CORONAVIRUS

Johns Hopkins Launches New Tracker For School Reopening Plans

The university's site tracks where each state currently stands on safety, health and academic help.

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is monitoring which states have addressed 12 criteria, including safety and academic measures, in their school reopening plans. So far, 43 states and the District of Columbia have released reopening plans, though they don’t necessarily involve in-person instruction until some level of safety is assured.

The criteria include safety protocols, such as mask and social distance requirements, as well as “ethics and equity” plans, including special help for disadvantaged children. Schools will not only have to address the health and safety of students and staff but also how to “make up for the losses in learning, health and support systems” caused by school shutdowns, according to a JHU statement. 

The tracker was unveiled as President Donald Trump presses his controversial demand that all schools open for in-person instruction this fall, threatening to cut federal funds to those that don’t.

His top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, insisted Friday to reporters that going back to school is “not that hard.” But the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that it might not be safe, particularly while coronavirus cases are at hitting record levels, until health experts approve.

“We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it,” said a statement Friday by the AAP, American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

The intent of the JHU tracker is to give parents, policymakers, school employees and others easy access to information that can be used to help shape the safest plan.

“At the end of the day, it’s about trying to make sure that when we reopen, that the reopening benefits all,” Annette Anderson, deputy director of JHU’s Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, told Politico.

Most states have addressed at least 8 to 10 of the 12 criteria in their reopening plans. Arkansas, South Dakota, Connecticut, New Hampshire and West Virginia have so far addressed the fewest.

The tracker also lists safety and academic recommendations by several educational and health organizations, such as the AAP and the American Teachers Association. 

Some schools are just weeks away from reopening.

Florida’s education commissioner signed an emergency order Monday requiring all public and charter schools to open in August for in-person instruction five full days a week — even though the number of COVID-19 cases is at record levels. 

Florida shut down its schools on March 17 when there was an average of 69 new COVID-19 cases a day. On Saturday, Florida tallied nearly 9,000 new cases in a single 24-hour period.


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