It’s been an interesting week for educators nationwide as they look for the safest ways to implement back to school plans for their students.
That planning has been complicated by a daily tug-of-war between the White House administration, which is pushing for “fully” opened schools, and local health and education officials who are mostly pursuing hybrid plans that blend in-person with remote or digital learning.
The past 24 hours have been particularly dizzying, with Vice President Mike Pence announcing yesterday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be releasing revised guidelines for reopening schools next week, and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield saying this morning that the CDC would not be revising those recommendations, but would be “providing additional reference documents” to help schools as they work to reopen.
This is important, because the three major educational institutions in the Flagstaff area – Northern Arizona University (NAU), Coconino Community College (CCC) and Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) – created their reopening plans using the current CDC guidelines.
All three intend to offer a blend of in-person and remote classes:
- Northern Arizona University’s current reopening plan includes NAUFlex, where “students and faculty can gather for class in person, or virtually, through a simultaneous digital streaming experience.” All classes for the fall semester will wrap up by Thanksgiving.
- While CCC plans to start and end classes as previously scheduled (from August 24 through December 12), all classes will be completed online after the Thanksgiving holiday. The college is also offering students multiple options for completing coursework, including in-person classes, scheduled videoconferencing, or a mix of methods.
- Meanwhile, FUSD is asking parents to weigh in on how they want their children to learn this year with a survey. Parents can choose from in-person learning, available for all grades; distancing learning for students in grades 5 through 12; and flexible remote learning, in which a student from kindergarten to 12th grade can start the school year with remote classes then transition to in-person learning at an FUSD school at quarterly intervals
Each of these institutions has indicated that their plans are living documents, subject to change as conditions evolve. Ultimately, school reopening plans are controlled at the state and local level – not by the federal government – but it will be interesting to see if the additional information from the CDC will change what “back to school” looks like this year.