What Do We Know Now?

One year later—one very long year later—what do we know now? We know that students across the nation continue to be affected by COVID-19 related school closures, some more so than others. We know that the majority of students have demonstrated academic regression, more so in math than reading, and even more so among students of color or with disabilities. We also know that many students have struggled with mental health issues, particularly teens. We do not yet know the long-term effects or how school districts will address those deficits.

On the upside, though, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccinations are in full swing. The CDC has issued guidelines for schools to re-open. Those guidelines act as a starting point for each school district, whose ability to re-open is contingent on a variety of factors, including ensuring the safety of its teachers and most vulnerable families. That includes creating a safe physical school environment with upgraded ventilation systems, sanitizing stations, staggered schedules, and reduced density. Some teachers’ unions are very involved in the negotiations to re-open their schools, including requiring that specific conditions be met before teachers return to the classrooms. On the other end of the spectrum, some districts are taking legal action against their cities to be permitted to re-open schools.

The bottom line is this is not a “one-size-fits-all” situation. It is fluid and ever-changing. But we are on a path to re-opening, and although there will undoubtedly be bumps in the road, we hope the challenges will be overcome, and we will soon see an improvement in students’ academic and social-emotional well-being.

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