May 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

K-12 schools face unprecedented options amid coronavirus pandemic

Pencils dropping out fo a cup
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America's educators and students have a daunting year ahead as the coronavirus pandemic carries on.

The big picture: "Saturday school" and "summer school" used to evoke images of punishment for American kids, but they may need to become commonplace for everybody.

  • And on top of it all, some children will come back with trauma — from the loss of family members, economic hardship and anxiety about their own health and well-being.

The state of play: Changes under discussion include, per the AP...

  • Some states may start way earlier: California is considering late July in the hope that it will help catch kids back up.
  • Others are pushing for permanent changes: A Maryland lawmaker wants to move to year-round schooling on a quarters system.
  • Social distancing will require more classroom space: Expect trailers and tents, plus retrofits of big spaces like gyms.
  • School will also shoot for mixes of in-person and online classes: If you're a parent wondering how this could work when it comes to child care, you aren't alone.

Between the lines: This will impose a huge burden on teachers, who will be on the front lines of getting kids back up to speed.

  • That's for those who go back: Roughly 20% of teachers are over 55, and many who are at high risk might not return to classrooms anytime soon.
  • The American Federation of Teachers launched several capstone lesson plans yesterday to help K-12 teachers measure student progress during school closures, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.
  • “We cannot lose sight of the fact that students already have completed at least seven months of learning," said AFT president Randi Weingarten. "We need to make sure to honor this, not invalidate it, and offer kids both closure and a bridge to next year."
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