We know that opening schools safely in the fall—in-person, virtually, or with a hybrid model—will require in-depth strategic thinking at the district level. But one district – Tulsa Public Schools –is also thinking through how to enable individual schools to do strategic thinking as well.
While district leaders hope to have as much of the school year in person as possible, they are preparing for opening with a hybrid scenario if needed. In their hybrid plan, most students would attend in-person on Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday and engage in distance learning the other days.
TPS is now helping to gather school-based teams to create detailed plans for reopening and they’ve gotten creative about how to pay for it. TPS is using federal funds to prepare for their August 31 opening date. Every school has been given funding to pay for 300 hours for their administrative and planning teams (including teacher leaders) to do re-entry planning and to organize as they see fit within the parameters of the district’s plan—a critical and necessary exercise.
For example, an elementary school could convene a small team for 20 hours of school-level scheduling and planning and then two half-days for all teachers to meet in teams to prepare, including revising systems and communicating with families to ensure a successful transition.
“Over the last few years, we have redesigned the school planning process to support schools as the unit of change, and we believe strategic school plans are vital to meeting student, teacher, and community needs,” said Jill E. Hendricks, Executive Director of the Office of Federal Programs & Special Projects at TPS. “School planning teams play an integral role in distributing site leadership, developing a plan that meets the needs of their school, and taking into account family and community input.”
Until August 31, school teams will be preparing their spaces, technology, curriculum, sanitation and staffing plans, and so much more, to fit within the parameters of the district’s plan—all with the help of federal funds.
As districts decide on their approaches this fall, school staff will need time to figure out how to make it work best in their context. Investing in school-level planning should be an important part of every district’s COVID reopening strategy.