Back to Normal this Fall?

May 05, 2020 Sarah Williamson By Sarah Williamson
A group of middle school students going to school

Now that schools and districts are nearing the conclusion of this very unusual and unprecedented year, the next hurdle is summer school, and then onto planning the start of the school year in the fall. How school will look next year has become a topic of discussion all over the country.

Experts are weighing in with their thoughts on how to navigate the uncertainty with a variety of different possibilities while district leaders are considering everything from how students will ride the bus safely and planning out patterns of movement throughout the school day. There are also considerations about how to manage hands-on classes like science labs and PE, and how to proceed with team sports and extracurricular activities.

This is an overwhelming number of logistics to coordinate and decisions to make in the next few months. To support schools and districts navigating these challenges, we have numerous resources available to help:

Below we compiled a list of the many possible scenarios we are hearing discussed as options to accommodate student learning this fall. We anticipate these solutions will vary from state to state as the situation continues to evolve.

Everything returns to normal.

Some districts are holding onto the idea that the virus will have receded in many parts of the country, and schools and districts will be able to reopen normally. Although this does seem unlikely, some states are starting to reopen and are attempting to return to business as usual.

We continue to stay home.

There is the possibility that the virus will surge again in the early fall and winter, leading to another long break from physical school. This could require educators to continue with distance learning for the long-term. For example, the State of Colorado has announced that their students will not be returning to school in any normalized way until January (at the earliest). 

Back to school (and back out) as periodic spikes dictate.

Another scenario could be that the virus continues to wax and wane, and districts will need to respond accordingly. This means they will need to be prepared for an online learning option and be ready to engage if and when the health crisis dictates distance learning is required.

Half days.

One option that might help to spread students out is a half-day schedule. This could mean that some students work in the morning and others come the second half of the day. This would reduce the number of students at school together all at once.  

Flex schedule.

This blended model could be a combination of online and face-to-face work. The “at school’ work would most likely follow one of schedules we highlighted here to accommodate reduced movement patterns.

Early start (in July)

A couple of states are suggesting that students could return to school as early as July. The State of California is evaluating the option to have students who have fallen behind, those who need remediation, or those who need to reengage, start school in July.

Staggered schedules.

There could be an option to stagger students throughout the day to limit the number of students at school at one time. This would most likely also include some remote learning as well.

On and off schedule.

Another option to minimize the number of students at school together would be to create an alternating weekly schedule. For example, one group would come on Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week and then alternate to Tuesday and Thursday the following week. Coordinating this option could be more complicated and a challenge for families to manage, but is one of the possibilities districts are considering.

Needs-based groups.

There is an option to accommodate learning based on needs. For example, students who have fallen behind or who have not had online learning support at home might be grouped together and students who are more advanced and looking for enrichment could be in a separate group. These groups could be determined based on needs assessments and would receive targeted instruction to support their learning goals.  

Students pursue other options.

Some parents are voicing their concerns about the safety of their children this fall. Now that many families have adjusted to online learning, some may decide to pursue their own online learning options through virtual or charter schools.

Regardless of how we navigate these challenges, the main priority is to ensure our students and our communities are safe and that students are able to continue to learn (in whatever capacity that works best). We are here to support you however we can. You can check out our remote learning resources page here:

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