A messy start to the new school year

CityLab Daily

A teachable moment: For months, communities have weighed whether to send students back to physical classrooms, start the school year fully remote or use a mix of both models. Guidance from federal and local governments on how to reopen safely and balance children's developmental needs has left parents and teachers with unanswered questions like how will children get to school, where to find child care for remote-learning days, and who's responsible for the hefty cost of personal protective equipment amid budget shortages.

Now as summer finally winds down — with little sign of the pandemic easing — kids are going back to an anything-but-normal school year. So far, things haven't gone smoothly. Clusters of cases have cropped up in several campuses that opened for in-person learning, including colleges, forcing administrators to quarantine staff and students, revert to distance learning, or shut down the facility altogether. And in cities that are relying on virtual learning, some families are still struggling to get internet access while teachers are scrambling to grasp the nuances of teaching online.

Meanwhile, some districts have continued to delay reopening. New York City, the only major school system to plan for some form of in-person learning, will delay classes to later this month amid the threat of a teachers' strike over the lack of building safety. If there's one lesson to be gained from the city's fiasco, writes Andrea Gabor in Bloomberg Opinion, it's that major changes are needed in the relationship between "district bureaucracies and individual schools." That includes changing from a single approach to reopening for all schools to a more flexible one that accounts for the variation in individual schools, from physical infrastructure to the amount of resources they have. It also means giving teachers and staff, who are on the front lines of the grand experiment, more support.

-Linda Poon

More on CityLab

America's College Towns Are Facing an Economic Reckoning
Communities that rely on student spending and higher education jobs are struggling with fiscal woes and Covid-19 fears as the school year begins. 
Silicon Valley Is Jumping on the Microschool Bandwagon
With schools in limbo, startups see a big market in helping parents organize learning pods and tutoring groups. Will some kids get left behind?
Weight Gain Is Flip Side of Covid Food Crisis for Richer Nations
Healthy and nutritious food is getting out of reach for millions, and in countries like the U.K. obesity is on the rise.

What we're reading

  • Hurricane Laura's winds are now long gone, but residents fear the toxic sludge left behind (Buzzfeed News)
  • Building bans and affordable housing: A construction conundrum (Washington Post)
  • Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is now linked to more than 250,000 coronavirus cases (Mother Jones)
  • Kyoto becomes latest japanese city to recognize same-sex partnerships (Vice)
  • NBA stadiums will be voting centers this fall. Here's how that will work (Fast Company)
  • 'A balloon on every single mailbox': Big farewell for retiring mail carrier (The Press Democrat)


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