With many states leaving school reopening plans up to individual districts, these districts and their school boards have had to make the difficult decision of how best to start the school year in a way that is both safe and effective for students. And due to the unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic, several districts changed their original plans. Some pushed back start dates, some moved to fully virtual learning, and others temporarily closed school buildings after an outbreak.
Here’s how schools have been reopening — and sometimes reclosing — across the country.
Houston County School District, Alabama
- Number of students: Approximately 6,400
Houston County schools were set to open on Aug. 20, but due to rising coronavirus cases in the area, board members voted to delay the start date, WTVY-TV in Dothan, Alabama, reported. The new start date was Sept. 8.
Houston County is requiring all students to wear masks and is providing each student with three reusable masks for the school year.
J.O. Combs Unified School District, Arizona
- Number of students: 4,562 (as of 2018)
Arizona’s J.O. Combs Unified School District started the school year virtually on Aug. 3 with plans to begin in-person instruction on Aug. 17. However, the Friday before school was set to resume in-person, a high volume of staff members indicated they would not be returning that Monday because they did not feel safe.
“Due to these insufficient staffing levels, schools will not be able to re-open on Monday as planned,” Superintendent Dr. Gregory A. Wyman announced in an Aug. 14 letter. “This means that all classes, including virtual learning, will be canceled.”
Classes also were canceled Aug. 18 and 19, and virtual learning resumed on Aug. 20. On Sept. 8, schools in the district moved to a hybrid model that allowed families to decide if they wanted to send their children to school or continue with virtual learning.
Poway Unified School District, California
- Number of students: 36,534
San Diego County’s Poway Unified School District already had resumed in-person teaching in some schools — with plans to reopen others with a hybrid model — when California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in July that schools in counties on the state’s Monitoring List would not be able to physically open for in-person instruction until their county had come off the list for 14 consecutive days, Pomerado News reported. Most schools in the district planned to resume instruction on Aug. 19, but the start date was pushed to Sept. 2 with virtual instruction only.
On Sept. 1, San Diego County amended its public health order, allowing for in-person instruction. Poway Unified now is preparing for a phased reopening approach; an updated plan was to be hashed out at a board of education meeting on Sept. 10.
Santa Ana Unified School District, California
- Number of students: Approximately 47,000
In July, the Santa Ana Unified School District announced in a news release that it “will pivot entirely to distance learning to start the upcoming school year out of concern for the safety and well being of the entire school community.”
Virtual classes were to resume on Aug. 17; there is no set start date for in-person instruction to resume.
Cherry Creek School District No. 5, Colorado
- Number of students: More than 55,000
In late July, Colorado’s Cherry Creek School District No. 5 announced it would implement a hybrid learning model for middle and high school students — rather than full in-person instruction — when they returned to school this fall, Denver’s 9News reported.
Pre-K and elementary schools are now open for full-time in-person instruction, while grades 6 through 12 are being taught through “blended in-person learning.” That approach splits the student body into two parts, with half of the students attending at one time.
Denver Public Schools, Colorado
- Number of students: 93,356 (as of 2018)
In late June, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova announced that schools would resume for in-person instruction in the fall, Chalkbeat Colorado reported.
But a month later, Cordova announced a complete 180 — not only would classes begin remotely on Aug. 24, but they would remain entirely virtual through Oct. 16.
“We’ll be working hard to safely and gradually welcome all students back into schools, when health conditions allow,” she said in a July 29 letter to the school community.
Harrison School District No. 2, Colorado
- Number of students: 11,708
The Harrison School District No. 2 in Colorado left it up to the parents and teachers to decide if students would be taught in-person or via remote learning when the school year resumed in the fall. Classes began on Aug. 17, and on Aug. 21, at least one Colorado Springs school was forced to close for four days due to a positive COVID-19 case, KKTV 11 News in Colorado Springs reported.
Hillsborough County Public Schools, Florida
- Number of students: 214,386 (as of 2018)
On Aug. 6, the Hillsborough County school board voted to resume classes on Aug. 24 via remote learning, with in-person instruction beginning on Sept. 14, Fox 13 Tampa Bay reported. However, Richard Corcoran, the state education commissioner, ordered that schools reopen for in-person instruction in August or they would lose funding. In response, the school board held an emergency meeting on Aug. 28 and decided to reopen schools for in-person instruction on Aug. 31.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Florida
- Number of students: Approximately 345,000
On July 29, Miami-Dade County Public Schools announced that “in light of the viral surge in our community due to COVID-19,” the school year would begin on Aug. 31 with a distance learning model. By Sept. 30, the district will decide if schools can reopen for in-person learning on Oct. 5.
Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia
- Number of students: 52,039
In July, the Atlanta Public Schools district announced that the first nine weeks of school would be taught remotely. School was slated to start in early August, but the district later announced it would be pushing the start date two weeks back to Aug. 24, Fox News reported. The district also announced that when schools resume in-person instruction, students will be required to wear masks.
Cherokee County School District, Georgia
- Number of students: 42,645
As of Aug. 16, three Cherokee County high schools had temporarily closed due to coronavirus outbreaks, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
On Aug. 26, the district announced that the closed high schools would reopen on Sept. 3 with a hybrid model, with students switching off days for in-person and remote instruction. The hybrid model will be in place for these schools through at least Oct. 9.
All schools originally opened on Aug. 3; parents and students could decide between a traditional in-person program or a digital learning model.
Paulding County School District, Georgia
- Number of students: 30,579
A photo of maskless students crowding the hallway of Georgia’s North Paulding High School went viral on social media, stoking fears of what school reopenings around the country would look like. Shortly after the photo was posted, several cases of the coronavirus were reported among students and staff of the school, and the school building was temporarily closed, Newsweek reported. When school resumed, students attended class on an alternating schedule.
- Number of students: Approximately 180,000
The Hawaii Education Department originally had planned to reopen schools for in-person instruction on Aug. 4 but decided in late July to push the start date by two weeks to Aug. 17, Hawaii News Now reported. The decision came as coronavirus cases continued to surge in Oahu.
Chicago Public Schools, Illinois
- Number of students: 355,156 (as of 2019)
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools announced jointly on Aug. 5 that the 2020-21 CPS school year would begin remotely on Sept. 8 “based on trends in public health data and survey results from parents which indicate that a large percentage of parents are not yet comfortable sending their children to school,” CPS said in a news release. The district might shift to a hybrid model on Nov. 9 pending coronavirus rates in the area.
Avon Community School Corp., Indiana
- Number of students: Approximately 10,000
Schools in Indiana’s Avon Community School Corp. reopened for in-person instruction beginning July 29.
By Aug. 10, at least four people at Avon High School had tested positive for the coronavirus, Indianapolis’ WTHR reported.
Avon High School switched to distance learning only on Aug. 11 and transitioned to a hybrid learning model on Aug. 21, which will continue through Sept. 17. As of now, the district plans to reopen the high school for fully in-person instruction on Sept. 18. All other schools in the district have remained open for in-person instruction.
Elwood Community Schools Corp., Indiana
- Number of students: 1,476
Two days after classes resumed in-person for the school year on July 30, Elwood Junior Senior High School closed for a week after at least one staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, the Indianapolis Star reported. Two students also tested positive. After the week of remote learning, in-person classes resumed.
Burlington Community School District, Iowa
- Number of students: 4,086
The Burlington Community School District was scheduled to reopen schools on Aug. 24, but on Aug. 21, the district’s board of education voted to delay the start of the school year by one week due to a high coronavirus positivity rate in Des Moines County, the district announced on Facebook.
The district also decided to implement a four-day hybrid instructional model for the beginning of the school year.
Bloomington Public Schools, Minnesota
- Number of students: 10,960
In early August, Bloomington Public Schools said it would start the year in a hybrid format. Two weeks after that announcement was made, school board members voted on Aug. 17 to start the year with students at home, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.
Lauderdale County School District, Mississippi
- Number of students: More than 6,200
Schools in the Lauderdale County School District reopened on Aug. 10 with a hybrid model in place; the days students attended were split based on the first letter of their last names. Less than a week after schools opened, district officials closed the Southeast Elementary School after a coronavirus outbreak occurred, Mississippi Today reported. The school switched to distance learning through Sept. 2.
On Aug. 31, the Lauderdale County School District announced two new learning options — a traditional model and a fully distanced model. The new models will be in effect beginning Sept. 14.
New York City Public Schools, New York
- Number of students: 1,126,501
In an effort to avert a teachers strike, New York City delayed the opening of its public schools until Sept. 21, USA Today reported. It’s one of the only major school districts that’s planning on opening schools for in-person instruction this fall; all but 11 of the 50 largest districts are starting the year with fully remote instruction, Education Week magazine reported.
In New York City, the school year will begin with a blended learning model for those who wish to return to some classrooms; 100% remote learning also is available.
Wake County Public School System, North Carolina
- Number of students: 161,907 (as of 2019)
The Wake County Public School System initially approved an in-person plan for when school resumed in the fall, with a rotating schedule to help with social distancing. It also opened registration for Wake Virtual Academy, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. But on July 21, the school board voted to start the fall term with classes fully remote, with the potential to move to a hybrid model if public health conditions improved.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Ohio
- Number of students: 37,701
Just weeks before schools were set to reopen with a blended learning model, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon announced that learning would be fully remote for the first nine weeks of school, Spectrum News 1 in Columbus reported.
“Two-thirds of our parents said that they were not at all or only slightly comfortable sending their children to school, while only 14% said that they were quite or extremely comfortable doing so, and 62% of our educators weren’t comfortable,” Gordon said.
Based on these numbers, most learning would have been done virtually anyway, he concluded, according to the news channel.
Northmont City Schools, Ohio
- Number of students: 4,938
After two school employees tested positive for the coronavirus, the Northmont City Schools announced it would begin the school year with remote learning only, the Dayton Daily News reported. Remote instruction began on Sept. 1 and will continue until Oct. 21.
School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Number of students: More than 203,000
Initial plans for the reopening of Philadelphia public schools involved a hybrid model, but that plan was largely opposed, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
On July 31, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. announced the school year would begin with fully remote learning from Sept. 2 through Nov. 17, at which point schools would transition to a hybrid model if it is deemed safe. If schools transition to a hybrid model at that time, parents still would have the option to keep their students in a 100% digital learning program.
Hamilton County Schools, Tennessee
- Number of students: Over 44,500
Hamilton County Schools reopened on Aug. 12. By Aug. 17, 13 employees had tested positive for the coronavirus, The Wall Street Journal reported. As a result, four school buildings were temporarily closed.
As of Aug. 31, schools were open for in-person learning five days a week. According to the district’s website, “some schools may experience temporary building closures accompanied by remote learning if there is a confirmed COVID-19 case.”
Metro Nashville Public Schools, Tennessee
- Number of students: Approximately 86,000
Adrienne Battle, the Metro Nashville Public Schools director of schools, announced in July that the school year would begin on Aug. 4 with distance learning only, The Tennessean reported. At the time, Battle said classes would be remote through at least Labor Day.
On Aug. 25, the district announced that classes would remain virtual for most students until Oct. 12. District officials hope to phase students back into the classroom after the fall break.
Dallas County, Texas
- Number of students: 157,886
The 13 traditional public school districts in Dallas County had to change their reopening plans to comply with an order issued in July by Dallas County Health and Human Services, CBSN Dallas-Fort Worth reported. Based on the order, schools were not allowed to return to in-person instruction before Labor Day.
Some Dallas school districts opted to keep their planned start date but offer remote instruction only; others pushed their start date to after Labor Day.
Houston Independent School District, Texas
- Number of students: 209,772
The Houston Independent School District tentatively planned to open schools in August with a hybrid learning model, CNN reported. But new city guidelines based on an uptick in coronavirus cases led the district to start the school year with remote classes only from Sept. 8 through Oct. 19, when in-person instruction is slated to begin. Parents have the choice to opt their children out of in-person instruction for the entire fall semester.
Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia
- Number of students: Approximately 187,000
Fairfax County Public Schools originally planned to start the school year on Aug. 25, but at a July school board meeting, the board decided to delay the reopening by two weeks, pushing the start date to Sept. 8. The school year began with virtual learning only.
Roanoke City Public Schools, Virginia
- Number of students: 14,049
Roanoke City Public Schools aimed to begin the school year with students in classrooms four days a week, but in early August, the school’s reopening task force recommended a virtual start to the school year for most students, The Roanoke Times reported. The decision was based on information from student intent forms, infrastructure and other data.
“When we put those data points alongside the COVID-19 cases in the city of Roanoke, we realized that we really have to move very steadily, thoughtfully and responsibly,” Superintendent Verletta White told the newspaper.
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Please note photos are for illustrative purposes only. As a result, some of the photos might not reflect the exact school district.
Methodology: GOBankingRates scoured contemporary news coverage of school reopenings throughout the country to identify school districts that have canceled plans for in-person instruction at some or all of their schools due to COVID-19. Not all cancellations are for the entire school year; some districts have delayed the start of in-person instruction or temporarily switched to remote learning after re-opening campuses to allow for schools to be cleaned. But each district highlighted has had to alter its plans to return to “normal” in some way. Enrollment numbers also were included for each district, sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics’ 2016 estimates or individual district or state websites. All information was collected from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, 2020, and up to date as of then.