,614 32
Number of teachers (’16-17) 23,705 35
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 745 39
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 21.5 13
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 60.8% 8
Nevada public school revenue
Category Figure Rank
Total revenue $4,522,125,000 35
Percent from federal sources 9.2% 23
Percent from state sources 35.9% 45
Percent from local sources 54.9% 7

Details

District reopening plans

Districts, character schools, and private schools are required to develop their own specific reopening plans. The plans have to be publicly available and approved by the body governing the district or school at least 20 days before the school year begins.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The plan recommends schools reopen using a hybrid schedule that incorporates online and in-person learning. However, the plan suggests local schools and boards work with local health authorities to develop an appropriate schedule using the online and in-person resources at their disposal.

Mask requirements

The guidance recommends that schools require students and faculty to wear masks whenever feasible. The document says mask-wearing is especially important when social distancing cannot be maintained.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The reopening plan recommends schools develop answers to the following questions to ensure general in-person operations resume safely:

  • Who will be responsible for overall maintenance during daily operations?
  • How will you determine if external entities will be allowed to use outdoor facilities, fields, playgrounds, etc. (e.g., teams, clubs, and other groups within the school community)?
  • Will all students and staff be brought back at one time or gradually starting with a small group before expanding?
  • What data will be used and who will be involved/consulted in the decision-making?
  • How do you ensure buildings and facilities are cleaned and ready to welcome students?
  • Who is responsible for adjustments to HVAC systems to maximize indoor air quality, and at what intervals will verifications be needed?
  • What steps will be taken to ensure that all water systems and features are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water?
  • Are there any parts of your campus that you need to close to students in the interest of health and safety (e.g., playgrounds)?
  • How will the following considerations be examined and resolved?
    • Not enough classroom space for social distancing (i.e. desks to be 6-feet apart)
    • Closing or limited use of cafeterias and playgrounds
    • Extended time for the use of facilities
    • Teachers rotate rather than students to reduce corridor/hallway traffic
    • Playgrounds and field usage – cleaning standards
    • Building systems and equipment cleaning standards

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

Nevada’s reopening plan suggested schools and boards answer the following questions regarding busing and transportation:

  • How will you determine the usage of bus transportation based on the district/school facility usage plan, school schedules, school calendar, and the number of buses and/or drivers that a school district has available? …
  • What process will you use to review the capacity of the bus fleet as capacity may be severely decreased with physical/social distancing? …
  • What type of training will school bus drivers need before transporting students? How will drivers be informed about new policies and procedures, including how to effectively and efficiently clean their buses? …
  • Who has the responsibility to ensure that buses have the markings and signage necessary to ensure physical distancing?
  • How will you ensure the safety of school bus drivers who cannot be 6 feet away from passengers as they board and disembark the bus? If funding is available, consider installing plastic barriers to provide extra protection for the driver from the students.
  • How will you determine and implement guidelines for the transportation of students who are at higher risk of exposure and/or transmission of an illness?
  • How will the district or school communicate screening concerns (i.e. a student was screened at school and exhibited symptoms) to drivers and transportation aides?
  • Consider providing PPE to be used by the drivers and transportation aides and promote student use of cloth face coverings.
  • Will you require students and staff to use hand sanitizer upon boarding the bus?

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.

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) added Kansas to the list of states from which travelers must quarantine for two weeks. There are now 18 states on the city’s mandatory quarantine list.
  • On July 16, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) and members of the Atlanta City Council, seeking to have the Superior Court of Fulton County invalidate and prohibit enforcement of local orders related to COVID-19. The local orders mandate that people wear face coverings inside all businesses and restrict the number of individuals who can congregate on city property, exceeding current state requirements. Kemp’s complaint argues Atlanta “may only exercise the powers delegated to it by the state, and Mayor Bottoms’ attempts to exercise an undelegated power against the state are” beyond her legal authority. Kemp also claims Georgia law provides him “the power to suspend municipal orders that are contradictory to any state law or to his executive orders.” Kemp has asked the court to invalidate the orders and prohibit Bottoms from making press statements indicating she has the authority to impose measures beyond those ordered by the governor. Bottoms responded to the suit on Twitter: “3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19,” adding that “[a] better use of taxpayer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing.” The case was originally assigned to Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe, who later recused herself and canceled a hearing scheduled for the morning of July 21.


Bitnami