Trepidation about the pandemic persists. In many cities, coronavirus infection rates are rising, which could prompt school leaders to reverse plans. Some classrooms and even entire schools have opened and had to close again in response to outbreaks. In some cities, opposition from teachers unions has slowed efforts to open buildings.
But overall, the trend is now toward more in-person school.
Of the 50 largest school districts, 24 have resumed in-person classes for large groups of students, and nine others plan to in the coming weeks, according to a Washington Post survey. An additional four have opened, or plan to open, for small groups of students who need extra attention.
Many are in Florida and Texas, where Republican governors are requiring in-person classes, but schools are also open in New York City, Greenville, S.C., and Alpine, Utah, the state’s largest district. Returns are planned in Charlotte, Baltimore and Denver.
Just 11 of the largest 50 school districts are still fully remote, with no immediate plans to change that.
“I think everybody’s quite worried about what the price is that we’ve paid for having the buildings closed,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of Great City Schools, a lobbying group for urban districts. He said the biggest drivers are concern over substantial “learning loss” and a sense that even though remote education is better than it was in the spring, it still is not working well enough.
Officials also worry because some students are simply not showing up to remote classes, with attendance figures down in many places.
Casserly said many educators worry that “we are going to dig ourselves a hole that is so deep that it takes us years and years to get out of.”
The trend is evident, too, in tracking by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington at Bothell. In the beginning of September, 24 of 106 mostly urban districts were open for at least some in-person school. By the end of October, that will rise to 69 out of 106, assuming districts stick with their announced plans.
“Parents are very, very eager to get their kids back to school. Students are very eager to get back to school,” said Robin Lake, the center’s director.
Assessing infection rates
In many districts, including in suburban Washington and the District of Columbia, students are being phased back into school, often starting with the youngest because online learning is so difficult for them. That’s also the approach in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, which is using a hybrid system in which students are on campus on certain days and online on others.
Superintendent Earnest Winston said it’s the right move because children learn best in person, but he worries as he sees infection rates rising. For the first time since late July, the tally of newly reported coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 64,000 last week. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, caseloads were higher than they were one month ago.
While Hope Center Houston has not been able to meet face-to-face with clients since COVID-19 precautions became the norm in March, the building is partially reopening to let clients take showers and do laundry.
Hope Center Houston, located in the Spring area, offers resources for people who are homeless. The faith-based nonprofit reopened their doors to one client at a time on Oct. 5, allowing non-staff into the building for the first time in months.…