Considering The Return to School Roadmap

Educators Share Perspectives

School closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have left educators with the daunting task of planning for the safe and equitable return to school, despite uncertain risks. To promote further conversation around this topic, SchoolWorks hosted a free webinar on May 13, 2020, featuring guest speakers Juliette “Cricket” Hines, Advisor at Opportunity Labs and Dr. J. Scott Cascone, Superintendent of West Orange School District, New Jersey. The event was attended live by 288 school and district staff nationwide, and viewed hundreds of additional times after the live session aired. SchoolWorks is pleased to share these key takeaways with the community at large.

What is the Roadmap?

In March 2020, when the repercussions of the pandemic began to unfold, civic organization Opportunity Labs brought together a group of public health and education experts to create The Return to School Roadmap – a free, comprehensive planning resource for school and district leaders to support the safe, efficient, and equitable return to school. Juliette “Cricket” Heinze of Opportunity Labs, explained,

“What has been so valuable about The Roadmap so far is its comprehensiveness. It really looks at education, leadership, and operations from a systems perspective, while also providing tactical guidance.”

The Roadmap conceptualizes the planning process into seven big buckets: Governance, Wellness, Instruction, Postsecondary, Facilities, School Operations, and Technology. Within each of those buckets, it identifies essential actions that districts, and school leaders should consider and 1) Do First, 2) Do Before School Opens, or 3) Address When School Is Open and Operating.

To use this resource, planning teams are advised to start with a few buckets and assign working groups to dive in, identify key issues, and come up with recommendations.

A District Perpective

Dr. J. Scott Cascone, Superintendent of West Orange School District, New Jersey oversees a large school district of 11 schools and approximately 8,000 students. The district is diverse, racially, ethnically, linguistically and socio-economically. This district was significantly impacted by Covid-19, with over 1,375 cases and approximately 171 fatalities within the community at the date of this posting.

According to Dr. Cascone, communication was the number one challenge during Spring 2020 school closures, closely followed by access to technology. Even after providing students with Chromebooks and personal MiFi Hotspots, the district struggled to connect regularly with students, citing comfort level and literacy with computer usage as an obstacle among both parents and staff. When it comes to planning for the fall, Dr. Cascone expects to plan for two paths – one inclusive of a brick-and-mortar setting, and one fully focused on remote learning. He sees the Roadmap as a useful framework for the planning process. Dr. Cascone further noted how managing the unanticipated school closures heightened the changing perception of educational institutions.

“Public Education is much more than just a hub of academic services, but rather a multi-dimensional hub, through which and by which our students and parents receive mental health services, socialization, and nutritional services in addition to academics. This pandemic has shown us how we need to change moving forward. It has solidified the importance and the essential nature of this institution in our society.”


  • Click to accessThe Return to School Roadmap.
  • A full recording of this session may be accessed here.
  • Answers to questions that were posted live during the event may be accessed here.

Stay healthy, and let’s keep talking!

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