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Photo: Pete Marovich/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing Tuesday that President Biden's goal to reopen most schools means reopening over 50% of schools for "some teaching" in person "at least one day a week." But they wouldn't necessarily fully reopen.

Why it matters: The White House's shift in language suggests Biden's original timeline was not realistic, as infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci noted earlier this month.

The big picture: School closures are a "national emergency," Biden told CBS on Sunday.

  • The president set aside $130 billion in aid for K-12 schools in his coronavirus relief package, aimed to provide protective equipment and improve ventilation, among other things.
  • About 35% of U.S. students are attending school online in full, per Burbio, a company that tracks school district calendars. 40% are in districts that offer full-time in-person instruction.
  • Digital divides, however, have worsened existing disparities.
  • Districts have increasingly moved from all-virtual to partial or full in-person instruction in recent weeks, according to Burbio.

Go deeper: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

Go deeper

Feb 9, 2021 - Podcasts

The digital gap in remote learning

We’re a year into virtual schools — but the digital divide when it comes to our students still hasn’t been fixed. Consider this: 12 million students in this country don’t have internet access or the proper devices needed to do school online.

As some schools start to reopen for in-person classes, there's a danger that the digital divide will again be ignored.

  • Plus, former President Trump’s second impeachment trial begins.
  • And, how a showdown over real estate commission could upend the industry.

Digital divide lurks behind school reopening plans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Students on the wrong side of the digital divide who have struggled to keep up with remote learning will continue to face major hurdles even as schools reopen.

The big picture: Students without reliable in-home internet are already at an educational deficit, and many of the remote learning tools the pandemic has ushered in are here to stay. Experts and advocates worry that unconnected students could permanently fall behind their more wired peers if they don't get assistance now.

Feb 9, 2021 - Podcasts

Teachers union president Randi Weingarten on reopening schools

Three-quarters of America’s K-12 public schools are either closed or partially closed right now. Even if the White House manages to open up the vaccine bottlenecks and get a new economic stimulus passed with money for in-school COVID-19 testing and HVAC updates, ultimately, schools being open or closed comes down to negotiations between local school departments and their teachers unions.

Axios Re:Cap digs into those negotiations, what will happen this semester once teachers have vaccination access and what next fall could look like with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.