• February 8, 2023

Biden On Track For Schools To Reopen, But Will Kids Go? : NPR

Students returned this week for personal study at St. Anthony Catholic High School in Long Beach, California. The country is well on its way to opening the majority of schools in the next two months, but not all children are returning. Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images Hide caption

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Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

Students returned this week for personal study at St. Anthony Catholic High School in Long Beach, California. The country is well on its way to opening the majority of schools in the next two months, but not all children are returning.

Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

During his first press conference, President Biden said Thursday that his administration was on track to stay a promise he made to the parents and carers of the country: to reopen the majority of elementary and middle schools to full-time personal learning within their first 100 days in office.

Newly published federal data suggest that the president is indeed on the right track – but the reopening of the country’s schools doesn’t mean all students will be returning to classrooms quickly. Here’s a look at the numbers from a nationally representative sample from around 7,000 schools:

  • Approximately 42% of the students (fourth and eighth graders) represented in this survey attended public schools that started offering full-time in-person tuition to all students as of last month. This is the number that Biden highlights when he says he is about to keep his promise.
  • Additionally, 35% of public schools offer all students a hybrid learning plan where children may not be in the classroom full-time but still learn in person.

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With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Revision of the reopening guidelines – It is possible that both numbers could go up over the next month and help Biden achieve his goal.

However, the data tells several other stories that suggest the nation’s schools still have a long way to go in getting out of the shadow of this pandemic.

While 42% of students attended schools that offered full face-to-face learning, only 33% of students chose to return full-time. The fact is that many families in communities badly hit by COVID-19 continue to be reluctant to send their children back to school even after those schools have reopened.

“Not everyone is here yet” said Shari Camhi, Superintendent of a district on Long Island where about a third of her students are still completely remote. “There are a lot of people who are still very careful when they are personal. You know, there are those of us who have lost the people we love.”

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In addition, the reopening was unfair. Color students are far more likely to study remotely than white students – both because many families with color say they are less comfortable sending their children back to school at that moment, and because, according to the data, city schools are the big ones and serve large schools. Different student groups are less likely to be open than largely white rural areas.

As a result, nearly half of white fourth graders were back in school full-time – compared to just 15% of Asians, 28% of blacks, and 33% of Hispanic fourth graders.

Camhi told NPR last week that she was proud to have her classrooms reopened safely – the most important first step in the country’s K-12 recovery. The next step: So that all families feel safe and send their children back to these classrooms.

Jack

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