Family Engagement is Key to Student Safety Amidst COVID-19 Reopening
Over the summer, state and local school leaders throughout the U.S. South have wrestled with decisions about whether to open schools in-person, remotely or some combination. Many emphasized in-person instruction as the way forward.
For example, Florida's Education Commissioner
issued an emergency order
requiring all schools to offer the option for learning in person at least five days per week. Similarly, South Carolina's State School Superintendent
that required schools to offer the option for students to receive in-person instruction while stopping short of mandating five days a week.
State-level education leaders in most other Southern states left the decision to local districts, but have recommended that districts mix remote and in-person instruction (see links at the end of this article). Many of the decisions about how a child will attend school has been left up to students' families. Thus, it is vital for schools to provide families and parents with up-to-date information about how students and school staff are being impacted by the pandemic.
COVID-19 conditions across the South have constantly shifted. Schools that opened for in-person instruction struggle to stay open. Although schools have been open for just a few weeks, at least one school has had to close temporarily due to COVID in Alabama
, North Carolina
Although the full scope of infections in student populations is difficult to determine due to limited testing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported
that infection rate in children 17 and under increased "steadily" from March to July while students were largely out of school. With children coming into closer proximity in school, the number of COVID-19 cases and school closures may rise as more students across the South head back to school.
Understanding the current status of the pandemic is especially important for families of color as the CDC notes
that "long-standing health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19."
State education leaders must communicate up-to-date information about the pandemic to enable families to make the best decisions for their students. Several states in the U.S. South region are reporting data of this type.
Snapshot Map: How Virginia Schools Are Reopening
The Virginia Department of Education
published an interactive county level map
that details the kind of instruction that parents can expect.
The Tennessee Department of Education
created a dashboard
that provides the instructional model in each school district.
The North Carolina Department of Public Health
publishes a bi-weekly report
of clusters of outbreaks in child care and school settings.
The Arkansas Department of Health
numbers of COVID-19 cases by school district.