Intentional supports for students, families and staff as well as clear expectations and resource transparency are among the best practices a panel of experts identified in an analysis of school districts' pandemic-response plans. A tool from the Collaborative for Student Success and the Center on Reinventing Public Education allowed the panel to examine practices at 20 districts to capture innovative, defined strategies that others can borrow.
Schools in Powell, Wyo., are seeing an increase in the number of students with special needs in the district this fall, which the district's special services director, Ginger Sleep, attributes to the schools providing face-to-face instruction. Noting that special-education teachers are in high demand, Superintendent Jay Curtis has created a plan to hire paraprofessionals to help teach.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland is incorporating social and emotional learning throughout online instruction across all grade levels in the 85,000-student district, including student-driven virtual wellness blocks for high-schoolers. The district also is providing professional development for teachers on facilitating conversations on topics such as social justice.
There are 230 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 students in the US and 490 cases per 100,000 staff members, according to the new COVID-19 School Response Dashboard. The dashboard, created by several education organizations, compiles data reported voluntarily by K-12 public, private and charter schools in 47 states.
Formulas that use enrollment and attendance figures in the fall to determine state funding for the year could mean the loss of millions of dollars for many K-12 districts as the pandemic is affecting where, how and if students are attending school. "What this is forcing us to do is redefine what school is," said Robert Hull, president and CEO of the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Some middle-schoolers in San Antonio have the opportunity to learn conjunto, an accordion-based music style that is culturally significant to the city. Bonham Academy is offering the course to 20 students for the upcoming school year.
Texas fifth-grader Sharon Sara won the Doodle for Google contest for her drawing, "Together as One." In addition to seeing her work displayed on the Google home page, Sara will be awarded a college scholarship and her school will receive $50,000 worth of equipment.
Amy Zhang, a junior at Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, has been studying to prepare for her term as a non-voting member of the state board of education, which will complement the state superintendent's student advisory council. Mississippi is the 15th state to include student representatives on its board of education.
Some administrators are taking pressure off teachers by asking staff members to reach out to families for "empathy interviews" -- checking on well-being by asking about health issues, financial worries and other problems -- says Yale educator and researcher Christina Cipriano. Cipriano notes that it offers any underused paraprofessionals and other staff members a chance to feel more connected during this trying time.
St. Jude Regional Catholic School in Maryland returned to in-person learning with temperature checks and other safety precautions in place. Students wear masks and are grouped in cohorts between seven and 16, and St. Jude principal Glenn Benjamin described it as a "brave new world."
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