May 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

K-12 schools face unprecedented options amid coronavirus pandemic

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."

Go deeper

Coronavirus cases spike in Texas and Arizona

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed/Axios

Texas, Arizona and Oregon saw significant spikes last week in new coronavirus infections, while cases also continued to climb in a handful of states where steady increases have become the norm.

Why it matters: Nationwide, new cases have plateaued over the past week. To get through this crisis and safely continue getting back out into the world, we need them to go down — a lot.

1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Another roughly 1.9 million people filed for unemployment last week, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic is still putting a historic strain on the labor market, though the pace of unemployment applications continues to slow.

The risk asset rally continues as stock market rebounds

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Risk assets have jumped over the past week and continued their rally on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 gaining for a fourth straight day and posting its highest close since March 4, while the Nasdaq ended the day just 1.4% below its all-time high.

What it means: If it hadn't been evident before, Wednesday's market action made clear that the bulls are back in charge.