Some schools reopen, but online learning could continue for much longer

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Public and private high school and middle school campuses remain closed but some have begun to open. Online learning and remote teaching are likely to continue for much longer.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Democrat, has declared that it is safe for schools to open up on May 7th. The state has had fewer than 500 reported cases of coronavirus as of this current week.

According to a recent article published by National Public Radio, the state’s Office of Public Instruction says that just a few school districts, in some small towns, have taken the governor up on the offer. The gap between a state executive proclaiming schools OK to open, and the reality of tiny groups of students gathering in just a few schools, shows logistical challenges that educators and state officials face around the country when it comes to the decision to open.

Willow Creek School, in Three Forks, Montana, plans to open its doors and expects a few dozen of its 56 students to show up. Troy, a northwestern town in Montana, holds limited and voluntary “study” hall visits that focus on special education students, as well as some outdoor activities. Glasgow will open schools on a limited basis to students without devices.

Libby, a town of less than 3,000 people, is allowing students to come back to the single middle/high school to meet face-to-face with teachers, for what amounts to targeted tutoring sessions. They can sign up for appointments to get help with subjects they’re struggling with.

Craig Barringer, superintendent of Libby’s schools, shared that educators make these decisions based on surveying parents.

Elementary school student parents feel more able to handle or help them. But at more advanced levels, such as middle school and high school, parents feel they can’t give the assistance that they need if they get stuck.

There are precautions being taken.

Students will be greeted at the door. They will be encouraged to wear masks. There are hand-sanitizing stations put up.

Public schools play a range of roles in society beyond education. As childcare for millions of working parents, they act as a cornerstone of any attempt to reopen the economy. They are hubs for community relationships, and distribution points for essential social services.

But, before any of that, they must be safe for students. Education leaders are putting out plans that forecast big changes to what public school might look like.

What are 4 problems that are on experts’ minds?

Running remote/online learning and in-person learning in parallel

This plan envisions schools running with both online learning classes and in-person classes. The combination would allow for students to slowly return to normal while participating in social distancing.

Serving the kids with the most need, as well as traumatized kids

Learning loss, missed socialization, probable increases in child abuse and domestic violence while some students have been home. Lost family members. Many, many families out of work.

Elementary, middle, and high schools across the country will have to put their heads together to figure out how to take care of students once classes start up again.


There may be privacy issues involved both with online learning and the kind of public health surveillance required to control a pandemic in person.

School districts are also relying upon products that were never designed to be used with tens of millions of students at home.


How will elementary, middle and high school students do social distancing on the school bus? Should there be three times as many school buses so that each student has a row to herself? DO you do that at the same time while buses are still used to run food to students?

“It’s going to be a scheduling nightmare, a logistical nightmare,” shares Weingarten. “And God forbid a kid or a teacher gets sick. The knives are going to come out that the school is responsible for it.”

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