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COVID Current Events as of August 24, 2020

Each week, we have been collecting news articles, publications and other items of interest related to COVID and schools to inform ERS' own work to support school districts to manage through the uncertainty. We wanted to make this collection available to district leaders, school leaders, state education leaders and other partners working towards reimagining what school could look like during and after COVID-19.


 Constraints from Social Distancing:

  • Scientists warn that it could be years before students and teachers return to in-person schooling without masks
    • Even with a vaccine available, children are often one of the last populations that drugmakers test for safety and efficacy

 

Student Need

  • The world’s three largest computer companies, Lenovo, HP, and Dell have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops
  • EdWeek addressed learning loss as part of its How we go back to school series, offering guidance on early-warning systems and learning acceleration

 

Revenue/Cost Projections:

  • The Georgetown-based Edunomics Lab created a budget tracker to document the funding decisions districts are making
    • Many districts are tapping into reserve funds to cover short-term costs that this strategy cannot be a long-term solution; instead, districts should be thinking about using funds more creatively
  • Only 5% of the CARES funding dedicated to K-12 schools and higher education remains unobligated and despite proposals from both Democrats and Republicans, no additional funds have been approved to offset budget cuts hitting schools
  • Federal judge halts Betsy DeVos’ controversial rule to direct CARES Act funding to private schools

 

Implications for System (JHU state and national policy tracker):

  • The USDA announces an end to a waiver that provides schools and community groups with increased flexibility to provide students with meals during school closures
  • Around the country, lawsuits are being brought forward with conflicting aims: some have been brought forward by teachers to prevent schools from opening in-person while others have been brought forward by parents insisting that schools open for in-person instruction
  • The threshold for reopening schools varies widely across the country:
    • In NYC, schools can open with a positivity rate below 3%, in Arizona it’s 7% and in Iowa, schools cannot close unless the positivity rate exceeds 15%

 

Implications for Schools (EdWeek Reopening Tracker):

Reopening Plans

  • Boston Public Schools announced a fully remote reopening with school starting 9/21.
    • BPS will then have a staggered transition to a hybrid model in which the first students are expected to return in-person 10/1
  • Despite growing calls of concern from principals and teachers' unions in NY, city officials continue to plan to reopen 9/10 with a hybrid model
    • De Blasio ensured that each school will have a full-time nurse and principals will have a special hotline to request additional safety supplies

Staffing/Scheduling Considerations

  • The Texas Education Agency published sample schedules at all grade levels for various reopening scenarios: (1) fully on-campus, (2) fully remote, (3) hybrid
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