According to data compiled by Education Week, most states are dealing with a wide array of approaches to kicking off the new school year. Click a state below to learn more about the state of K-12 schools reopening across the US.
Districts will make the decision on whether to open school buildings. The state board of education encourages that all schools provide, at a minimum, access to both traditional and remote learning throughout the 2020-21 school year.
Each school district will decide when and if to reopen buildings. The state departments of education and health created a framework and guidance to help districts as they decide how to provide instruction.
School districts, in conjunction with their local health departments, must consider benchmarks on new cases, diagnostic test percent positivity, and COVID-19 related hospitalizations to determine when in-person classes can begin again. Starting in late summer districts were required to provide “free on-site learning opportunities” and support services for students who need access to a computer or a supervised place to be during the day, even if the school system has opted for full-time distance learning.
Education Secretary Johnny Key issued guidance Aug. 5 that requires districts to offer in-person instruction five days a week when classes resume. Districts were required to open their schools as soon as Aug. 24 and as late as Aug. 26. Decisions on whether to close a school are being made in collaboration with the Arkansas departments of health and education.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is encouraging schools to reopen for in-person instruction in early spring, but they must meet key thresholds in health metrics set out by the state. The governor is seeking $2 billion in incentive funding to support a return to face-to-face instruction. Priority would go to districts with large enrollments of low-income and vulnerable students. The money would support safety measures including expanded testing and contact tracing. Distance learning would still remain an option for parents and students in schools that reopen for in-person instruction.
Reopening plans are made locally. The reopening guidance for schools put out by the state recommends that districts have a variety of plans in place in addition to in-person classes, including teaching students in small groups and through distance learning.
Districts were asked to plan for all students to return to school for full-time, in-person instruction this fall as long as public health conditions support face-to-face teaching.
Gov. John Carney has lifted a general stay-home order. Schools must make learning format decisions based on three measures: the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people; the average daily hospitalizations; and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive. When two or more of these indicators show “significant” community spread, schools must use remote-only instruction. Very few counties now show infection rates of less than 100 per 100,000 (considered "significant"), and more than 15 have two or more times that community spread.
The district has resumed in-person instruction for families who chose that option, for up to 15,000 students; roughly 80 percent of students will continue with distance learning.
On Nov. 30, state Superintendent Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order requiring all school districts and charter boards to keep brick-and-mortar schools open five days a week in spring 2021. They must also establish supplemental intervention plans for students who fell behind during the pandemic.
Districts will decide whether to open school buildings, open them on a limited basis as part of a staggered schedule, or use an all-remote schedule. Those decisions should be informed by whether students and/or staff have been directly exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19.
All schools in Hawaii belong to one school district, but decisions about which instructional model they use are made by each feeder pattern, using metrics established by the state health department and guidance from the state board of education. But the state board requires the state superintendent to close schools if their county’s transmission rates exceed levels outlined in the governor’s reopening framework.
The State Board of Education has made recommendations to schools on determining the safest course of action for different levels of community spread, but final decisions are up to local school boards. On Oct. 21, the state updated its guidance to remove the recommendation that schools suspend in-person instruction when infection and transmission alerts reach the highest designation of concern. The state now recommends districts move to "limited or staggered use," or implement "targeted short-term or extended closures," when COVID-19 transmission is high in the community. These changes came a few weeks after a White House Coronavirus Task Force report said that school openings may be the cause of rising coronavirus cases in a number of Idaho counties and recommended that schools in these counties move to a remote-only learning model.
Districts decide whether to open school buildings, following health and safety guidance from the state. The Illinois State Board of Education, which has encouraged a return to in-person instruction, has asked districts to consider extending the school year to mitigate learning loss.
Districts set their own academic calendars and can make individual decisions about when or if students return to in-person classes. State health officials have created a color-coded map that indicates the level of community spread in each county, which Health Commissioner Kristina Box has said schools should use as guidance when making decisions about in-person instruction.
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill Jan. 29 that requires districts to offer in-person learning five days a week and took effect Feb. 15. The law permits districts to offer fully remote or hybrid instruction to families who want it. On July 17, Gov. Reynolds, overriding local decisions, ordered every student to spend at least half of their schooling inside classrooms.
The Kansas Board of Education voted July 22 to reject an order by Gov. Laura Kelly that would have delayed the start of school until Sept. 8. The vote put the decision on when to reopen back in the hands of local school districts.
As per Gov. Andy Beshear's executive order, school districts are encouraged to start offering, or to expand, in-person instruction starting either March 1 or seven days after their district personnel have received their second vaccination. Starting March 15, schools are no longer required to provide virtual options for high-risk employees. All schools must continue to provide students the option for online learning that doesn’t negatively impact their educational opportunities through the end of this school year.
While school districts can choose when to reopen, the state's board of education has dictated a series of standards districts must meet before they reopen.
The state has approved all schools to offer in-person instruction with required health and safety measures, but individual districts will make their own decisions.
Local school districts make the decision on whether to provide remote, hybrid, or in-person classes, but Gov. Larry Hogan and State Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon have called for all districts to return to at least a combination of in-person and remote instruction by March 1. The state also prioritized teachers and school staff to receive COVID-19 vaccines and will hold schools harmless for the falling student enrollment this school year. “Every single Maryland student must have at least the opportunity to return to attending school in some form or fashion,” Gov. Hogan said in a statement. “Our children simply cannot afford any more endless roadblocks, or any more moving of the goalposts. The time has come to get all of our kids back in the classroom, and to open the schools.”
Gov. Charlie Baker and the state department of elementary and secondary education have asked all districts to prioritize in-person learning for students.
Michigan has urged all school districts to reopen school buildings by March 1, at the latest, although local school districts have the final say. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said data have shown that schools can have a low risk of transmission when following proper safety protocols, including mask wearing, and that educators will be vaccinated starting Jan. 11 to help protect them. Whitmer previously ordered all high schools in the state to stop in-person learning from Nov. 18 to Dec. 20 in an attempt to slow the surge in COVID-19 cases.
All schools are able to open for in-person or hybrid learning regardless of their local COVID-19 transmission rates, a change from earlier in the school year when the state had put some restrictions in place. Gov. Tim Walz said he foresees that all schools in the state will offer at least some in-person instruction by March 8, but that will not be a requirement.
Districts may choose to open school buildings, but they must modify schedules, restrict gatherings, and observe social distancing in accordance with state and federal recommendations.
As of Feb. 23, the Missouri Department of Education's website says "Decisions to open Missouri schools, along with the methods/patterns of instruction being used during the 2020-21 school year, are made by local school leaders and local boards of education."
The state department of education's July guidance allowed for four possible reopening scenarios, including for "near full capacity of attendance and operations in a traditional setting, with remote learning for students not onsite." Under this scenario, there is no limit on group sizes in schools, but social distancing should be observed, and monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 should still take place, the guidance says.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has given districts discretion to set their own reopening plans using guidance from the state’s education department. That guidance advises remote or hybrid learning plans in communities with significant or moderate spread.
Guidance from the Nevada education department says school districts and charters must develop distance learning plans "even if a district/school has sufficient space to open for full-time in-person instruction" under the second phase of the state's reopening guidelines. However, schools must also develop plans that cover in-person learning, under a directive from Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Beginning March 8, all schools must offer in-person instruction at least two days a week for students who want that option. Districts can return to a fully remote model for up to 48 hours for some or all students without state permission if there are COVID-19 -related staffing shortages or if they need to close to assess COVID-19 infection-related concerns. A district can return to full distance learning for more than 48 hours for some or all students after March 8 because of high COVID-19 infection rates, staffing shortages related to COVID-19 , or other COVID-19-related issues, or with permission from the state education commissioner. Districts will still be required to offer a fully-remote learning option for students whose families want to continue online learning full time.
Districts have reopened for both in-person and remote classes. To reopen for any in-person instruction, schools must meet core health and safety standards in the state’s school-reopening guidance, including social distancing, mask wearing for most students and staff, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and limiting the capacity of school buildings and classes. Local health departments use a “regional risk matrix” to give weekly updates on the infection spread in communities; New Jersey has been under an orange “high” risk level since November. Under new health guidelines released in January, this would mean all schools (under orange) would be advised to close either the campus or specific classrooms if two or more teachers or students test positive for COVID-19. Schools in regions with a red or “very high” infection risk would be recommended to use only remote learning, but local administrators would have the final say-so. For schools in both orange and red zones, anyone who has come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 would be asked to quarantine for 14 days, but those who come into close contact with someone infected in green or yellow zones would only have to stay home from in-person school for 10 days.
As of early February, the state is allowing all elementary and secondary schools to open under a hybrid model, so long as schools are meeting certain requirements for surveillance testing and other safety precautions. Local district and charter school leaders can decide to keep schools closed to in-person learning.
Schools will be able to remain open as long as the in-school positivity is lower than the 9 percent threshold the state set last summer for mandated closures and a switch to remote learning. Decisions about whether schools will remain open or whether they would close will be made by local school district officials.
On Feb. 2, Gov. Roy Cooper and state health and education officials called on schools to reopen for in-person instruction 5 days a week. The new guidance states that K-5th grade schools should operate under Plan A (social distancing not required) and middle and high schools should operate under Plan B (which requires social distancing). Districts must still offer a fully remote option for families who want it. North Carolina lawmakers passed legislation to require schools to provide some in-person learning but it has not been signed by the governor.
Gov. Doug Burgum said July 14 that school districts could reopen for in-person instruction in consultation with local health officials.
Gov. Mike DeWine has urged schools to open buildings on a hybrid or five-day a week schedule by March 1, though there is no official requirement that they do so. All students attending school in person are required to wear masks, with some medical exemptions.
The vast majority of Oklahoma schools have reopened in person, all virtually or in a blended/hybrid model. Many districts are offering more than one option simultaneously.
Gov. Kate Brown on Jan. 1 removed all requirements for schools to close based on the rates of COVID-19 in their community. Brown said she hopes to see more Oregon schools offering in-person learning by mid-February. The state continues to urge schools to abide by safety guidelines and closely monitor the local infection risk.
Gov. Tom Wolf has lifted a ban on all in-person school extracurricular activities and K-12 school sports. State guidance allows school districts to decide whether they will use in-person or remote instruction, or a mix of both.
Puerto Rico will reopen schools for in-person instruction in March, the island's education department announced Feb. 8. Students in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 12th grades will be allowed to return to classes two days a week, the Associated Press reported. Parents will not be allowed to enter school buildings, and students will be dismissed from classes at noon. Puerto Rico's education secretary-designate Elba Aponte said "there's general agreement that it is time for our students, children and youth to be able to have contact with their teachers and classmates,” according to the AP, although some criticized the move. Schools on the island have been closed for in-person instruction for nearly a year.
Gov. Gina Raimondo has encouraged all districts to prioritize in-person learning for students.
In his state of the state address, Gov. Henry McMaster asked lawmakers to require all districts to return to in-person learning five days a week. Molly Spearman, the state’s superintendent of education, has also encouraged a return to in-person learning, particularly for students in special education, English-language learners, and those with poor internet access. According to WISTV, in January, Spearman called for teachers to be prioritized above the other groups in phase 1b of the state's vaccine distribution to help speed a return to in-person learning.
South Dakota's state education department issued guidance that gives discretion to local districts to set restart plans in consultation with local health officials. It recommends flexible plans that prioritize face-to-face instruction.
Districts will decide whether to open school buildings. The state department of education's guidance also provides a framework that districts can use to assess risk and decide when it would be safe to reopen.
Texas requires school districts to provide daily, on-campus learning for any family who wants it in order to not lose state funding due to declines in enrollment. School districts can require individual students who are falling behind academically to return to in-person classes.
The Utah state board of education released a set of minimum requirements for local school districts to meet before reopening schools for in-person instruction. Districts created plans for resuming in-person learning that address schedules, hygiene and safety, monitoring schools, "containing potential outbreaks" and (if necessary) temporarily closing schools again, among other areas.
Schools reopened across the state on Sept. 8, with districts offering in-person, hybrid, and all-remote options for students. The state’s education agency and health department had recommended full-time in-person learning “as soon as practical,” especially for students in Pre-K through Grade 5. However, local districts currently make the decision on how to reopen.
Schools are open in various forms, depending on public health conditions. As of Feb. 22, 21 of the 132 school divisions were operating in fully remote learning mode. New guidance that was released on Jan. 14 "provides divisions with new decision matrices and essential questions and considerations to be used as they plan for reopening schools in 2021". On Feb. 5, Governor Ralph Northam wrote in a letter to superintendents and school board members that he expects "every school division in the Commonwealth to make in-person learning options available by March 15."
Gov. Jay Inslee on Dec. 17 announced new guidelines for public schools with a goal of allowing more students to return to in-person instruction. The document urges schools to prioritize younger students for in-person learning; permits schools to keep buildings open after an outbreak among students or staff; and offers more opportunities for schools to reopen school buildings even amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Inslee said recent data that showed schools aren't a major driver of COVID-19 transmission informed the new guidelines, which remain non-binding.
On Feb. 23, the West Virginia State Board of Education mandated that all elementary and middle schools be open five days a week. Schools may request a waiver to offer in-person instruction only four days a week if the same teachers are instructing both in-person and remote students. The Board recommended that high schools provide five days of in-person instruction, unless they are in areas of high disease spread as determined by state health department. For those high schools, instruction may continue to be remote. Families will also have the option of remaining remote if they choose.
Districts decide whether to offer full in-person instruction, stick to remote learning, or go with a hybrid model. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has provided guidance as districts develop their plans based on infection rates in their area.
Districts are able to open their school buildings as long as they meet the department's health guidelines.