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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

AFT's Weingarten and Microsoft's Smith call for expansion of broadband for equality in education

Axios' Mike Allen (L) and Microsoft President Brad Smith (R). Photo: Axios.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Microsoft President Brad Smith at an Axios event on Thursday called for expanding access to broadband in the United States in order to close the digital divide in education.

What they're saying: "Broadband needs to be a fact of life in the United States and it needs to be free for everyone, and it needs to be regulated in a way that it can be made equitably distributed all throughout America," Weingarten said during a discussion on the Future of Employability.

Teacher union chief: We have to trust experts, scientists to safely reopen schools

Axios' Mike Allen (L) and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (R). Photo: Axios

Decisions on school re-openings should be left to scientists and experts, not ideologues, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said Thursday at a virtual Axios event on the Future of Employability.

What they're saying: "I am a social studies teacher and a lawyer. I'm not a scientist, but I have to follow what the experts are telling us. They have a sense of what you actually need to do and when you follow them. If we had done that, we would be in a lot better shape in the United States," Weingarten said.

Aug 20, 2020 - Health

Trump administration declares teachers essential workers

Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security formally declared teachers essential workers in guidance released this week, continuing the Trump administration's push to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Under the guidance, teachers are now considered “critical infrastructure workers,” like physicians and law enforcement officers, meaning they can return to the classroom even after possible exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 as long as they remain asymptomatic.