By WhereToTeach - October 5, 2020
As teachers, we are all experiencing different challenges as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has cast a dark cloud of uncertainty over our profession. Have you wondered how schools outside of your district are navigating through these uncertain times? We have put together a list of the top 10 largest school districts in the United States (by enrollment) and how they have reopened for the new school year.
- By mid-October, the majority of the top 10 largest school districts in the United States will be reopening for in-person learning, meaning many teachers will be returning to the classroom this month.
- Several of these school districts are in Florida and thus required by the state to provide students an in-person learning option.
- In most cases, parents/guardians will be given the option to send their children to school or continue virtual learning. As such, the majority of the schools will be implementing either a hybrid or simultaneous learning model.
- Los Angeles, Chicago, and Clark County in Nevada will continue with a strictly virtual learning model for the time being.
- Several counties in Florida have offered students an additional option for virtual learning that serves as a distinct, county-run virtual school. These virtual schools are self-paced online programs and are not affiliated with any specific schools within their respective districts.
- All plans are subject to change as the COVID-19 situation evolves and develops.
For the sake of simplicity, especially because several districts have come up with their own unique names for what is essentially the same approach, we have divided the reopening strategies into four categories:
- Virtual Learning: Teachers are instructing students through an online platform. This eliminates the need for students and teachers to share a classroom. In some instances teachers will be engaging students in real-time and in others the students will be learning from pre-recorded videos and assignments. You may also see this referred to as eLearning, digital learning, remote learning, distance learning, or online learning.
- In-Person Learning: This is the traditional model where students are attending school to be instructed by teachers just as they normally would before the pandemic.
- Hybrid Learning: This is a combination of virtual and in-person learning, designed to limit the amount of classroom interaction between students and teachers. For example, students will have virtual learning on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and attend school for in-person learning on Tuesday and Thursday. You may also see this referred to as blended learning or flex learning.
- Simultaneous Learning: This model is also a combination of virtual learning and in-person learning, but instead of each occurring on separate days, it all takes place at the same time. This may be the case when parents/guardians are given an option to send their children to school or to keep their children home for virtual learning. So, during normal classroom hours, students will be receiving instructions from their teacher in real-time from both inside the classroom and from their computers. This may also be referred to as a variant of hybrid learning, but we decided to make them two distinct categories for this post, as we believe they require something considerably different from teachers with regard to planning and implementation.
Okay, now that we got the category definitions out of the way, below you can find our list of the top 10 largest school districts in the United States (in descending order) and how COVID-19 has transformed the ways they carry out their mission.
10. Palm Beach County, FL
- As of mid-October, Palm Beach County Public Schools is moving forward with a simultaneous learning approach.
- The district is also providing an option for Palm Beach Virtual, a county-run virtual school for K-12 students that is self-paced and not affiliated with any specific schools within the district.
- For more information, please refer to Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 Guiding Document for 2020-2021 School Year.
9. Orange County, FL
- As of mid-October, Orange County Public Schools will be implementing a simultaneous learning model.
- The district also has its own county-run virtual school, Orange County Virtual.
- For more information, please see the Orange County Public Schools Reopening Plan.
8. Hillsborough County, FL
- As of mid-October, Hillsborough County Public Schools will be implementing either a hybrid or simultaneous learning model.
- We contacted Hillsborough County Public Schools for clarification but have not yet received a response.
- This district also has an option for a county-run virtual school, Hillsborough Virtual K-12.
- For more information, please see the Hillsborough County Reopening Plan.
7. Houston, TX
- The Houston Independent School District will be implementing a virtual learning model until at least October 19, when some students may return to in-person instruction.
- It is unclear at the time whether hybrid or simultaneous learning options will be available after October 19.
- For more information, see the 2020-2021 Houston Independent School District Reopening Plan
6. Broward County, FL
- As of mid-October, Broward County Public Schools will be reopening for in-person learning, although it is unclear if the district will continue with its virtual learning option and implement either a hybrid or simultaneous learning model.
- We contacted Broward County Public Schools for clarification but have not yet received a response.
- Broward County is also offering students its own county-run virtual school option, Broward Virtual School.
- For additional information, please see the 2020-2021 Broward County Back to School Guide.
5. Clark County, NV
- Clark County Public Schools is currently implementing a full-time virtual learning model.
- It is unclear when the county is planning on having teachers return to the classroom.
- For more information, see 2020-2021 Clark County School District Full-Time Distance Education Reopening Plan.
4. Miami-Dade County, FL
- As of mid-October, Miami-Dade County public schools will be implementing a simultaneous learning model.
- Miami-Dade County is also providing an option for its own virtual school, Miami-Dade Online Academy.
- For more information, see Miami-Dade County Public Schools Reopening Guide.
3. Chicago, IL
- Chicago Public Schools is currently using a full-time virtual learning model.
- As of right now, it is unclear when teachers and students will be returning to the classroom.
- For more information, see Chicago Public Schools 2020-2021 Online Reopening Guide.
2. Los Angeles Unified, CA
- As of mid-October, Los Angeles Unified is implementing a virtual learning model, though the district is planning on having some students return to the classroom by the end of the year.
- Teachers in the district were initially able to create their own work schedules for remote work, though using live platforms such as Zoom has been encouraged so students can have instructional time with teachers.
- For updates on the district's efforts to eventually transition to in-person learning, please see Los Angeles Unified School District COVID-19 Updates.
1. New York City, NY
- As of mid-October, New York City Public Schools will be moving forward with a hybrid learning model.
- While schedules and implementation may vary from school to school, most students will be attending school for in-person learning for one to two days per week and the rest of the school week will consist of virtual learning.
- For more information, please see 2020-2021 New York City Department of Education’s School Reopening Plan.
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By WhereToTeach - October 5, 2020