School Administrators Face Hard Decisions Ahead of New School Year

“At the end of the day we’re trying to figure out how to get 1.5 million children, not just back to school, but also continuing their education,” says Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business on school re-openings.

Empty classroom

Photo Credit: Laura Herberg, WDET

In just over a month, children are set to head back to school. Districts and administrators are scrambling to put in place plans for the safe return to in-person instruction amid the pandemic.

“School districts need answers.” — Randy Liepa, Wayne RESA.

With COVID-19 still very much a public health crisis, parents, students and teachers are all having to make complex health and safety decisions around returning to school during a time of substantial uncertainty. 

Listen: What will the new school year look like? 


Randy Liepa, Superintendent of Wayne RESA, says school districts will need several plans set for in-person instruction as well as remote learning options.

“We’re going to have to be nimble, we’re going to have to have multiple plans in place and we’re going to have to be prepared to do just about anything as the landscape changes,” says Liepa. He says every individual school is different and depending on size and capabilities will need to make their own decisions regarding staff and student safety. “I think right now the struggle is can we make sure school is safe,” says Liepa. With no clarity on assistance from the federal government, schools will also likely have to start without a budget. “The other uncertainty that school districts are working on right now is the budget. Schools don’t have a budget right now. School districts need answers,” says Liepa.

Chad Livengood, senior editor at Crain’s Detroit Business, says the conversation around opening schools has instigated complex discussions on the safety of everyday building operations.

“It’s added a whole host of logistical issues just to open the doors. That’s why you see a lot of districts throwing up their hands saying, ‘let’s do virtual school,’ there’s enough anxiety in the community,” says Livengood. He says the manpower needed to keep up with the seemingly simple safety requirements of wiping down desks between class periods is itself a significant budgetary consideration.

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