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Slowly, More Students Return to Classrooms

Taylor, Kate, et al. “Slowly, More Students Return to Classrooms.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Mar. 2021,

A year into the pandemic, a growing number of districts — including Los Angeles — plan to open for in-person learning.

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School reopening inched forward across the country this week, as middle school students went back to class in Chicago, and New York City announced that it would welcome tens of thousands of high school students back on March 22.

But the real seismic shifts came on the West Coast — where hesitance about in-person classes has been the greatest — as some districts laid out plans to bring students back to classrooms for the first time during the pandemic.

Los Angeles is the only one of the nation’s 10-largest school systems where classes remain entirely virtual. Our colleague Shawn Hubler looked this week at the impact on families, many of whom have struggled with remote learning.

“My computer doesn’t want to run Zoom,” said Cristofer Son, an 18-year-old senior in East Los Angeles, “so I have to delete it and then reinstall it, like, every two weeks.”

After months with no movement toward reopening, on Tuesday night Los Angeles announced a tentative agreement with its teachers’ union to bring preschool and elementary students back to classrooms part time in mid-April. Older students will return in late April for “peer interaction, social-emotional learning and lessons for college and career exploration.”

The deal is contingent on teachers being fully vaccinated and a continued decline in coronavirus case rates. All students and staff would receive coronavirus testing weekly.

Also on the West Coast, San Francisco, which has been fully remote since last March, announced that it would start bringing elementary students and students with learning challenges back to classrooms on April 12. District officials have said they don’t expect most middle and high school students to be able to return to classrooms this school year.

For students who haven’t been inside their schools at all this academic year, the first-day jitters are major. “I was so nervous, I didn’t sleep the night before,” 18-year-old Jzayla Sussman, a student at a charter high school in New Orleans, told our colleague Dan Levin about her return last month.

Meanwhile, the evidence continues to grow that a year of disrupted instruction has left some students significantly behind. Our colleague Dana Goldstein reported this week on a preliminary national study of reading skills that found that as of late fall, second graders were 26 percent behind where they would have been, absent the pandemic, in their ability to read aloud accurately and quickly. Third graders were 33 percent behind.

Students in lower-achieving school districts included in the study were further behind than those in higher-achieving districts.

Caving in to a pent-up demand to party, college students across the country have taken to bars, beaches and backyards in recent weeks — and drawn crackdowns from their schools, as administrators try to keep the coronavirus at bay on campus.

“Sadly, it has happened again — a group of students flagrantly flouted the rules,” wrote Brandi Hephner LaBanc, the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, after more than 200 students gathered last weekend for a pre-St. Patrick’s Day tradition called the Blarney Blowout.

Police officers broke up the crowd, and university officials said they would place identified students on suspension and temporarily remove them from dorms.

At the University of Michigan, the authorities locked 375 students out of nonresidential buildings because they failed to comply with testing requirements. Penn State punished four fraternities — suspending two through 2024 — for holding parties.

Purdue University said it was investigating and might expel 12 students for Covid rules violations.

With traditional spring break dates approaching, the University of California, Davis said it would pay students $75 to stay on campus, while other colleges have swapped the usual weeklong breaks for individual days off scattered throughout the semester. Still, officials in Florida, Texas and elsewhere are anticipating large crowds in the coming weeks.

“This year, the confluence of other places closed or cold, cheap flights and discounted rooms, and a pandemic which is still very much active, creates new challenges,” Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach said in an email. He imposed limits on alcohol consumption and the number of people at beaches and restaurants, along with social distancing requirements and a curfew.

DMU Timestamp: February 27, 2021 01:26

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