Special Report: How We Go Back to School


     District and school leaders are confronting difficult, high-stakes decisions as they plan for how they will reopen schools this fall as the global pandemic rages on. Safety for students and staff members is the chief priority. But with no vaccine or effective treatment yet against COVID-19, no one can be fully shielded from the risk.


That leaves K-12 leaders to balance three critical—often competing—responsibilities: the health and safety of their people, the role their schools play in the larger community, and the effective teaching of their students.


Many of the options for reopening schools will upend some of the most effective aspects of teaching and learning. The close, in-person collaboration of students on classroom projects, for example, will have to cease for now. And classes like art, music, and physical education—a critical part of keeping students engaged in school—will need to be severely restricted.


There are no playbooks for how to do this. Following public health protocols will cost a lot of money, even as school budgets are pummeled by the economic collapse. Managing the anxieties of teachers, students, and parents will require patience, compassion, and careful communication.


To help district and school leaders navigate these monumental decisions, Education Week lays out the big challenges ahead and some solutions in an eight-part series of reported stories, diagrams, and data visualizations.


Through interviews with dozens of public health experts, consultants, and frontline educators, we present a broad spectrum of options for how to open and operate schools in the COVID-19 crisis, explore specific strategies that some districts will adopt, and explain the pros, the cons, and the costs.


—The Editors



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ABOUT THIS PROJECT

District and school leaders are confronting difficult, high-stakes decisions as they plan for how to reopen schools amid a global pandemic. Through eight installments, Education Week journalists explore the big challenges education leaders must address, including running a socially distanced school, rethinking how to get students to and from school, and making up for learning losses. We present a broad spectrum of options endorsed by public health officials, explain strategies that some districts will adopt, and provide estimated costs.

Every facet of the school day will have to change when students and staff members return to buildings. We explain the recommendations, present different strategies, estimate some of the costs, and weigh some pros and cons.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

Face coverings for staff, copious handwashing, and daily, deep cleaning of surfaces are a must, while measures like checking temperatures and requiring students to wear masks are still active debates.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

Here are six models for how to operate your schools within social distancing requirements and health and safety requirements.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

Ideas for how to overhaul the routines of the traditional school day for students, from ditching lockers to providing meals in classrooms.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

Here’s a checklist of changes for inside and outside buildings to keep students and staff six feet apart and ensure cleanliness—and how much it could cost.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

A downloadable guide to ideas for adding instructional space and calculating how many students and staff can fit.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

Here are key considerations and big questions on how to safely transport students to school in the pandemic.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

A downloadable checklist of safety, seating, and contact tracing measures to help districts and schools plan for student transportation.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

Ideas from Australia, Denmark, and Taiwan can help American district and school leaders as they shape their reopening plans.
June 11, 2020 – Education Week

Explore options for building a calendar, choosing a schedule, and deploying teachers and staff to maximize student learning while adhering to health and safety precautions.
June 25, 2020 – Education Week

Some mix of in-school attendance and online learning is what many districts are planning as the best way to adhere to social distancing requirements and provide at least some face-to-face instruction and support for students.
June 25, 2020 – Education Week

A closer look at planning for the logistics behind assigning groups of students to come to school on a rotating basis.
June 25, 2020 – Education Week

In communities where cases of COVID-19 remain low, schools can plan for students to be in classrooms every day with some important modifications. Understand the pros and the cons.
June 25, 2020 – Education Week

This scheduling option can help schools with large enrollments manage space constraints and provide built-in breaks for enrichment and remediation.
June 25, 2020 – Education Week

Schools that stick with only virtual learning this fall will have to provide a much more robust experience than what most delivered in the spring. Here are some ideas to make it work.
June 25, 2020 – Education Week

Students with serious health concerns and those with other specialized needs may opt out of returning to school. What schools can do to keep serving them.
June 25, 2020 – Education Week

Reducing ridership, "walking school buses," and staggered schedules are among the strategies districts are considering for getting students to school this fall. They must also decide who gets transportation and how to keep drivers on board.
July 8, 2020 – Education Week

District leaders must wrestle with five key questions as they work out the logistics for getting students safely back to school this fall without exploding their transportation budgets.
July 8, 2020 – Education Week

Fewer students will be able to use district transportation due to COVID-19 precautions. Districts can set priorities for who rides while assuring that others can still get to school.
July 8, 2020 – Education Week

School transportation officials seek creative ways to keep their fleets staffed up while economics and health concerns make recruitment more challenging.
July 8, 2020 – Education Week

Districts don't get a pass on providing some means of transportation for students in special education. Here's how some are planning to make it happen this fall.
July 8, 2020 – Education Week

To avoid the frustrations and mistakes of last spring, see our tips, checklists, best practices, and expert advice on how to make teaching and learning at home engaging, productive, and equitable.
July 23, 2020 – Education Week

Planning for the coming school year should include specific efforts to engage parents and provide them with the comfort, stability, and technological help they need during very difficult times.
July 23, 2020 – Education Week

A growing number of school districts have already decided they’ll be starting the academic year with full-time remote learning, acknowledging it’s widely regarded as the safest approach despite stern warnings from federal officials to reopen school buildings.
July 23, 2020 – Education Week

Data on the usage of educational technology tools can provide districts with a helpful road map for improving student engagement under remote, in-person, or hybrid learning conditions. See how school districts are using such data to make smart, strategic decisions.
July 23, 2020 – Education Week

Full-time remote instruction? In-person instruction? Or a hybrid model? Deciding among those three options can be an excruciating decision for school officials. But the choice many schools appear to be leaning toward is a hybrid model, at least for now.
July 23, 2020 – Education Week

Training teachers, principals, and district administrators on how to improve remote instruction will take a big commitment to mastering the learning management system and honing video teaching skills.
July 23, 2020 – Education Week

Elementary, middle, and high school teachers talk about how they maintained and improved their relationships with students under remote learning and what they plan to do this school year.
July 23, 2020 – Education Week

School districts are facing huge tech equity issues this school year, especially if schools return to full-time remote learning. Here’s how they are addressing those challenges.
July 23, 2020 – Education Week

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