As I wrote Friday, while Kentucky and other states slowly (at least in Kentucky’s case) start to reopen the economy, one of the questions on a lot of folks’ minds is how – or if – schools will reopen. Absent a solid cure or vaccine for COVID-19, social distancing, masking, safe serving of meals and a host of other issues make reopening schools a really big challenge.
In fact, Friday also marked the release of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) “COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools, Initial Guidance for Schools and Districts, May 15, 2020.” The KDE’s 16-page paper is loaded with over 150 separate questions and risk factors impacting reopening schools, issues that in most cases seem far from answers. Just a very few of the questions in the Health and Safety for All area in the KDE paper include:
- How will schools and districts ensure appropriate steps are taken during mealtimes to promote social distancing and meet the needs of students?
- How will schools and districts ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) is available to staff and students and used appropriately during the school day?
- How will schools and districts protect the health and safety of staff, household members, and caregivers who are 60 years old or older or who have other COVID-19 health risk factors? (Note: I don’t know how Age 60 was selected for this. The latest CDC material pegs Age 65 as the point of increased concern)
- How will schools and districts ensure water fountains remain clean or that alternative sources of water are made available to students?
- How will schools and districts ensure that the emotional and mental health of students is assessed and monitored, and that appropriate supports are delivered to students showing symptoms of anxiety, depression, self-harm or suicidal ideation? (Do schools even have staff qualified to do this, especially at the levels that might result from COVID-19?)
There are some other attention getters in the Maintaining Quality Teaching and Learning section, including:
- How will schools and districts ensure social and emotional learning activities are integrated into lessons in every classroom? (Note: this is the first question in this section, and it concerns the contentious subject of social and emotional, not academic, learning)
- How will schools and districts leverage data – such as the Early Warning and Persistence to Graduation tools and the Transient Student Report in Infinite Campus – to identify students who may need additional supports? (Note how data is being used for psychological purposes here)
- How will schools and districts establish instructional expectations for standards alignment, grade-level assignments and addressing knowledge gaps due to extended periods of remote learning? (Note: This question is #18 in the Maintaining Quality Teaching and Learning section. Why aren’t concerns about basic academic education issues listed first in this section?)
Anyway, the KDE paper lists a large number of questions and risk factors for consideration. No one can read through this listing and not come to the conclusion that, at best, safely and efficiently reopening schools is going to be a very complex endeavor in the COVID-19 era.
And, regardless of what the schools do, will parents be willing to send their kids? For more on that, click the “Read more” link.
The question about whether kids will return to school leads back to comments in my first blog. Even if schools do reopen, will parents be satisfied with whatever COVID-19 actions are taken? Will parents decide to keep their kids at home until the situation becomes much clearer? Have some parents formed an opinion during the enforced home learning from COVID-19 that their kids are better off learning at home?
The poll summary shows one key finding among parents surveyed is:
- “40% of Families More Likely to Homeschool After Lockdowns End.”
That is a major chunk of the overall public school enrollment.
Now, I discovered another poll, this one apparently sponsored by EdChoice and conducted by Morning Consult in April, asked a somewhat similar question to the one in the Real Clear Opinion Research poll.
Morning Consult asked school parents:
“How have your opinions of homeschooling changed as a result of the Corona Virus?”
A total of 28% of those surveyed said they were “Much more favorable” to homeschooling and another 24% said they were “Somewhat more favorable” for a total of 52% who clearly are at least thinking about not sending their kids back to public schools. That seems rather in line with the 40% figure from the Real Clear Opinion Research poll.
By the way, the KDE paper seems at least somewhat aware of the issue of will students come back. A Risk Factor found on the last page of the paper is:
- Schools and districts may experience enrollment challenges as some parents may choose to keep children home until there is a vaccine.
Rather than just being a COVID-19 safety concern, it is possible some parents might well find an-other-than-public-school option is a better long-term answer for their child regardless of the vaccine issue. At the very least, results from two separate polls now indicate that school leaders need to determine who is likely to come back to school if they are to plan reopening effectively because a considerable number of former students simply might not be coming back at all.