Simon, Stocksy
Here’s How All 50 States Are Handling Reopening Schools This Fall Amid COVID-19

by Morgan Brinlee

Schools across the country are preparing to welcome back students amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but how that happens is expected to look different from one state to another. From virtual learning and hybrid instruction models to a return to traditional in-person instruction, here's a look at how every state is handling schools reopening this fall.

While President Donald Trump has pushed for all schools to fully reopen, many states have suggested a more cautious approach, especially in areas where coronavirus cases have recently begun to surge. In California, for example, counties must remain off the state's monitoring list for at least 14 days before schools can reopen for in-person instruction.

To help states navigate the upcoming academic year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released recommendations for reopening K-12 schools to lower the risk of transmission. The CDC advises closing communal spaces, cleaning more frequently, reinforcing the use of face coverings, modifying classroom layouts to maximize social distancing, and encouraging frequent hand washing among students and staff.

Of course, school districts around the country have been tasked with developing their own reopening plans, meaning how schools reopen will likely vary from district to district, let alone state to state. And when it comes to private schools, as The New York Times reported, they essentially have free reign to develop their own plans. So as the coronavirus pandemic remains a concern for parents, here's a broad overview of how all 50 states are addressing reopening schools.


RichLegg/E+/Getty Images

In a June 26 press conference, Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey said all public schools in Alabama would reopen come fall unless local school boards or the governor directed otherwise, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. While the governor has pushed to reopen schools to in-person instruction, at least 27 school districts had opted to begin the school year with a virtual-only learning model as of July 30, according to Alabama Local.

For the Alabama public school students who will be returning to classrooms, masks will be mandatory. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended the state's mask mandate through to at least Aug. 31, Alabama Local reported.

While the state has also released guidance for reopening schools, they're recommendations, not mandates, meaning school districts have the final say on how they reopen.


While Alaska's Department of Education will be providing face masks to every student and school staff member in the state, Education Commissioner Michael Johnson announced in June that reopening decisions would be left to school districts and local health officials, KTUU reported.

To help schools plan for the upcoming school year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the state released planning and strategy guidance known as Alaska Smart Start 2020. This guidance includes recommendations on organizing students into smaller cohort groups and educating students and staff on proper hand washing and face mask handling and care.

Students within the Anchorage School District are expected to begin the school year under a hybrid learning model where students attend in-person classes just two days per week. According to U.S. News & World Report, the district will transition to a five-day in-person instruction schedule two and a half weeks after schools in the district reopen.


In an executive order issued July 23, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered every school district and charter school that wants to remain eligible for more funding to begin teacher-led distance learning instruction no later than Aug. 14. Schools were also required to begin offering free, on-site learning opportunities and support services for "students who need a place to go during the day" by Aug. 17. If in-person instruction cannot be provided, schools are required to provide in-person services such as student supervision. The executive order also directed school districts and charter schools to implement a mandatory face covering policy for all staff and students over the age of 5.

Additional guidance for reopening schools — all of which is suggestion and not mandatory, meaning schools get to have the final decision on what their reopening looks like — was released by the Arizona Department of Education in early June. It echoes the CDC's recommendations for screening students and staff for possible COVID-19 symptoms like fever daily and modifying classroom layouts whenever possible to allow for social distancing.


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on July 9 that public schools in the state would delay the start of the school year until Aug. 24, ABC News affiliate KATV reported. Initially, Hutchinson had said he expected schools to return to in-person learning on Aug. 13 with just supplemental online classes. According to KATV, the Arkansas Education Association has deemed Hutchinson's decision to delay the school year "a step in the right direction to acknowledging Arkansas is in no way ready to safely reopen our schools."

It's unclear, however, if schools will be ready to safely return students to in-person instruction come late August. In a recent survey of school districts conducted by the Arkansas Department of Education, 21% of districts reported they did not have enough PPE to safely complete one semester of in-person learning. Another 42% said they were not sure if they had adequate PPE. That survey also showed that, when in-person instruction did begin, a majority of school districts planned to screen students and staff for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival. The state's guidance for reopening schools can be found in full here.


In mid-June, the California Department of Education released a hefty 62-page report detailing guidelines for schools’ reopening that included recommendations for implementing social distancing, face masks, rotating schedules, suspended cafeteria self-service buffets and shared eating tables, and increased cleaning.

However, when COVID-19 cases began to surge across the state in mid-July, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that public health data would determine when a school could return to in-person learning. Under the new rules, schools can only reopen to in-person learning once their county had been off the state's Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days. According to The New York Times, more than 80% of California's population resides in counties that do not meet the state's new school reopening rules.

Prior to Newsom's new rules, two of the state's largest school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — had already announced plans to begin the school year with a virtual-only learning model. The Orange County Board of Education, however, has decided to file a lawsuit against the governor in an effort to overturn rules preventing public schools from reopening to in-person instruction, NBC Los Angeles has reported.


Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said on July 30 that he believed it was "reasonably safe" to reopen schools across the state in August, The Denver Post reported. Still, decisions on how schools reopen have been left to individual districts. According to The Denver Post, Denver Public Schools, which serves as Colorado's largest school district, has opted to extend plans for providing the majority of its students with virtual-only learning until Oct. 16.

Guidance released by the state's Department of Public Health and Environment has mandated that schools must report two or more suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases from different households to their local public health agency within four hours, 9 News has reported. The guidance also notes that a classroom or cohort group should be shut down and quarantined for 14 days when a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case is discovered. An entire school should close only when five or more classrooms or cohorts report COVID-19 outbreaks within the same 14-day period or when 5% or more of unrelated students, teachers, and staff have contracted COVID-19 in a 14-day period.


While Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has said he favors a return to in-person learning, he's left decisions on how schools reopen to school districts. According to The CT Mirror, Lamont told reporters July 30 that although he can't force schools to reopen for full-time, in-person instruction, superintendents who opt for other learning models will be given "a really forceful discussion."

Lamont released framework for returning all students to full-time, in-person learning come fall "as long as public health data continues to support this model" in late June, but noted school reopenings would be contingent on successful containment of COVID-19. The framework requires school districts designate a COVID-19 Health and Safety Compliance Liaison, maximize social distancing between student work stations, and provide virtual learning opportunities for families who prefer to keep their children at home.


Delaware Gov. John Carney is not expected to announce whether schools will reopen for in-person instruction until August. According to Carney's office, school districts and charter schools will implement health and safety guidelines based on the health conditions of their communities.

Reopening guidance developed by the state's three COVID-19 School Reopening Working Groups laid out three potential scenarios for schools: a reopening of school buildings if there is minimal community spread of COVID-19; a "situation dependent" scenario for minimal to moderate community spread; and virtual-only learning if there is significant community spread.


State officials in Florida have said they want schools to fully reopen in the fall and Gov. Ron DeSantis released a plan in mid-June for reopening schools at full capacity. In July, ABC News reported he signed an executive order mandating schools reopen for traditional in-person learning despite a surge in coronavirus cases making Florida the state with the second highest number of COVID-19 cases. According to the news outlet, a number of educators have sued DeSantis and Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran in an effort to stop state officials from forcing schools to reopen for in-person instruction.

Most recently, a video from Manatee County School District geared at educating students and parents on what upcoming school days will look like given new precautions has gone viral after some parents claimed it looked "apocalyptic," as BuzzFeed News reported.


Paul Biris/Moment/Getty Images

In Georgia, school districts have been allowed to make the final call for how and when students return to the classroom. The state released a 10-page document on recommendations in early June that includes a decision tree featuring a best case scenario centered around a return to traditional in-person learning through to a worst case centered around virtual learning.

Some schools in Georgia have already reopened. Jefferson City Schools welcomed students back into the classroom on July 31 with a few new rules, according to CNN. Students are expected to take their own temperature at home and stay home if they feel ill. Face masks are encouraged but not mandatory, meal times will be staggered, and social distancing will be done "when feasible," the news outlet reported.

Georgia's guidance for reopening schools can be found in full here.


Although Hawaii had tentatively been looking at reopening schools on Aug. 4, the Hawaii Board of Education voted to delay students' return until Aug. 17, the Honolulu Civil Beat reported. The delay follows demands from the Hawaii State Teachers Association and other unions that teachers and staff be given more online training and stricter health and safety guidelines.

Guidance released earlier this summer by Hawaii's Education Department called for prioritizing in-person instruction for pre-K and kindergarten through second grade students. The guidance also calls for face masks and heightened sanitation procedures on school campuses.


In early July, Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he expects all of the state’s school buildings to reopen to students in the fall as you “can never replace the value and impact of the warm hand of a professional, dedicated teacher," the Idaho Statesman reported. Despite the governor's push for in-person instruction, at least one school district plans to begin the year with a virtual-only learning model. According to the Idaho Statesman, all students at Nampa Schools will spend the first two weeks of the year remote learning.

Guidance for reopening schools issued by Idaho’s Department of Education fell into three categories: Category 1 included recommendations for schools in areas with no or limited community transmission of COVID-19; Category 2 included recommendations for schools in areas with minimal to moderate transmission; and Category 3 pertained to schools in areas with large-scale community transmission and recommended short or long-term closures. While guidance from the state recommends the use of face coverings by students and staff, it does not require them.


In late June, Illinois issued guidance intended to "serve as baseline public health requirements and expectations for the return of in-person learning this fall in K-12 schools and higher education, including all public school districts, non-public schools, colleges and universities." According to Fox 2 Now, more than 30 school districts plan to offer full-time in-person instruction to students who want it. The majority of districts will also offer remote learning.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has said he wants schools to reopen as part of Phase 4 of Illinois’ phased reopening plan, ABC 7 reported. That phase specifically calls for face coverings, social distancing, heightened cleaning, temperature checks and symptom screenings, and prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 individuals.

In early August, Chicago Public Schools announced it would begin the school year with a fully remote learning model upon the advice of public health experts. The school district will then re-assess the area's COVID-19 cases ahead of the second quarter to determine if it is safe to transition to a hybrid model.


An increase in coronavirus cases caused Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to delay the state’s phased reopening through July, and some school districts have sought to delay the start of the upcoming school year. According to Fox59, Warren Township Schools voted July 15 to push back the start of their school year from July 29 to Aug 6. For now, the district is planning on offering a mix of in-person and online learning but has said it will continue monitoring COVID-19 cases in the area and adapt its plans as needed. MSD Wayne Township Schools have also delayed the start of their school year, according to Fox59.

Another district, MSD Washington Township School, has opted to begin the fall semester with virtual-only classes on July 30, according to a message on the district’s website. According to the Indy Star, the Indiana State Teachers Association has met with Gov. Holcom to ask him to implement a statewide mask requirement for students in grade 6 and above.


Gov. Kim Reynolds has said she views returning students to in-person learning as "one of the most important milestones" in Iowa’s COVID recovery, the Des Moines Register reported. According to the publication, she has required Iowa schools hold at least half of their instruction in person. Under Reynolds' rules, schools may only move to a fully online learning model if their absenteeism rate is at least 10% and the county they're located in has a positive coronavirus test rate of at least 15%.

In late June, the Associated Press reported that Iowa’s guidelines for reopening schools did not include health screenings, mask requirements, or social distancing for teachers or students. A spokesperson for Iowa State Education Association told the Associated Press the state’s guidelines were not in compliance with guidance issued by the CDC and instead appeared to be a result of the state’s department of education "gambling on the health and and safety of our students, our staff and school employees."

Teachers in the state have been writing their own obituaries and sending them to the governor in protest of her refusal to make face coverings mandatory in schools, as The Hill reported.


As coronavirus cases in Kansas spiked, Gov. Laura Kelly announced July 15 that she planned to order Kansas schools to remain closed through Labor Day, The Wichita Eagle reported. According to the paper, the governor also signaled that she planned to order school districts across the state to adopt safety recommendations, including mask requirements, temperature checks, proper hand washing, and social distancing upon reopening.

For now, KCUR has reported that many schools are preparing for multiple different scenarios, including hybrid learning models and situations where younger children receive in-person instruction while older children learn remotely.


Guidance for schools released by the state in late June included mask requirements, mandatory temperature checks, heightened sanitation, and social distancing recommendations that could result in smaller class sizes. According to the state’s education commissioner, districts are expected to provide PPE but students can also opt to bring in their own PPE if preferred.

But at least one school district in the state has no plans to reopen to in-person instruction just yet. On July 15, a majority of the members on the Louisville School Board told The Courier Journal they would vote to begin the upcoming school year with virtual-only classes as they were the only way to keep students and staff safe after a surge in the state’s coronavirus cases forced educators to re-examine plans for fall. Elsewhere in Kentucky, Campbell County school district pushed the start of their school year back two weeks to Aug. 24, WLWT5 reported.


Minimum safety standards adopted July 14 by the Louisiana Board of Education and Secondary Education require schools to limit on-campus visitors, enforce mandatory face coverings, and provide employees with access to cleaning and disinfecting supplies. The state's guidance also requires schools keep students in the same static group throughout the year, make hand washing every two hours mandatory, and establish isolation areas for anyone who begins exhibiting symptoms while on campus.

But while the state can require schools follow additional safety standards, decisions about when and how schools reopen are left to local school district officials, according to The Advocate. According to the news outlet, many districts have opted to offer in-person instruction for younger children and remote learning for high school students while the state remains in Phase 2 of its economic reopening. As the state continues to reopen, schools are expected to follow suit.


While Maine schools are not required to reopen for full-time, in-person instruction, Gov. Janet Mills gave all of the state's 16 counties the green light to welcome students back at schools. It's unclear, however, how many schools will begin the school year with a full-time, in-person learning model. According to the Portland Press Herald, many school districts have prepared multiple reopening plans after surveying parents to determine concerns and thoughts on reopening.

For those that do opt to reopen, the state has made face masks mandatory for anyone over the age of 2. Maintaining a distance of at least three feet between kids and six feet between adults and screenings for COVID-19 symptoms are also mandatory. Guidance from the state also recommends schools reduce capacity on school buses and modify meal times to avoid students congregating in large numbers.


RainStar/E+/Getty Images

Public school districts in Maryland have until Aug. 14 to submit their reopening plans to the state board for review. While state officials have said they want to see students return to in-person instruction as soon as possible, they're giving school districts the flexibility of choosing what their reopening plans look like and have promised to support schools that choose virtual or hybrid models.

Some districts, like Harford have already said students would begin the year with virtual-only classes with school provided laptops or Chromebooks some students given internet access and supervision at a Learning Support Center and may transition to in-person learning later in the year. In Montgomery County, health officials ordered all non-public schools to refrain from opening for in-person instruction until Oct. 1, WTOP News reported.


In July, Massachusetts' Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey Riley reportedly asked school district officials not to share announcements of reopening plans with families until early August, the Telegram reported. Guidance released by the state in late June asked districts to prepare reopening plans that addressed three different learning models: a full return to in-person learning, a hybrid model, and a fully remote model. The deadline for districts to submit their reopening plans to the state was July 31.

Separately, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers of Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union have proposed schools adopt a phased reopening plan with four stages. Phase 1 is a preparation period that includes learning health and safety protocols. Phase 2 centers around meetings with students and their parents to prepare them for new protocols, conduct wellness checks, and assess technology needs. Phase 3 brings about the return to learning via either in person, remote, or hybrid models. Phase 4, beginning approximately six to eight weeks after the start of the school year, districts will assess schools' progress as well as public health data to determine next steps.


As coronavirus case numbers rose in Michigan throughout the month of July, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the state may have to backtrack to Phase 3, forcing some newly reopened businesses to close again. In a July 15 press conference, Whitmer said a return to Phase 3 would also mean no schools could offer in-person instruction when the state's school year begins in early September, Click on Detroit reported. The governor urged the public to wear masks when out to help slow the spread of the virus and ensure schools can reopen.

School districts in Michigan are not required to have finalized their reopening plans until August, according to Click on Detroit. However, as of late July, many were leaning toward offering both full-time in-person instruction as a majority of parents signaled that is what they desired, Bridge Michigan reported. School districts will also provide virtual-only classes for families that wish to keep their children at home. However, Michigan schools running in-person summer school programs told Click on Detroit that while students had largely been amenable to the new health and safety protocols, some parents had proved problematic by bucking mask requirements and other mandates.


Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz released a school reopening plan in July that prioritizes in-person instruction but leaves final decisions regarding whether schools begin the year with virtual-only classes, a return to classrooms, or a hybrid model up to individual districts. He has directed districts to "turn the dial" forward or backward as circumstances allow throughout the year, meaning adding more or less in-person instruction.

The state's plan also directs schools to provide students, teachers, and school staff with face masks and disinfecting supplies and reconfigure classroom and hallway layouts to maximize social distancing. While Walz's plan gives schools flexibility on how they reopen, educators and school staff remain concerned about the logistics of returning students to school campuses. In an interview for MPR News, a Minnesota high school nurse said she'd been unable to secure adequate hand sanitizer and questioned how schools would operate if staff members got sick or needed to quarantine for 14 days.


While Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves was still reviewing school districts' reopening plans as of Aug. 1, a high school student at Corinth School District tested positive for COVID-19 during their first week of classes. In a Facebook post, the district said contact tracing had been carried out and anyone known to have been within six feet of the student for more than 15 minutes had been notified and asked to quarantine.

Although Reeves has told Fox 13 he wants to see as many kids returned to in-person instruction as possible, a number of educators have expressed concerns about reopening schools. In mid-July, teachers belonging to a Facebook group known as Mississippi Teachers Unite rallied outside the state capitol building to ask lawmakers not to reopen schools while coronavirus cases climbed, Mississippi Today reported. As part of their demands, the teachers asked for a delay of the school year until at least Sept. 1 and full funding for schools so teachers are not forced to buy their own PPE.


Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has made it clear he wants kids to be back in the classroom come fall. In a July 17 interview with KFTK, Parson acknowledged that children would get COVID-19 once schools in the state reopened, but stressed they’d "get over it" at home. Parson went on to claim kids had "the lowest risk possible."

"And if they do get COVID-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals," Parson told the news outlet. "They’re not going to have to sit in doctor's offices. They’re going to go home and they’re going to get over it."

The Missouri National Education Association later characterized Parson's statement to be evident of the governor's “callous disregard for the suffering of children and the safety of the parents, grandparents, educators, and students that will be put at risk if schools are reopened with improper plans and protections.”

In early August, the Associated Press reported multiple schools in the St. Louis area planned to begin the school year with a virtual-only learning model. Meanwhile, Springfield Public Schools, Missouri's largest school district, planned to have students return for a hybrid model of virtual classes and two days of in-person instruction a week.


In Montana's reopening guidance for schools, Gov. Steve Bullock said the state had made the "safe reopening of our public schools a top priority." But despite his desire to see kids back in school, no statewide mandate require schools to reopen has been issued.

That means how schools reopen is likely to look different with larger schools in more populated areas opting for a mix of in-person and remote learning while smaller schools in less populated areas look at physical distancing in the classroom, as KTVH reported.


While speaking at a July press conference, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said it was "critical" to get students back in classrooms, WOWT reported. In a letter dated July 21, however, the Nebraska State Education Association cautioned the governor not to reopen schools too early, warning “the lives of students and all school staff are at risk.”

While there does not appear to be a statewide mandate on schools reopening, Nebraska has released some reopening guidance that asks schools to identify the level of community spread and implement the relevant safety protocols. Schools in areas with minimal spread are encouraged to open for in-person instruction without changes to classroom seating. Schools in areas with significant spread are encouraged to remain in a virtual-only learning model.


Nevada's Department of Education has asked schools to choose one of three reopening options: virtual-only learning; full-time in-classroom learning; or blended schedules that feature some in-person days and some virtual days.

Some school districts in the state, such as Clark County, have already opted to begin the school year with virtual-only learning, according to KTNV. The Clark County School Board Trustees will, however, allow schools in rural areas like those on the Moapa Indian reservation (which may struggle to adopt virtual learning due to a lack of resources) to return to in-person instruction if they're able to meet certain coronavirus safety measures.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire has said it would allow local governments and school districts to make their own decision about reopening schools as a “one-sized-fits-all” approach was unrealistic. The state has, however, released a 54-page report full of guidance and suggestions for schools, that includes things like avoiding group activities and requiring students to sit in assigned seats to make contact tracing easier.

New Jersey


In June, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that "absent a change in public health data, public schools will open for in-person instruction and operations in some capacity at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year." To help schools prepare for reopening, the state released guidance that included recommendations on maintaining six feet of social distancing in the classroom, encouraging kids to wash their hands frequently, and requiring school staff and visitors to wear face coverings.

On July 20, however, Murphy clarified that parents would still be able to choose an all-remote learning model for their children, as reported. The governor said the state’s education department would release guidance to help parents navigate remote learning options.

New Mexico

In June, New Mexico released guidance for schools that included a requirement for schools to begin the year with a hybrid learning model that saw in-person attendance limited to 50% of normal classroom capacity, according to U.S. News & World Report. The guidance noted the state’s goal was to have all school transition to a full-time in-person schedule as soon as it was safe to do so. The guidance also made COVID-19 testing and daily temperature checks mandatory for school staff. Large gatherings like assemblies and rallies are not advised and face masks are compulsory. Additional details about that guidance can be found here.

In July, La Cruces Sun News reported that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had asked officials to look into whether it might be possible for high schools to move learning entirely online, freeing up their campuses for use by elementary and middle school students, who would attend in-person and physically distanced classes.

New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said New York would not decide whether schools would reopen for in-person learning until the first week of August. Guidance released by the state in mid-July said schools were required to put together a comprehensive plan for scheduling in-person instruction, remote instruction, or a hybrid model. On July 22, the New York Post reported the United Federation of Teachers said they were prepared to fight back if state officials ordered schools to reopen before things appeared safe.

While it's not immediately clear what school districts throughout the state will do, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has already announced the city’s public school system will opt for a partial reopening in September, with in-person instruction limited to one to three days a week, according to The New York Times.

North Carolina

Public schools in North Carolina are expected to reopen for both in-person and remote learning this fall, according to Gov. Roy Cooper. In a July 14 press release, Cooper said schools would be required to adopt "key safety precautions" to ensure students, teachers, staff, and their families were protected against COVID-19.

The plan requires schools to allow in-person attendance and abide by certain protocols such as reducing classroom capacity and enforcing social distancing, face masks, enhanced cleaning, and more. For children whose parents oppose in-person learning, school districts can offer remote options. The governor’s office has also said school districts will be given the option of adopting what they call Plan C, which centers around an all-remote learning model.

North Dakota

North Dakota officials have released a color-coded guidance system for reopening schools, which offers different guidance for different risk levels. Schools deemed to have a red “critical” risk or orange “high” risk level are advised to remain closed for in-person instruction. Schools in a yellow “moderate” risk level must gain approval from their district school board and local public health officials before reopening to in-person instruction.


While Gov. Mike DeWine said July 2 that students should return to their classrooms this fall, he’s left final decisions on learning models up to local school districts. As a result, Fox 8 reported that the upcoming school year will differ for students across the state.

For instance, according to the news outlet, schools in the Ashtabula Area City School District will reopen for full-time in-person instruction while Constellation Schools will give parents a choice between fully remote learning and a hybrid model. A number of other districts are offering in-person, remote, and hybrid models.


In Oklahoma, decisions regarding when and how to reopen schools have been left up to individual school districts. Two of the state's largest districts have announced plans to bring students back into the classroom.

Tulsa Public Schools has announced plans to return students to in-person learning with Wednesdays designated as all-district distance learning days, KJRH reported. Oklahoma City Public Schools will also return to a traditional in-person learning model, KOCO has reported. Both districts have said, however, that they will also offer remote learning to families who do not feel comfortable sending their child back into the classroom just yet.


Oregon lawmakers have left decisions about reopening schools up to individual districts. Guidance released by Oregon’s Education Department, explicitly states that "every school, under the direction of the district, determines whether they teach all students on-site, teach all students through comprehensive distance learning or utilize a hybrid model."

Schools are, however, required to present communicable disease management plans prior to reopening. Guidance from the state recommends face masks and cohort size limits among other things like encouraging frequent hand washing and social distancing.


While Pennsylvania officials are tentatively planning to reopen schools in the fall, Gov. Tom Wolf said in mid-July that he would be willing to “pull the plug” on those plans if coronavirus cases continued to rise, Penn Live reported. The state’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro has also vowed to take action against the Trump administration if the president attempts to withhold federal funding from schools in Pennsylvania that opt not to reopen to in-person learning.

Most of the state’s major school districts have yet to release finalized plans for fall. What is known is that the state’s guidance for schools makes masks mandatory for students unless proper social distancing can be observed. Additionally, Pennsylvania's secretary of education has recommended teachers wear clear face shields so students can see their faces and facial expressions.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Department of Education has told school districts across the state to draft up plans for three separate scenarios, including a return to full-time in-person instruction, a partial return to the classroom, and full-time remote learning, the Providence Journal has reported. While the state has asked school districts to prepare for all three scenarios, they've not yet announced which scenario they’ll pursue. However, according to the Providence Journal, both Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green have reportedly said they favor a return to full-time in-person learning when school starts on Aug. 31.

But while state officials prefer a return to in-person instruction, a number of Rhode Island educators and parents have expressed concerns about reopening schools before it is fully safe to do so. A group calling itself Rhode Island Parents and Educators for Safe Schools held an in-car rally on July 27 to protest the state's push for in-person instruction, WJAR reported.

Health and safety guidance for reopening from the state includes directions for schools to step up cleaning of school buildings and keep students in small cohort groups throughout the day whenever possible. Schools are also required to make sure students wear face masks when they enter and exit a building, ride the school bus, or gather in areas they cannot socially distance. Teachers and students have also been directed to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms every day.

South Carolina

nycshooter/E+/Getty Images

Schools in South Carolina must provide in-person and remote learning options for students in their reopening plans if those plans are to be approved by the state’s Department of Education, according to a July 17 memo from the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE). While in-person learning models are not required to be full-time, school districts are encouraged to offer full-time, in-person instruction five days a week if such a model can be done safely. According to SCDE, virtual learning models must also include at least one initial in-person interaction between students and teachers although intermittent face-to-face contact is “strongly” encouraged.

Although guidelines released by SCDE earlier this summer said schools could consider an all-virtual learning model if they were located in an area where COVID-19 transmission rates were high, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMasters has since pushed for all school reopening plans to include in-person instruction, according to Greenville News.

South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman has mandated that all students, staff, drivers and teachers wear face masks when riding school buses, ABC News reported. Guidance from the state also encouraged schools to ensure they have a full-time, permanent nurse on staff and furnish classrooms with the equipment necessary to livestream lessons to remote learners.

South Dakota

According to Gov. Kristi Noem, students in South Dakota will return to in-person instruction this fall. According to The Hill, Noem told Fox & Friends on July 29 that students would “definitely” be back in classrooms when the school year begins. "For us, our kids are going back to school on time," Noem said, according to The Hill. "They will definitely be in the classroom." Noem went on to tell the news outlet that roughly 30% of South Dakota students did not participate in remote learning when schools shut down in March, a statistic that had heavily factored in to her push to return students to the classroom.

Noem's push to reopen schools does not include any rules that would make the wearing of face mask mandatory by teachers or students. According to TODAY, she's argued that masks were impractical for children and could increase infection spread by inadvertently leading children to touch their faces more often.


While state leaders in Tennessee have not issued a mandate on how or when schools should reopen, Gov. Bill Lee said July 28 that he believed in-person learning to be the best option for students and expected districts would return students to the classroom, The Tennessean reported. According to the paper, Lee argued that extended time away from the classroom was "harmful" and delays in returning students to in-person learning should only be reserved for the "most extreme situations."

In guidelines for reopening, Lee recommended anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 quarantine for 10 days while anyone known to have been within six feet of a COVID-19 positive person for more than 10 minutes was recommended to quarantine for 14 days, News Channel 5 reported. Tennessee will provide PPE to teachers and students at no cost along with a year's worth disinfecting supplies, hand sanitizer, and gloves.


Although Gov. Greg Abbott announced in June that all public schools would reopen for in-person instruction come fall, a recent rise in COVID-19 case numbers led him to give school districts more flexibility in reopening.

According to The Texas Tribune, Abbott has said the state will allow school districts to continue virtual-only learning beyond the first three weeks of the upcoming school year if needed. Initially, guidance from the state said schools would risk losing state funding if they remained in a virtual-only learning model beyond the first three weeks of school, The Texas Tribune reported.


In July, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert mandated all K-12 schools in the state would need to require all students, teachers, staff, and visitors to wear face masks, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Reopening guidance for schools also directs them to make things like hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and soap and water readily available to all staff, students, and visitors.

While school districts across the state are required to submit their reopening plans by Aug. 1, the Utah Education Association has pushed back on Herbert's efforts to reopen schools. In a statement issued July 28th the union called for delaying students' return to the classroom in favor of temporarily resuming remote learning when school begins in the fall. At least one teacher was reportedly told that she must return to teaching in person and online or take a year off without pay, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.


Gov. Phil Scott initially announced schools in Vermont would reopen for in-person instruction in June. However, in July, he ordered schools to delay the start of the school year by at least two weeks in an effort to give school districts more time to prepare for reopening. Under the governor's new order, schools in Vermont are not expected to begin until after Labor Day.

Guidance from the state has noted that both students and school staff must submit to daily temperature checks and health questionnaires as part of health and safety procedures. School districts have also been told to prepare remote learning plans in case schools have to close later in the year.


Decisions on exactly how to reopen have been left up to school districts in Virginia. However, the Virginia Department of Education has released recommendations for reopening in an effort to help schools navigate what is likely to be an unprecedented school year.

Those guidelines include recommendations for students and teachers to maintain a minimum of three feet physical distance and wear face coverings whenever maintaining that minimum physical distance is not possible, according to WAVY. The phased guidance for Virginia schools recommends school districts gradually phase in in-person instruction as it becomes safe to do so.


In June, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation noting the reopening of schools would follow the state's Safe Start phased reopening approach, essentially giving counties the authority to authorize school reopenings.

More recently, Washington Education Superintendent Chris Reykdal told KIRO 7 that nearly every school district in the state would offer some form of both remote learning and blended hybrid learning in an effort to accommodate the needs of all families.

West Virginia

With COVID-19 cases in the state rising, Gov. Jim Justice announced in early July that he would move the state's date for reopening schools to in-person instruction to Sep. 8. County leaders across the state are, however, being granted quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to making their own decisions for how and what reopening schools looks like, Metro News reported.

Guidance issued by the state for reopening schools has included a mandate requiring anyone over the age of 9 to wear a face mask while in school. It also encourages schools to discourage the sharing of supplies like pens or pencils.


Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers told reporters July 7 that he believed a return to in person instruction was "preferable," WEAU reported. Despite his personal preference, Evers has left decisions on how to reopen schools to individual school districts.

Recommendations for reopening schools released by the state included guidelines for how schools opting to return to in-person instruction might go about scheduling students' time on campus and arranging classrooms in a way that allowed for better social distancing. The state has also put together recommendations for how schools might conduct safety drills while still observing COVID precautions. These include modifying evacuation routes to maintain social distancing.


SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

There is no statewide mandate directing how Wyoming schools must reopen in the fall. Instead, decisions about reopening have been left to individual districts, although the Wyoming Department of Education has directed schools to prepare for three scenarios: a return to full-time in-person instruction; a full physical closure of all schools with a reliance on virtual instruction; and a hybrid of the two.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.