Dive Brief:

  • Nearly 80% of districts had plans in place to respond to COVID-19 school closures by March 25, according to a report from AASA, The School Superintendents Association. The survey, which received responses from more than 1,600 superintendents, was conducted between March 13 and March 25, and by then, 90% of respondents’ schools were closed.
  • The superintendents surveyed said flexibility on assessments (90%), accountability (87%), reporting requirements (78%), maintenance of effort (71%) and chronic absenteeism (56%) would help their districts adjust to the sudden closures.
  • When asked how a prolonged closure would impact the school calendar, respondents said they would extend the school year (48%), use unused snow days (29%), cancel spring break (21%), cancel teacher prep days (18%), and provide summer school for all students (17%). 

Dive Insight:

The equity gap poses a learning obstacle to many students, as only 25% of the superintendents from 48 states said 91% to 100% in their students have access to the internet at home. That’s about the same percent of superintendents who reported more than 91% of students have access to a device that connects to the internet.

The lack of home internet connectivity was a problem for districts long before the coronavirus pandemic closed schools. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 19 million Americans, or 6% of the total U.S. population, lack high-speed internet access. In rural areas, 14% of residents don’t have access. To bridge the gap, 40% of superintendents surveyed said they plan to distribute hotspots or Wi-Fi devices, and 30% were planning to work with internet service providers to make service more affordable to families.

About one-third of the superintendents said they will pay for these unexpected upgrades by repurposing existing state funds, 28% will repurpose existing local funds, and 26% will absorb the costs through the existing budget. Only 9% will use federal E-rate funding.

The district leaders may get some of their wishes for flexibility. The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday it will allow states to apply for flexibility and repurpose funds to support online learning efforts. The flexibilities will waive many of the restrictions on the use of Title I, II, III, IV and V funds.

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