What Do DoDEA Schools Look Like This Year?
What Do DoDEA Schools Look Like This Year?
On the homepage of Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), it states that the upcoming 20-21 school year will look different across all of their schools, with the creation of “a new-normal environment due to COVID-19.” While in-person instruction is what has proven to work best for students, there are some changes that have to be made, such as:
- wearing of face coverings
- social distancing
- additional sanitization and precautionary measures
DoDEA wishes to have all schools fully open with students attending in person “if local health conditions allow for it,” but is providing a virtual option for those who have concerns about their child physically returning to school.
What Does Virtual Attendance Look Like?
Attending virtually comes with a handful of requirements, the most important being a full semester commitment to virtual status, with the potential that the student attends virtually for the entire school year. Additionally, all parents must provide virtual students with internet and computer access (or make arrangements through the school in cases of hardship or inaccessibility).
As of mid-August, roughly 42% of DoDEA’s enrollment (25,568 students) will be learning outside of the typical classroom setting when this school year starts. All of those virtual students are required to follow the DoDEA Virtual school calendar, with classes having started on August 24, and possibly different than the in-person calendar others are following in their region.
Some Parent Participation Required
This type of instruction does require some parent-participation, such as teacher conferences (as-needed) or occasional check-ups on student progress, depending on the age of the student. Some locations are offering the option for virtual students to still participate in extracurricular activities, but these spots will be available on a limited basis and will require the wearing of face coverings.
Food Assistance Programs Still Available
It should also be noted that food assistance programs are also still available for those learning in a virtual environment (in the form of takeout lunches).
1/3 of DoDEA Schools to Open With Remote-Learning Only Status
There are, however, a handful of DoDEA schools that are only re-opening on a remote/virtual status, meaning all students will be following these procedures whether by choice or not.
DoDEA director Tom Brady briefed the Pentagon on August 13, when he stated about one-third of DoDEA schools would remain inaccessible to students and would begin the 20-21 school year on a remote-learning only status. Due to the high number of cases in the U.S., only half of DoDEA schools are opening with COVID-19 measures in place; the other half are located on installations with a Health Protection Condition of Charlie or Delta.
Students in these locations will all attend remotely on a temporary basis, based on the status of local health conditions. Additionally, 19 of the 45 schools in the Pacific and two of the 64 schools in Europe will open remote-only and stay that way until local conditions improve.
>> For a full list of remote-only DoDEA schools, please go here.
In the case of schools that are opening for in-person learning, conditions have been put into place in the event that a student, teacher, or staff contracts the coronavirus. Brady said in his briefing, “The school will shut down for two to five days for custodians to clean. If the school must close for six or more days, the school will move to remote learning until it is safe to return.”
Even with Director Brady’s reassurances, there are still many who fear the re-opening of DoDEA schools so soon. The Federal Education Association (FEA) currently has an online plea out, calling for the remote-only opening of all DoDEA schools, as they are “not prepared to open schools safely” mainly due to staffing issues. The FEA raises issues of properly trained staff for cleaning/sanitation purposes, not enough staff leading to overcrowding of classrooms, buses that will still run at full, overcrowded capacity, and others. Many say that DoDEA is doing its best, but more time is needed to ensure the safety of all those involved in the schools.