Any school opening plan must include state and local health guidelines and be driven by two cornerstones: the health and safety of students and staff, and continuous learning for students. We know that school will look different this year, in every school and in every community. Given the likelihood that instruction will occur in multiple settings throughout the year, schools must have continuity of learning plans for all students—especially students with special needs, English Learners, and those most impacted by the global pandemic. Continuous learning plans should be developed through authentic community engagement: authorizers should hear from and collaborate with families, students, schools, community leaders, and health officials to ensure that safety and learning are paramount as schools move forward with an unprecedented school year.
The much-needed federal funding for schools should be focused on ensuring that all students are safe, do not fall behind in their learning, are able to access curriculum and other supports, and that the achievement and opportunity gaps narrow. A school can achieve these goals in both virtual and in-person settings.