Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Closed Schools Would Stay Shut in First Phase of Trump Reopening Guidelines

By Evie Blad — April 16, 2020 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Evie Blad and Andrew Ujifusa

After President Donald Trump hosted days of briefings filled with bluster about his ability to override state decisions, the White House is leaving the decision about when to open schools and businesses largely to states Thursday, releasing guidelines that call for a tiered approach to “reopening the country” as it confronts the coronavirus pandemic.

However, schools that are currently closed would not reopen in the first of three phases of the medically driven criteria proposed by these guidelines.

The guidelines, first published by the Washington Post Thursday and outlined in greater detail in a lengthy White House press briefing that night, call for several phases that depend on the severity of continued transmission in a state or region. And they depict a reopening process that will be heavily dependent on testing for the illness, isolating individuals who have it, and ensuring proper capacity in hospitals should it re-emerge.

The plan, which Trump released after a conference call with governors Thursday, includes “gating criteria” that states would need to pass before moving through to the next phase of reopening. Those criteria lay out specific calls for a downward trajectory of symptomatic people and documented cases of the virus, and a “robust testing program” for at-risk health-care workers. Those gating criteria are below:

States and regions that satisfy the “gating criteria” and are prepared to test and track cases of the virus would be considered in Phase One under the plan. In Phase One, schools and organized youth activities that are currently closed should remain closed. (According to Education Week’s tracker, 27 states and three U.S. territories have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the academic year.)

Here are the second and third phases of the plan:

  • To qualify for Phase Two of the plan, a state or region would need to show no evidence that the virus rebounded under the first phase and prove that it can meet the “gating criteria” a second time. Under Phase Two, schools and youth activities could reopen, the plan says, but there should also be continue social distancing, and gatherings of more than 50 people where such distancing isn’t practical are discouraged. The guidelines say vulnerable people, including those with asthma, should continue to shelter in place, and other members of their household should “be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home,” the plan says. Employers in those regions should close common areas where people may congregate, it says.

  • Under Phase Three in the plan, states and regions would show no evidence of another uptick of the virus after mitigation efforts were eased, and they would have to meet the “gating criteria” a third time. In those areas, schools could be open and employers could return to unrestricted staffing, but places like bars and large venues may have to modify operations to allow for social distancing.

Those criteria for reopening largely match what state leaders have already suggested. Also, as we reported Wednesday, many governors have suggested their states don’t have the testing capacity to effectively monitor the illness at levels necessary for reopening schools and businesses.

And some state education officials are preparing for the possibility of continued closures or the need to modify school operations to allow for social distancing in the fall.

The White House plan does not include a timeline or projected dates for reopening. And, while Trump has touted an ambitious May 1 date, most state leaders have set their sights much further into the future. Things won’t return to normal until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus, they’ve cautioned.

“Some states will be able to open up sooner than others,” Trump said at a Thursday press briefing. “Every state is very different.”

The federal guidelines come as state leaders face pressure from both sides. At demonstrations in states like Michigan this week, protesters called on governors to reopen businesses and end stay-home orders, but many of those businesses would not be able to operate at fully capacity if employees have to stay home with out-of-school children. On the other hand, Florida’s teacher’s union also protested Wednesday, encouraging Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, to keep schools closed beyond May 1, the state’s current recommended date to remain closed.

In all phases of reopening, the plan suggests individuals should consider wearing masks while in public, continue frequent handwashing, and stay home from school and work if they are feeling sick.

See the full “Opening Up American Again” guidelines below:

Photo: President Donald J. Trump speaks during the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 15, 2020. (Shawn Thew/CNP via ZUMA Wire)

Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP