Dive Brief:

  • A recent teacher poll shows most K-12 teachers are concerned about returning to the classroom this fall, and two-thirds want to start the school year remotely, NPR reports, noting an additional NPR/Ipsos poll showing 66% of parents want to start the year with distance learning models.
  • Seventy-seven percent of teachers are worried about their own health, and 78% are concerned about having access to personal protective equipment and cleaning materials. However, 42% of teachers over 55 years old would still rather start school in person — compared to 74% of teachers under 34 preferring to start the year with mostly distance learning. 
  • Teachers are also concerned with enforcing safety procedures such as mask-wearing and social distancing, with 49% of teachers polled saying it is “very likely” enforcing social distancing will be difficult. Only 37% of teachers agree to some extent that their districts have sufficiently trained or prepared for the upcoming school year.

Dive Insight:

As of the end of July, most districts plan to offer at least some form of in-person learning this fall. Data collected by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CPRE) suggests 40% of school districts have announced full in-person instruction this fall, while 51% will provide at least some in-person learning through a hybrid model. The data, collected at the end of July, shows rural districts are more likely to return in-person than those located in urban areas.

As pressure mounts from the Trump administration and some states to reopen, some teachers and parents are pushing back. Parents in Arlington Public Schools in Virginia asked the district to provide an all virtual learning model after it announced plans to offer in-person and hybrid learning options. The district now plans a full-time remote start with options for a hybrid model later in the school year. Teachers in the Houston Federation of Teachers called Houston Independent School District’s plan to reopen inadequate and offered their own proposal.

New York City Schools, meanwhile, will open with a hybrid model this fall but is implementing a rigorous system of testing and contact tracing. The steps include free testing that yields results within 24 hours and contact tracing for every positive test. Positive cases require a 14-day quarantine, and the city’s health department will investigate if anyone outside of the classroom may have come in contact with someone who tested positive. Schools will remain open after one case is reported but will close for two weeks if multiple cases appear to be spreading between classrooms.

Though enforcing mask-wearing among young students will be challenging, it’s not impossible. Educators should encourage parents to begin the process of mask-wearing at home and have kids wear them for longer periods each day. Teachers should also develop new routines to ease younger kids into new mask-wearing and have students practice reading others’ emotions with masks on. Educators can make masks fun for the youngest learners by giving associating superpowers with them or including masks in theme weeks.

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