How an unprecedented, indefinite crisis forced education leaders to change the ways school districts operate

Snowstorms. Hurricanes. Shootings. Educators and the students they serve have long been at the mercy of crises; most have some sort of plan for disasters.

But with coronavirus, a new national emergency forced districts to rewrite their playbooks. While it’s obvious how COVID-19 changed the structure of school, what’s less known is how districts had to overhaul their operations.

To continue working safely, they had to change, and fast: Lengthy in-person meetings went online, where districts had more control over interactions and public input. Transparency laws changed. Some districts, like Seattle Public Schools, enabled superintendents to spend large sums of money without bureaucracy through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. And many local districts did not let reporters observe their first days of classes, citing privacy concerns and technical issues.

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Schooling solutions amid COVID-19

This story was produced with support from the Education Writers Association

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Top NYC Education Department officials quit as city braces for unprecedented school year

As the city attempts to pull off a school year full of unprecedented challenges, top Department of Education officials are heading for the exits.

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Ursulina Ramirez is stepping down as the DOE’s chief operating officer next week. Earlier this summer, Cheryl Watson-Harris quit as first deputy chancellor. Tomas Hanna, who was chief human capital officer, also jumped ship.

While Mayor de Blasio named a replacement for Watson-Harris last month and there’s another official acting in Hanna’s role, it wasn’t immediately clear how Ramirez’s vacancy will be filled — and whether the departures will hamper efforts to keep kids safe as in-person classes start Sept. 21.

“All of the mayor’s glossy plans and all of his glossy announcements — they’re nothing without key staff to operationalize them,” said Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn), who chairs the Council’s Education Committee.

He said the loss of Ramirez — who helped oversee plans

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