As this absurd pandemic school year approaches its close, every state in the nation is wrestling with the same question: how to get kids back at their desks without unduly risking their more elderly or immuno-compromised relatives—or the students themselves.
The COVID-19 shutdown has disrupted almost every school district in the country, forcing the vast majority of the United States’s 55.6 million students to try to learn from home. It’s difficult to overstate the potential negative consequences; attendance has suffered, special needs students have gone without necessary attention, and schools have had to rush laptops and WiFi hotspots to families lacking the technology to connect with virtual classrooms.
And, of course, millions of parents have had to take time away from work to supervise their child’s education.
But some states have begun to take tentative steps toward reopening the school doors—if not this academic year, for the summer or autumn. Indeed, governors ranging from Washington state’s Jay Inslee to Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt have voiced hopes that something resembling an IRL academic year is possible come fall. Still, medical experts warn that getting children and teens in front of a physical teacher again isn’t close to a sure thing. The mysterious, COVID-related inflammatory affliction that recently killed at least three kids in New York will likely only intensify public concern.
Dr. Ali Mokdad, professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington—which is advising Inslee—warned that reopening schools will require aggressive testing, disinfecting, and social-distancing procedures. Kids and staff will need to stay six and possibly even 12 feet away from each other at all times. He recommended officials wait until scientists observe the novel coronavirus’s circulation during the summer months before making major policy decisions, and noted the potential for a deadly resurgence of the pathogen when the weather chills again.
“Until we have the physical space we can manage, and the capacity to do the cleaning, and the testing, we are risking another wave of the virus,” Mokdad told The Daily Beast. “School kids don’t have a high mortality rate from the virus, but their contacts might. The virus is in the driver seat right now, unfortunately.”
Here’s a guide to when your kid could be lining up again.
Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey has ordered public schools shut until the close of the school calendar on June 5. But Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey has suggested summer sessions for teenagers could begin just three days later—and, for younger kids, on June 6. The bell could ring for the general student population some time in August.
Alaska: Last Frontier learners had their last day in their usual assigned seats on March 16, and won’t be back before the calendar closes on May 21. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has yet to release a plan for allowing them to reopen.
Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey has shut down the schools for the remainder of the present school year, while a task force contemplates plans for reopening. Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman has promised a “framework” by the end of May, though districts may find themselves on different schedules.
Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson shuttered schools for the remainder of this school year, but expects kids back at their desks in the fall.
California: Schools are closed through June, but Newsom wants to play catch-up, and sees the new academic year starting “as early as late July or early August.”
Colorado: School’s been out since March, and Gov. Jared Polis—otherwise eager to reactivate the state—has warned superintendents that they may not be able to reopen for in-person lessons until January 2021.
Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont is keeping K-12 students home for the remainder of this school year, but teachers and administrator unions are preparing for a return to the classroom come fall.
Delaware: Gov. John Carney has closed schools down through the sunset of the academic year, and not yet signaled when the students may return.
Florida: The Sunshine State’s public schools have been out since March 16, and Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t include them in the first phase of his reopening plan, deciding instead to leave the buildings dark. His working group on education aspires to have summer programs and to get students back in the classroom in the fall. Most of the state’s districts have calendars beginning in August, but Miami-Dade—the biggest county, and among the most COVID-19-ravaged—currently plans to begin at a later date.
Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp has suspended in-person classes for the rest of the spring semester, even as he has dropped many restrictions on businesses. Local news outlets reported, however, that many school districts are preparing to reopen “as early as this summer.”
Hawaii: Schools are closed through the end of the academic year, and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto was recently unable to say when they might reopen. Even summer school instruction will occur remotely. A state Department of Education memo last month declared regular classes couldn’t restart until the state had gone four weeks without a COVID-19 case.
Idaho: The wheels on the bus can start turning again in the Gem State on May 16—but only for groups of 10 students or fewer. The state has also mandated that schools aspiring to reopen in the 2020-2021 school year have cleaning, testing, and distancing protocols in place.
Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker has idled public and private schools alike for the rest of the academic year. His plan allows for the learning factories to open again in regions of the state that attain “phase four” of his revitalization vision: stores and workplaces operating again without a coinciding spike in infections and decline in intensive care unit capacity.
Indiana: Hoosier schools are shut for regular classes until June 30, despite Gov. Eric Holcomb’s ambitions to revive the state’s sedated businesses. Distance learning will likely continue through the summer, and a decision for the fall may come in July.
Iowa: Classrooms will remain dark the rest of the current calendar year, but Gov. Kim Reynolds has required schools to submit a “return to learn” plan by July 1. She’s also expressed hope the buildings could reopen in early August.
Kansas: Gov. Laura Kelly closed school facilities until the end of the school year this month. She recently declared it “way too early” to discuss any program for reopening.
Kentucky: School’s out for summer in the Bluegrass State, but individual districts have floated plans to allow a limited number of students back into buildings in the fall.
Louisiana: Gov. John Bel Edwards has closed schools for the rest of the current academic year, and local outlets reported that school districts await instruction on how to plan lessons for the summer and fall.
Maine: Gov. Janet Mills has been eager to resuscitate her state’s economy, and has only recommended that public schools continue remote learning for the rest of the year. A large number of schools have followed her guidance, and Mills has said her administration is working on a reopening plan for the fall.
Maryland: Superintendent Karen Salmon has announced schools will not reopen this semester, and the state released a plan that could allow for alternating groups of students to come back in the fall for a few days at a time. The state has also raised the possibility of a summer start-date to the school year.
Massachusetts: Bay State school buildings will stay shut through the summer, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has signaled tentatively that only some function may resume in September.
Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has closed schools for the remainder of the year, and has voiced ambivalence over whether an autumn return is feasible.
Minnesota: School has moved online for the current semester, but discussions about a combined distance and in-person structure for summer courses—and even for the fall—are ongoing.
Mississippi: Gov. Tate Reeves has been aggressive in trying to reopen his state, but has demurred over the schools. He has ventured, however, that summer sessions and an early-start 2020-2021 academic year might be possible.
Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock ended his stay-at-home order in late April, and has allowed school districts to make their own decisions about reopening. A few rural schools have already advanced plans to welcome students back this month.
Nebraska: School buildings have shut through the end of their year in May, but the state Department of Education has suggested some in-person summer instruction might be possible, though it has indicated fall instruction will not be “normal.”
Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak is phasing his state’s economy back open, but not the schools: all instruction this semester will remain strictly virtual. A state commission is supposed to generate a broad plan for restoring students to regular classrooms, and the Clark County School District—covering Las Vegas—has proposed pushing back the first day of the next school year from August 10 to after Labor Day.
New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu has moved classes online for the remainder of the present academic year, and has promised a decision on summer school by mid-May.
New Jersey: The Garden State has locked its school doors for the rest of the semester. A decision on summer and fall classes is still pending.
New Mexico: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has shuttered school buildings for what’s left of the 2019-2020 school year. She has expressed hope that they might reopen in August.
New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered school facilities remain shuttered for the remainder of the academic year, and promised a decision on a potential summer school session by the end of May. There are as yet no plans to close schools this fall, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he is “increasingly hopeful” they will be open.
North Carolina: Schools are closed for the rest of the academic year, but they were slated to reopen for the fall semester on August 17.
North Dakota: Classrooms will remain class-Zooms for the rest of this school year. Gov. Doug Burgum said plans for a possible summer or fall reopening were forthcoming.
Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine has shuttered school facilities for the rest of the year, and indicated he has made no decision on summer instruction. He suggested the fall school year could involve a “hybrid” system that would rotate different groups of students through the buildings on two-day cycles, while those at home would continue distance learning.
Oklahoma: The state Department of Education has shut down school buildings for the rest of the year and, despite Gov. Kevin Stitt’s hopes for an early start to the fall semester, local districts will largely make their own determinations about reopening. Many schools, including those in and around Oklahoma City, are preparing plans for summer sessions.
Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown has ordered classes to go online for the rest of the present semester, but has promised guidelines that would allow counties without too many COVID-19 cases to offer summer school courses as soon as May 15. There have been no announcements so far about the fall.
Pennsylvania: Keystone State kids will be learning from home until summer. Classes during the June to August break can occur only at schools in designated “green” counties—those that have reopened some businesses without a coinciding spike in hospitalizations. Such safe zones could hold in-person instruction this fall, but the state may mandate shrunken class sizes and student masks.
Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo has mandated distance learning through the summer, and warned that fall is “not going to be normal.” Details remain scarce.
South Carolina: Buildings may be dark for the rest of the academic year, but some schools could open for summer courses in July—and even for math and reading “camps” for kindergarten through third grade students. Classes are set to resume in-person in August, but possibly for only half of all students at a given time.
South Dakota: Gov. Kristi Noem has recommended schools move instruction online for the duration of the academic year. There have been no further announcements on statewide policy.
Tennessee: Gov. Bill Lee has asked schools to stay shut for the rest of the year, and it appears districts have largely complied. Nashville plans to reopen its facilities on its usual schedule in the fall, but Knoxville is preparing for continued distance learning in the fall.
Texas: Schools have closed for the rest of this year, with individual districts scrambling to make plans around the start of the upcoming academic calendar in August, many by acquiring technology to enable distance learning. Gov. Greg Abbot has suggested an early start to instruction, and a prolonged winter recess in the event of a viral reprise. In-person summer school instruction appears unlikely in most areas.
Utah: The buildings in Utah will stay empty as the semester ends. The Beehive State is buzzing with ideas for the fall, which could include rotating different groups of kids through facilities during different times of day while others learn remotely—and even having students retain the same teacher next year.
Vermont: School’s out for this year, with no announcements as yet for the future.
Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northam has shut schools for the rest of this year, but said he hopes to see them open once more in August.
Washington State: Physical facilities will be closed through June, but Gov. Jay Inslee has said there’s “a very good chance” they will open back up after the summer.
Washington, D.C.: School will remain virtual in the nation’s capital until the early end of the school year on May 29. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to begin next year’s instruction early, but it is unclear as yet whether that will occur in person.
West Virginia: Instruction will stay online for the remainder of the academic year, though teachers are returning to the classroom to prepare for possible summer lessons and the first day of the regular calendar in late August. But it remains unclear what sort of schedules and structures districts will employ to prevent the spread of the virus.
Wisconsin: The Badger State has turned the lights off in its school buildings for the rest of the year, and a recent report determined it was unclear whether they would go on again in the summer or in the fall.
Wyoming: Gov. Mark Gordon has ordered schools closed until May 15, with exceptions for limited, socially-distant, in-person instruction for kids with “the greatest needs.” School districts may apply for a variance in concert with their county health officer. Many schools have classes running into June, meaning children could return to the buildings this year if the governor does not again extend the order.