The state of play for the K-12
In a typical year, almost two thirds the country’s 50 million schoolchildren returned to their classrooms in the third week of August. But this year is anything but typical, with many the largest districts in the country delay the start of the school year or choose to open remotely as coronavirus cases are multiplying in their communities.
One thing has become painfully clear: Individual districts have been largely left to their own devices to chart their own course, whether a back to class, distance learning or a mixture of the two.
On the map above, our colleagues at Times Opinion took a look at which US counties could safely open the K-12 schools by examining where the virus is, and is not, under control. According to their analysis, the areas in red should not reopen, those in orange and yellow can partially reopen, and those in green are ready to reopen with conditions, such as avoiding high-risk activities, wearing masks and respecting physical distancing. You can find the status of your region here.
However, some of these red districts have already reopened their doors to teachers and students. Schools in the South and Midwest are resuming their courses, with some epidemic reports of Covid-19 which forced them to temporarily go online or to quarantine large numbers of students and teachers.
But be careful not to draw ambitious conclusions: many school outbreaks have taken place in viral hotspots like Georgia, in districts where class sizes have not been significantly reduced, and wearing a mask is optional, which makes it difficult to compare with regions like the North-East, where the the infection rate is currently lower and stricter mask-wearing and social distancing requirements will be in place for reopening schools.
“The most important thing is that there is no national reopening strategy,” Eliza Shapiro, who covers education in New York City for The Times, told us. “We have an incredibly regional, fractured and dispersed approach to reopening that has no cohesion. Places like Florida and New York are currently different countries, in terms of the virus. “
Some politicians have tried to impose a more unified approach, with decidedly mixed results.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis threatened to withhold up to $ 200 million in funding from the Hillsborough County School District, which covers Tampa and is one of the largest in the country, if not reopen for in-person learning.
In Chicago, which had planned to open with a hybrid model, schools will now open remotely after opposition from parents and teachers. But many students returned to in-person learning centers, which have been linked to few, if any, cases. Through the city, cases are low and the infection rate remains relatively stable.
In New Jersey, Governor Philip Murphy reversed his demand for some form of in-person instruction following sustained opposition from the state teachers’ union.
At the federal level, President Trump tweeted a request in July: “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN FALL !!! But as Eliza pointed out, her push seems to have turned against him, hardening the opinion of some teachers and school officials that reopening would be dangerous.
These political and political decisions take place as we slowly learn more about the coronavirus and how it affects children.
“It’s all over the place, but the one thing people are really clear about is that most children don’t get very sick,” Apoorva Mandavilli, science reporter for The Times, told us. “Even though we think of children as germ factories, they are not the ones who are going to take the biggest blow.”
The bottom line: The problems with schooling during the coronavirus are systemic, but the angst is personal. Teachers and families are forced to choose between imperfect options based on factors such as health, socioeconomic status, and risk tolerance.
And after? Claire Cain Miller wrote for The Upshot on how families face an impossible dilemma.
“The only way to help parents the most is to get the virus under control,” Claire told us. “The countries that have done so have been able to open schools. There could be things like sending a check to parents to use on guardians or daycare or whatever is needed, but Congress hasn’t shown much appetite for that. So, that really leaves the parents alone. “
Should colleges give a discount?
A rebellion against the high cost of a bachelor’s degree, which was already brewing before the coronavirus, has gained new momentum. Some students and parents refuse to pay face-to-face prices for more and more online education.
Some are calling for tuition reimbursements, increased financial aid, fee reductions and time off, our colleague Shawn Hubler reports.
AT Ithaca College (student population: 5,500) the financial services team reported over 2,000 inquiries in the past month regarding financial aid and tuition fee adjustments.
Some 340 Harvard freshmen – about a fifth of the first year class – deferred admission rather than possibly spending part of the year online. A parent lobby group, formed on Facebook last month, has called on the administration to cut tuition fees and relax leave rules.
And it’s not just about paying as usual. Faced with additional expenses to screen and test students for the virus, and to reconfigure campus facilities for security, some colleges and universities are asking students to pay additional coronavirus fees.
Other news from higher education:
A school district outside Phoenix canceled plans to reopen schools after teachers staged a “disease rejection” in protest. Teachers are also strike project in Detroit to protest the security concerns.
Cherokee County School District in Georgia said on Sunday it would close a third high school due to a virus outbreak after 25 students tested positive, NBC Reports.
Parents withdraw students from the public school system in favor of home schooling or pandemic pods. An advocacy group Texas is fight the trend with a simple message: “A strong recovery in Texas requires strong Texan schools. “
Tip of the day: university at home
Many freshmen will start homeschooling, not talking all night in the dorms, without the rush of a quick seminar talk or the sweaty euphoria of a first football game.
As a family, you can help ease their disappointment. Here are some suggestions to learn how to help develop the independence of students who start university from their nursery.
Tell us your story
We agree. Student journalists, We would love to hear from you on how you plan your first few weeks of coverage. What are the obstacles ? What surprised you? We can offer answers in the coming days.