Getting Schools Open: Misguided or Visionary?
November 9, 2020
District leaders are on the hot seat like never before. As coronavirus cases surge again in most states, they are faced with letting students come into classrooms, or requiring that they stay home to learn. It’s a no-win decision, and they’re making it with drastically imperfect information.
If superintendents and school boards stick with—or retreat to—remote-only instruction, they risk the wrath of parents who want their kids back in classrooms. If they push forward with face-to-face learning, they could be criticized for gambling with the health of students, staff, and their families.
Interviews with superintendents show that as they are wrestling with this unenviable choice, they are not only weighing their local health metrics, but managing the many internal mechanics that shape a safe return to school: The cost and procedures of new safety protocols, labor contracts that need to be renegotiated, and the staffing jigsaw puzzle that buckles if scores of teachers refuse to enter school buildings.