As they make reopening plans, many districts are taking into account the special needs of some students. In Seattle, where the schools announced this week that their goal was to provide at least two days per week of in-person instruction to elementary students and one day to middle and high school students, officials said children with disabilities, those learning English and those living in poverty would be given priority for additional in-school support.
Educators crafting reopening plans face a daunting set of challenges this summer, from how to procure enough masks and cleaning supplies, to how to reduce class sizes and redesign lesson plans to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Instead of clustering around tables for group projects, teenagers will likely receive more individual assignments, with the students seated at desks facing forward. Younger children won’t be able to pile onto a soft rug for story time; instead, they will be required to sit in clearly marked spaces, six feet apart.
Many districts are surveying parents to better understand their comfort level with reopening school buildings. They are finding a significant minority — up to a third of parents in some large districts — do not want to send their children into classrooms, according to Mike Magee, chief executive of Chiefs for Change, a coalition of district and state education leaders.
Most districts are expected to give parents the option of keeping their children home. Schools in Nashville and Marietta, Ga., said this week that families would be given a choice between in-person schooling and full-time online instruction.
But the hybrid approach, with only limited classroom time, could become the norm in states that have experienced heavy coronavirus caseloads and have chosen to take a slower approach to reopening the economy. Those states, mostly controlled by Democrats, also tend to have powerful teachers’ unions, which have repeatedly raised a red flag about the health risks of reopening schools — even as they have pushed for limitations on the expectations placed on teachers working from home.
The American Federation of Teachers, a national union, has estimated that in order to safely and effectively reopen, the nation’s schools will need an additional $116 billion to cover costs such as reducing class sizes, increasing cleaning staff, and hiring counselors and educators to help students recover from the emotional and academic impact of the pandemic.