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Key Insights for the Back-to-School Season


As teachers head back to school — which might look like returning to in-person instruction, facilitating distance learning full time, or a hybrid of the two — they’ll be asked to take on challenges like never before. Teachers will be acting as public health officials, therapists, social workers, and more as they help students and families adjust to an uncertain learning environment. Because of these changes, teachers will need our support more than ever.

While many things about the upcoming school year are unknown, we’re beginning to see how the year might shape up and what students and teachers will need to be successful. 

Resources and safety are top concerns for teachers

For students and teachers returning to the classroom, health and safety is the biggest priority. The AASA and ASBO released this one pager outlining the cost of resuming in person instruction this fall. The organization estimates that each school district will need an average of $1.8 million to support the costs associated with social distancing. Some anticipated costs associated with in person instruction include face masks, PPE, sanitizer, seating, and classroom basics.

Top items purchased71% Books69% Classroom basics59% Activity kits & games58% Art suppliesAdditional categories purchased24% math supplies23% food items22% student hygiene items13% sensory items10% science equipment2% music equipment

Beginning in March, teachers began requesting resources to facilitate distance learning. By looking at what teachers requested most, we can anticipate what teachers will need over this next school year to keep students learning, wherever they are.

Schools are taking a variety of approaches to reopening, and many are still making decisions

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every community differently, and students will face a range of possible back-to-school situations. Early results from a survey DonorsChoose conducted in late July indicate the range of ways students will learn this fall.

How is your school planning to begin the new school year?42% blended36% fully remote8% fully in-person14% uncertainAs of 8/6/20

Los Angeles Unified, Sacramento Public Schools, San Diego Unified, along with schools in Nashville, Atlanta, Phoenix, and other California cities have announced that they would start the school year with online instruction. 

Some schools are opening, but offering parents remote learning as a choice. NYC DOE is offering full-time remote learning if families prefer, and will limit in-person instruction to one to three days a week. Tennessee’s largest school district, Shelby County, will have educators teaching in schools while lessons are being streamed for parents who choose distance learning.

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer released some of the most detailed guidelines for reopening to date. The state is divided into regions under the plan which assigns “each one a reopening phase from 1–6 with 6 being post-pandemic.”  

Teachers' feelings about the back-to-school season are running high

In a survey of our teacher Facebook community, we asked teachers to describe how they felt about the back-to-school season in one word. Here’s what they shared:

A word cloud. The largest words include: anxious, uncertain, concerned, scared, nervous, excited, apprehensive

Feelings about returning to school are varied. Most teachers prefer face-to-face interactions and are eager to get back into the classroom, but they worry about the uncertainty that awaits them there.

Some organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and American Academy of Pediatrics, are arguing for reopening wherever possible, arguing that the cost of lost learning outweighs the risk of coronavirus.

Alternately, there are growing concerns that in person schooling could put the health of 1 in 4 teachers who are considered at risk in jeopardy. Without a safe and comprehensive back to school plan,  some teachers are considering the possibility of a strike. The American Federation of Teachers is advising members on how they can use their rights under federal law to resist re-opening.

How we tackle the education challenges over the next year will affect how a generation of students learn. We’re passionate about supporting teachers across the country as they keep their students learning, no matter where they are.

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