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COVID Current Events as of September 21, 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:

  • The CDC released indicators and thresholds associated with various risk levels of COVID transmission in schools
  • Since Texas reopened school buildings, ~1.1M students have returned in-person and there have been 2,344  (.21% of students) confirmed positive COVID cases amongst students
  • In Florida, COVID cases have increased by 32% since schools reopened


Student Need

  • The CDC released a report that found that amongst people below age 21, Black and Hispanic children and young adults are most likely to die from COVID-related complications
    • The report notes the importance of continued monitoring in light of school reopening
  • The Brookings Institute released guidance for districts on ways to partner with communities to overcome digital inequalities:
    • Transform vacant local establishments into classrooms and provide technology access through unused business equipment
    • Enable Wi-Fi in federally assisted housing or in parked school buses
    • Reconfigure digital parking lots into digital parks
    • Utilize local organizations to help solve local digital access challenges
  • A Commonsense Media poll found that 59% of teens describe remote instruction as worse or much worse than traditional in-person instruction


Revenue/Cost Projections:

  • FutureEd analyzed how governors chose to allocate the $3 billion provided by the Governor Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, as part of the CARES Act and found:
    • Most states split funding between K-12 and higher education; New York and New Jersey were the only exceptions with Cuomo directing all GEER funding to K-12 and Murphy choosing to allocate all of NJ’s GEER dollars to higher education
    • The majority of states used GEER funding to expand remote learning opportunities, directing dollars to expand broadband, purchase devices, and train teachers for remote instruction
    • Only seven governors have targeted the safe reopening of schools in their GEER plans


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

  • Districts across the country are facing massive declines in enrollment as parents opt for homeschooling, private schools, charter schools, and/or to redshirt their kindergarteners; at the same time, districts struggle to get accurate attendance counts in the virtual environment.
    • The decline in enrollment translates to potentially dramatic drops in revenue
    • Some states, including California, Illinois, and Michigan, have altered their funding formulas to factor in last year’s enrollment to mitigate the impact of this year’s enrollment decline
      • This type of legislation that holds districts harmless for the lost enrollment has been met with backlash from private and charter schools who do not receive additional funding, despite enrollment increases


Implications for Schools (EdWeek Reopening Tracker):

Reopening Plans

  • DCPS currently plans to bring its first students back for in-person instruction, beginning November 9th in a hybrid model; however, Mayor Bowser aims to offer in-person instruction for the district’s highest needs students by the end of September
    • Bowser’s proposal has been met with union backlash, as school leaders argue that DCPS is shifting the reopening onus to individual principals

New York City

  • NYC’s first 90,000 students (pre-K and students with severe disabilities) returned to their school buildings on September 21st
  • However, Mayor DeBlasio once again delayed the opening for all other students; elementary students will now begin in-person instruction 9/29 and middle school students will return 10/1
  • The City of New York Independent Budget Office projects that it will cost NYC $32 million per week to open with the hybrid model; 60% of those costs come from the cost of hiring additional teachers
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