Oct 30, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus surge threatens to shut classrooms down again

Illustration of a line of spaced out desks receding far into the background

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The nationwide surge in coronavirus cases is forcing many school districts to pull back from in-person instruction.

Why it matters: Remote learning is a burden on parents, teachers and students. But the wave of new infections, and its strain on some hospitals' capacity, makes all forms of reopening harder to justify.

Where it stands: Over 60% of U.S. public school students will be attending schools with in-person options, up 20% from Labor Day, Education Dive reports. But some of those districts are pulling back.

  • Spikes in COVID-19 cases are forcing two Salt Lake County high schools to close their doors and switch to online-only instruction — in a district where half the high schools were already closed, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
  • Both Boston and Chicago's public school districts shut down in-person learning as health officials investigate outbreaks in nearby suburbs.
  • Nineteen Minnesota counties are on the verge of closing their K-12 schools for the foreseeable future because of rising coronavirus cases, the Pioneer Press reports.
  • A high school in Milwaukee had to close after six staff members had to quarantine this week.
  • Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland became the first county in the state to scale back learning in classrooms after officials pushed schools to reopen, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The other side: Early evidence suggests that in-person school reopening have been safe — fears that they'd become hotspots haven't come to pass.

  • Some experts say local governments trying to contain their outbreaks should close bars and restaurants first, shutting down schools only as a last resort.
  • That's the approach Germany took this week. The government will allow schools and day cares to remain open while paying bars and restaurants to shut down, in an effort to curb the rise in cases.

The bottom line: School districts are in a tough spot as they try to juggle the safety of their staff, frustrated parents and the needs of their students.

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