Education has radically changed this year. Schools have had to face the challenge of continuing to educate during a pandemic. Schools had to change “how” they teach their students. Nearly 93% of households with school-age children report having had some form of distance learning during this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic (USCB). During this fall schools had to choose between bringing children back to the classroom and remote learning. Depending on the state and school district, schools have taken different approaches when choosing between the two options or a hybrid.
Approximately 56 million school-aged children (aged 5–17 years) resumed classroom education in the United States in fall 2020 (CDC). America’s largest school district, New York City, brought 300,000 students back (NY Times), even as Covid-19 rates in the city rose. Meanwhile, schools in Miami announced a return to fully in-person learning this month (6 South Florida). Then there are schools from Kentucky (Education Week) to New Jersey (New Jersey Local News) that have switched from in-person to remote learning in recent weeks due to Covid-19 cases (VOX).
Back to in-person school looks different for each district, due to a lack of national and state regulations. Public schools are taking fewer precautions than private ones due to budget. Some schools are creating groups of kids that only interact among them while others have crowds of kids in hallways. Some schools are periodically asking students to be tested to prevent an outbreak while others don’t require testing. The schools that have reopened haven’t shown an increase in Covid-19 outbreak cases. Students have had a 0.071% infection rate. Since March, 277,285 COVID-19 cases in children have been reported (CDC).
Covid-19 affects children according to age group. COVID-19 among adolescents aged 12–17 years was approximately twice that in children aged 5–11 years. We know that rates among staff are higher than those among students (CDC). Experts don’t want people to take the low transmission among kids lightly as there is still a high number of cases and deaths in the US.
We have found that remote learning isn’t a replacement for the classroom. Teachers report kids are falling behind because they can not catch up to the speed and quality they had. Also, most of the responsibility of learning relies on parents and they are not always able to keep up with the task.
Education at home has been different depending on the resources the school and the parents have. Many schools sent paper materials for children to continue studying because some low-income households have lower levels of internet and computer proficiency (USCB). For the schools that have continued with online learning, although they have shown better results education level is still not the same.
Hybrid education models haven’t had better results in regards to education, as schools must plan what lessons are taught in-person and what is left for home, and not all children have the same schedule. On the bright side, they had lower student infection rates than schools that were fully in-person, with 24 cases per 100,000 students in fully in-person school, compared with 14 cases per 100,000 in hybrid schools (NPR). However, infection rates among staff were actually higher at hybrid schools, 52 cases per 100,000, compared with 21 cases per 100,000 for fully in-person schools (VOX).
For the schools that have resumed in-person classes, transportation has also changed as each school has adopted a different transportation model. Some schools are covering routes, while many have asked parents to take care of the commute to promote social distancing. Some kids must rely on transportation which is why it’s critical to apply and track health protocols.
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