Early August is usually when back to school season is in full swing. However, as the new school year approaches, it, unfortunately, won’t be business, as usual, this time around. Many schools are likely going to continue online education and distance learning measures as they did earlier this year when the pandemic first began. However, some school districts are also likely to attempt soft reopenings to in-person education with the health and safety of teachers, staff, faculty, and students as their highest priority. Johns Hopkins University has set up a policy tracker as part of their “eSchool+ Initiative” that is meant to analyze school reopening plans. Let’s learn more about it!
The policy tracker is intended to provide an updated analysis of guidance documents that all states are putting out. Some of the resources included are links to external sites where visitors can get a glimpse of the plans that are being put together. Interactive maps displaying criteria in the plans are also viewable. Virtually all state boards of education and 13 national organizations have provided their stakeholders with policy guidance. The only exceptions so far appear to be Kansas, New York, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Something else the researchers took note of was that equity issues are a real concern for both low-income students and children of color. It turns out that one-third of the reopening plans exclude mention of disadvantaged students and many more plans don’t go into detail on how to serve them.
Now let’s turn our attention to some of the important criteria the researchers considered important. Here they are:
- Core academics;
- COVID-19 protection;
- Before and after school programs;
- School access and transportation;
- Student health services;
- Food and nutrition;
- Parent choice;
- Teacher and staff choice;
- Children with special needs, English learners, and those identified as gifted;
- Children of poverty and systemic disadvantage;
- Privacy; and
- Engagement and transparency
The eSchool+ Initiative
Even so, there are many resources available for parents. The site includes an article on the ethics of school reopening plans, a checklist for reopening schools in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and good examples of equity-oriented reopening policies. The Initiative itself came out of a collaboration between JHU’s Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions, the Berman Institute of Bioethics, the Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education, and the schools of Education, Medicine, and Public Health.
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