School leaders have a series of considerations when developing a hybrid reopening plan that engages students through a combination of in-person instruction at school sites and distance learning.
The goals of all plans are to promote safety, provide quality education as equitably as possible and do this as efficiently as possible. Achieving these goals requires superintendents and other school leaders to:
- Do the homework in pre-planning
- Know what data is needed and what data is already available
- Assemble a planning team and open contacts with engaged partners
- Evaluate and estimate district resources in facilities, staff and transportation
MREA developed this guide with associate partners to outline the key steps to complete during the pre-planning phase.
- Organize reopening planning teams
- Know your tools
- Assess your resources using safety guidelines
- Evaluate ventilation system
- Identify available staffing
- Understand student interest (in on-site learning based on health and comfort level)
- Plan how to procure safety supplies
- Communicate, communicate
- Plan for activities
1. Organize planning team
Organize a core team that will create, assess and modify your district plan for reopening. Consider other teams or subgroups that will be needed for specialized planning and implementation.
- Assemble a core planning team
- Who should be on it? Think beyond your administrative team. Consider food service, custodial, nursing, teacher representatives at all levels.
- Are they already paid in the summer? Or does additional pay need to be provided?
- Connect district reopening team and buildings schedule planning teams.
- Discuss with the School Board
- Roles and responsibilities
- Communication plans
- Create system to gain feedback
- Create sub-group(s) of key stakeholders to provide feedback on the plan to as you develop it.
- Consider parents, students and teachers and hourly staff
2. Know your tools
Get your tool box organized and ready now to assist in planning and implementation.
Some key tools to consider include:
- Student Information System
- Scheduling—Can it handle different cohorts—almost as separate buildings for in school scheduling?
- Attendance—Can it integrate and differentiate in school and distance learning attendance?
- Can it set maximum class size?
- Transportation Scheduling (with either district or contractor)
- A program that has all addresses mapped with students’ grade levels
- A physical map and individual index cards for each student to hand schedule
- Finance & Business Operations
- Create or extend system to track COVID-19 expenses
- Create projection worksheets to use when numbers become more estimable
- Create clear communications with board and stakeholders with accurate information and forecasts
- Insurance & Legal
- Assess the personal liability risks in a pandemic for the district, individual staff and board members
- View the presentation of legal considerations, provided to MREA by partner by ICS
- View mandatory insurance policy changes due to COVID-19 and federal legislation NIS Benefits.
- Contact your agent or company for liability, errors and omissions, casualty and workers comp and ask if there are specific limits in pandemic coverage. See a list of MREA member insurance companies.
- Contact your attorney to see what the insurance information means and whether your attorney’s firm has guidelines they may provide and that they will be available for questions and will be on top of the issues. See a list of MREA member school attorneys.
- MSBA plans to address policy and governance topics that should assist in actions to take to assess and lower risk.
- Review all employment contracts and for contracted services such as transportation and food service
- Flag issues which may be impediments to foreseeable changes in assignments, hours, etc.
- Open dialogue with union reps and providers
3. Assess resources using safety guidelines
Record some key numbers that will be used in future steps:
- Physical space
How many spaces do you have that you can safely have students and staff in?
Record numbers for:
- Classrooms in which students can be safely 6’ apart
- The number of additional classrooms which can be gained by sub-dividing larger spaces with adequate ventilation
- Spaces smaller than classrooms which take fewer occupants
- Use CAD or blueprints to count
- Maximum is 50% of facility occupancy and of each interior space
- Get assistance from your preferred facility consultant
- For assistance, see list of MREA Associate members that are in Architects, Engineers and Facility Construction Managers.
How many vehicles can be used to transport students? Consider both buses and vans.
4. Evaluate ventilation system
This becomes critical during a pandemic to limit airborne transmission.
What to consider:
- What are the capabilities of your ventilation systems?
- Can you modify current ventilation to be more safe?
- Recommended Ventilation settings, April 3, 2020 Guidance
- FAQ’s from the European Federation of Heating and Ventilating Engineers
Forwarded to MREA by McKinstry. For more assistance Contact: Kathleen Donovan
5. Identify available staffing
- Who among your staff have underlying health conditions as defined by Executive Orders and need to be assigned to distance learning mode only?
- What is your back up when in-school staff become ill or need to self-quarantine? (Substitutes or distance learning only with distance learning staff)
- What percentage of staff can and are willing to return to in-school instruction? These will be conversations. For now use estimates, considering the following:
- Hourly staff of all categories
- Bus drivers
- Office staff
6. Understand student interest
Even if provided with the opportunity to return to school like other years, some parents and students will be feel comfortable coming on school sites for learning this fall. Some are due to health conditions while others will have a variety of reasons. This will impact your planning.
Start gathering numbers on what to expect:
- Which students cannot return due to health conditions themselves or members of household? Get an estimated percentage from school nurse.
- What percentage of parents plan to keep their children at home in distance learning? This can be collected through a survey to parents.
- Total these percentages and subtract from 100 to get the percentage of students expected to attend In-School in a hybrid model.
7. Plan to procure safety supplies
Personal protective equipment and other safety supplies will be important assets with the return of students and staff. It is important to establish which vendors your school district can count on to supply this.
Where will you procure sufficient supplies?
Take the time to make inquiries and requests for:
8. Communicate, communicate
Schools leaders need to actively communicate with their internal audience of all staff and external audiences of parents and community throughout this process. It will require more frequent communications from the superintendent and principals throughout the summer.
Start the communication now and establish a predictable rhythm. You don’t have to have it all figured it out. Bring your key audiences along in the planning process.
What to communicate:
- Intentions and goals for reopening and your planning process (Why are you are doing this?)
- Expected outcomes of a hybrid of distance learning and in-school instruction
- In general who is involved in planning
- How staff, parents and community members can provide input and feedback
- Next steps (What can they expect next?)
9. Plan for activities
Evaluate how you will approach activities for students, whether directed by Activities Director, Community Education Director or other administrators. It is on the minds of students and parents.
It it is good practice to follow similar planning steps for activities as outlined above for other areas.
Resources for activities:
- MDH Youth Activities Guidance
- MDE COVID-19 Guidance
- Minnesota state High School League MSHSL COVID-19 Announcements
- Minnesota Community Education Association MCEA Programming Response and Preparedness Plan
MREA developed extensive guides and resources to implement a new hybrid learning model with these key planning phases:
- Build New Master Schedules (with interactive worksheet)
- Implement and Operationalize
Stay connected to news and resources on reopening schools in Minnesota: mreavoice.org/reopeningschools