- A 55-student K-12 school in a rural Montana reopened last week with several safety measures in place, District Administration reported. Administrators at the school decided to open after 76% of parents surveyed said they wanted classes to resume.
- Class release times are staggered to minimize the number of students in the hall, and the building is cleaned regularly. Students don’t have to wear masks, but social distancing markers have been installed on the playground.
- Meanwhile, teachers at a combined middle-high school in Libby, Montana, and at a high school in Payette, Idaho, are meeting one-on-one with students for in-person tutoring sessions. Teachers have to wear masks and gloves, though masks are recommended but not required for students.
Some districts in Colorado also began allowing small-group instruction for tough-to-teach online topics like welding. Special education services are being phased back in, as well. Fremont RE-2 School District is holding in-person small-group tutoring sessions at its high school, which is voluntary for both teachers and students.
In the coming months, schools around the country will grapple with when, if and how to reopen schools. But some child advocacy groups say keeping kids at home poses more of a risk than the virus. The World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF and World Food Program (WFP) issued joint guidelines on how to safely reopen schools. The groups warn that school closures, which are impacting 1.3 billion students around the world, will negatively impact the most vulnerable children, so opening should be a priority.
The organizations recommend increased hygiene practices, improving protocols for separating sick students and continuing social distancing. Schools should reach out to the most marginalized groups and create communications in all relevant languages.
Most states are still undecided about when and if to reopen. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb recently said a decision would be made by mid-May, and that schools in the fall will likely feature a mix of online and in-person classes. Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzer said administrators and teachers should prepare for both school building re-openings and continued remote learning scenarios.
In California, a 270-district survey shows many students are still disconnected from the Internet two months into the school closures. One-third of respondents said “less than half” or “a small minority to none” of students had broadband home internet access. Another 19% said cellphone service in their community was poor or nonexistent.