As the state-imposed deadline for school districts to file reopening plans approaches, local schools are largely banking on welcoming students back in-person this fall — but preparing for the possibility that that won’t be an option.
The coronavirus pandemic derailed many norms throughout the last few months, and students weren’t spared from a dramatic change in routine. The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in this state was announced on March 1, and just over two weeks later, local schools closed their doors and abruptly shifted hundreds of students to distance learning. The graduating Class of 2020 was deprived of prom and other rights of passage, teachers were faced with a new challenge when it came to educating their students online, and uncertainty pervaded the planning of graduation ceremonies for months. Now, districts are faced with a conundrum: how to bring students back to school safely, in a time when the pandemic continues to ravage the country.
The state Education Department released a 145-page document on July 16 with reopening guidance for schools, which includes recommendations to require consistent hand washing by all, social distancing “whenever possible,” mask wearing by all students and staff when closer than 6 feet apart — including while on buses — and reduced in-school movement, among many other things. If a parent or guardian chooses not to send