Leading Reopening Advocate Questions CPS Plan

I just got off the phone with Dr. Emily Oster, a strong advocate for reopening schools. She maintains the country's most cited school reopening database. She is one of several leading experts I've spoken with. I conferred with her specifically because CPS cites her data frequently to justify their reopening plan. My original purpose in contacting her was to understand better how to support administrators as you plan to reopen. Then I got something I didn't expect.

"CPS needs health protocols and a concrete staffing plan."
I sent CPS's Reopening Guide for principals to Dr. Oster to get her feedback on how best to help school leaders to implement it. To my surprise, Dr. Oster--one of the country's foremost reopening advocates--wrote the following after looking at the plan:

Two big "needs" come to my mind based on the calls I have had with people who opened.
    1. A need for a concrete plan for what to do for health protocols and what to do when there are cases.

  1. A need for a realistic plan for staff absence issues.
The CPS plan doesn't have much on either. 

I asked her to send me some of the better reopening models she's seen from large districts like ours, and she forwarded a link to the Houston reopening plan. In her email, she wrote, "The Houston plan is 135 pages long. By contrast, CPS has 3 pages on health protocols.

She also sent me the link to the Rhode Island reopening plan and said, "What was good about the Rhode Island plan is that it includes what to do when there’s a case. What is the procedure when someone has COVID? What are the criteria for closing the schools or closing a classroom? Who’s going to get contacted?  The schools should know the answers to these and other questions, and they should not have to create their own plans for these things."

The Inequity of Bad Planning
Most of us do not oppose reopening. We simply want to do it with the resources, protocols, plans, and support necessary to do it safely and effectively. CPS often states that reopening is an equity issue. However, as epidemiologist Dr. Debra Furr-Holden told me when we spoke, "reopening can exacerbate inequities because Black and Brown communities will be most impacted by a premature and poorly planned reopening." I'm not sure how premature CPS's reopening efforts are, but they are most certainly poorly planned if they're being questioned by one of the country's most-cited reopening advocates.

Creating Venues for School Leaders to Collaborate on Reopening
Over the past week, I've been talking with principals about what is needed. Several proposed creating venues for school leaders to come together to (1) share resources and ideas to make reopening as effective as possible, and (2) share concerns and articulate the aspects of the reopening plan that are either irresponsible, poorly planned, unrealistic, or lacking in resources to make them work. CPAA has the technological capacity to create such venues, but we will need local facilitators across the district to make such conversations possible. If you're willing to help facilitate these kinds of conversations, please contact me today.