Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 1): Pandemic Effects in the US

Schools are back in session in many other parts of the world but that does not necessarily mean that students have returned to the classroom or to a “normal” school year. In a series of posts over the next few weeks, Thomas Hatch pulls together some of the headlines that provide a glimpse of what the return to school looks like in US: Some lessons from last year and guidance for this year, a few positive developments, but many concerns about surging COVID cases, students in quarantine and other crises. A final post willshare school reopening headlines from other parts of the world as well. Take a look at IEN’s “Back to School” headlines from 2020, from 2019, and from 2018 to see how this year compares.

“Reopen schools” has been the clear goal for many in the US throughout 2022. As President Biden declared in a message for educators in March, students “need the opportunity, they need the eye-to-eye contact, they need to be with you in classrooms.” Since that time, the Biden administration’s efforts to support school re-opening have evolved (Biden is meeting his modest school-reopening goal — but progress is uneven, Washington Post; Biden hits 100-day school reopening goal, but reopening difficulties persist, Politico; Biden Trims Ambitions on School Reopening Pledge, New York Times).

But as the new school year starts (in August and early September in many US states), Biden has expanded demands for states to fight the continuing spread of the COVID variants and reiterated the importance of reopening schools safely (‘This isn’t a game’: Biden promotes safe school reopening amid rise in COVID-19 cases among kids, WGNtv).

Although some states and districts have required vaccines or testing for all staff and/or students over 12, some governors and states remain defiant, leading to a school reopening season rife with local and national debates over vaccine requirements, mask mandates, and social distancing arrangements. Predictably, many headlines from local papers focus on these debates, the extent of surging cases, quarantined students, school closures, and “learning loss.”

Concerns about related shortages of teachers, bus drivers, and nurses have also been highlighted, and other crises – including wildfires in the west and Hurricane Ida in the east – have marked the start of school in some states.
Occasionally, stories about the potential impact of the $129 billion allocated to schools by the federal government from the COVID relief fund, the positive benefits of high dosage tutoring, or other potentially positive developments find their way through.

Back-to-School Photo Album: Amid Delta Surge, a Surreal Return to Campus For Students Across America, The74million

Back-to-school COVID Guidance

Everything You Need to Know About Schools and COVID Relief Funds, Education Week

Kids and COVID-19 Vaccines: What Does This Mean for the New School Year?, Healthline

Higher Rates of Delta Infection Projected in Schools With No Mask Mandate or COVID Testing, Education Week

See Mask Mandates and Guidance for Schools in Each State, The New York Times

Back to School: Lessons Learned About Safe School Reopening, Learning Policy Institute

How students can safely return to school amid delta variant, Quartz

Pandemic effects

What Researchers Know — and Don’t — about Enrollment Declines and Learning Loss as School Year Gets Underway, The74million

The number of third-graders in high-poverty schools scoring at grade level on a nationwide exam fell 17 points, from 39 percent in 2019 to 22 percent last year… Overall enrollment was down 3 percent nationwide, and 13 percent of preschool and kindergarten students never showed up

The74million

Parents report declines in academic, social-emotional skills of young children, The Hechinger Report

As Schools Reopen, Child Psychiatrists Expect To See A Surge Of Kids Who Need Help, Wbur

Signs of Hope and Progress in an Angst-filled Back-to-School Season, EdSurge

Back-to-school delays, virtual classes could deepen pain for some retailers, and be windfall for others, CNBC

Study Finds Reopening Schools Linked With Improved Parent Mental Health, EdSurge

Families Splurge On Clothes And Electronics In Likely Record Back-To-School Spree, NPR

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