4 States Where Schools Are Open — and 7 Where They Are Closed

Students in masks at school
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How will Johnny and Jane learn to read this year? That depends on where they live.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many states are letting local school districts make their own decisions on whether to go fully online, in person or a combination of the two.

But some governors have issued statewide orders to close schools or delay opening, or to offer in-person learning. These decisions have sparked widespread controversies, with people from nearly every sector of society voicing approval or disapproval.

Education Week has taken a comprehensive, continuously updated look at the school situation state by state. We focus here on states with statewide mandates either to open schools or to delay in-person instruction.

Iowa

A teacher helps a student with face masks on during the coronavirus crsis
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Status: State-ordered in-person instruction available

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on July 17 signed a proclamation ordering all schools to deliver at least half of their education in person while allowing for remote learning in a limited number of circumstances.

The proclamation’s section about in-person instruction begins:

“Under Iowa law, ‘in-person instruction is the presumed method of instruction’ for all school districts and accredited nonpublic schools during the 2020-2021 school year. I direct that all state agencies, school districts, and other local governmental bodies and agencies shall take all efforts to prepare to safely welcome back students and teachers to school in-person this fall.”

If you’re wondering how much teachers in Iowa or your state get paid, check out “Here’s How Much Teachers Are Paid in Every State.”

Missouri

Teacher in a mask
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Status: State-ordered in-person instruction available

“These kids have got to get back to school,” Gov. Mike Parson said in July, and they will, in some form or fashion.

The State Board of Education on July 7 unanimously approved its Attendance Guidance for 2020-21 School Year, mandating that kids get at least two days of in-person instruction per week.

Texas

Student in face mask raising hand
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Status: State-ordered in-person instruction available

The Texas Education Agency said “school systems must provide on-campus attendance as an option.”

But schools can delay in-person attendance — delivering online instruction in the meantime — for up to four weeks to allow for the most effective back-to-school transition process. The four weeks can be extended by an additional four weeks by school board vote.

Florida

Teacher in a classroom
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Status: State-ordered in-person instruction available

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on July 6 signed an emergency order for fall reopening. It directs that “all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week,” subject to health department guidance.

Gov. Ron DeSantis later applauded and reinforced the need for in-person instruction, “to keep society moving forward – to give kids the opportunity to learn – and to bring families what many want more than anything – a sense of normalcy.”

Vermont

Older teach wearing a face mask in an empty classroom
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Status: State-ordered school closure or delay in effect

Schools in the Green Mountain State shall open for in-person or remote instruction on (but not before) Sept. 8, says a July 29 executive order from Gov. Phil Scott.

Schools that primarily serve students with disabilities may open sooner.

To be as safe as possible during in-person instruction, many schools will be doing classes outdoors as much as possible.

Rhode Island

Young teacher using internet to remotely teach during the coronavirus crisis
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Status: State-ordered school closure or delay in effect

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced she was delaying the first day of school to Sept. 14, later than her initial hope of Aug. 31.

The state’s Department of Education, which has a goal “to have all students return to school in-person,” nonetheless would allow for hybrid and online instruction in accordance with health and safety considerations.

West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge
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Status: State-ordered school closure or delay in effect

Gov. Jim Justice delayed the start of the school year to a target date of Sept. 8, weeks after most school districts in the state were originally scheduled to begin.

All 55 counties are offering in-person, online or a hybrid mix, with families able to choose which one they want.

Justice and other state leaders on Aug. 14 unveiled a color-coded and metric system to determine if schools can offer in-person instruction.

Arkansas

A female teacher in an empty classroom during the pandemic
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Status: State-ordered school closure or delay in effect

“We need to have school this year,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Aug. 4, adding that “we want everyone to be able to go back to in-classroom instruction in a safe way.” A Department of Education memo on Aug. 5 mandated that schools offer “onsite learning opportunities each day.”

But because of a recent increase in infections, Education Week says, Hutchinson has postponed school openings for in-person instruction to the week of Aug. 24.

New Mexico

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Status: State-ordered school closure or delay in effect

The Land of Enchantment started the school year with only distance and remote learning. The Department of Education has announced that the earliest possible date for any kind of in-person instruction would be Sept. 8.

The state initially had hoped to begin schooling on Aug. 3 with a hybrid of in-person and online learning, but a surge in COVID-19 cases curtailed that plan.

Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii
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Status: State-ordered school closure or delay in effect

The Aloha State, which operates as a single state-wide district, scheduled schools to open on Aug. 17.

The first four weeks of school are to be conducted by distanced learning.

District of Columbia

Washington, D.C.
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Status: State-ordered school closure or delay in effect

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on July 31 that the first term for public schools — Aug. 31-Nov. 6 — would be all virtual for all students.

Bowser thus backtracked from her initial idea that schools would use a hybrid mix of in-person and virtual instruction.

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