Perspectives

Back-to-school planning in the time of COVID-19 for US K-12 systems

More than 50 million students across the nation were impacted by school closures in March and April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Responses to closures across states have varied — while some districts and charter organizations quickly pivoted to learning remotely, distributing devices, rearranging schedules, and moving to instruction and “office hours” over commercially available technology platforms, many others were slower to respond or faced real challenges in accessing and organizing the resources needed to support students’ continued learning remotely.

There is no consensus yet among school officials whether reopening schools in the fall is probable; most leaders remain divided on the best course of action to take to balance student, societal and economic concerns. Many states have declined to give projections for what the fall term may look like in accordance with the fluidity of the crisis; however, educators will look to state leaders for as much direction as possible as they prepare for the coming school year.

The EY-Parthenon Education practice has engaged in significant research and analysis focused on analyzing what districts can do today to prepare for SY20–21 amid the COVID-19 crisis. Much of our research focuses on the importance of leveraging the short summer months to address what was learned from the “remote learning 1.0” efforts on which districts embarked with little notice this spring, and quickly pivoting to design and support “remote learning 2.0” for SY20–21.

While there is hope that some schools or districts may be able to return to in-person operations by fall 2020, there is increasing recognition in many states and districts that the fall will likely require at least some period of remote learning. Even in districts that can reopen in-person for some or all students, planning for both safe and socially distant learning and scenarios involving a switch to remote learning for a period will be essential. Given these considerations, our team has started to think through specific tactical implications of the various back-to-school scenarios for SY20-21.

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