Guidance on Reopening Schools: Equity Considerations During COVID-19

Guidance on Reopening Schools: Equity Considerations During COVID-19
February 2021
Trish Gorman, Noelle Broughton, Katy Rusnak, Seena M. Skelton, & Kathleen King Thorius

This Equity by Design brief highlights equity issues that arise in the process of reopening schools during a global pandemic. The authors examine state plans and guidance for reopening schools across states in the Midwest & Plains Equity Assistance Center (MAP EAC) region which includes the 13 states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The purpose of this paper is to provide explicit consideration of equity issues in the context of reopening schools and generate discussion about the topics addressed. The following topics are covered: 1) time spent in face-to-face instruction vs. virtual or hybrid learning environments and any calendar changes; 2) screening and reporting of COVID-19 symptoms and exposure; 3) social distancing, face masks and classroom set up; 4) ensuring more equitable learning for students with dis/abilities and multilingual learners; 5) access to technology; 6) opportunities and challenges in online learning, 7) communication with parent/caregivers; 8) addressing learning loss; 9) guidance on Social Emotional Learning (SEL);  and 10) guidance on field trips and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Throughout this brief, the authors highlight equity issues that inevitably arise in the context of schooling where conditions of access are likely exacerbated by the pandemic and how one might approach and consider these issues in planning and policy. As school and district leaders review and revise policy implementation, the guidance outlined in this paper can inform the way that policy is implemented and can help highlight issues around equity that district and school personnel may not have considered in planning for reopening. 

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