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Reproduced from a CRPE report; Chart: Axios Visuals

About half of school districts across the country will return to school buildings in the fall — but the majority of the big-city school districts that also serve large numbers of at-risk students will be doing remote learning for the foreseeable future.

The big picture: There's a stark divide in school reopening plans between urban and rural districts, according to an analysis by the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell.

  • Students in most rural U.S. school districts will be returning to classrooms this fall.
  • Meanwhile, almost 4 out of 5 urban districts will start the year fully remote.

Why it matters: Remote instruction challenges — such as spotty broadband access and poor instruction — in the spring have already created major learning hurdles for the students with the most to lose from school disruptions.

  • Even though many districts rushed to provide digital access to as many students as possible in the spring, there are still gaps in students' ability to learn in an all-virtual environment.
  • The divide in school reopening plans could lead to even more divergent learning outcomes as the true levels of COVID-19 learning loss are more understood in the coming years, noted CRPE director Robin Lake.

A worrisome finding: There's significant overlap between districts with the highest poverty levels and those planning to start the year with fully remote classes.

  • That's problematic because many students in poverty tend to need more social, emotional and academic support that is harder for their households to provide.
  • Parents are less likely to have jobs that allow them to work from home and help supervise their children's online learning progress.

The bottom line: "[T]he challenge this fall isn’t to just continue learning. For so many students, the challenge will be to start to make up for lost time from last spring," per CRPE.

Go deeper

The quick FCC fix that would get more students online

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the pandemic forces students out of school, broadband deployment programs aren't going to move fast enough to help families in immediate need of better internet access. But Democrats at the Federal Communications Commission say the incoming Biden administration could put a dent in that digital divide with one fast policy change.

State of play: An existing FCC program known as E-rate provides up to $4 billion for broadband at schools, but Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai has resisted modifying the program during the pandemic to provide help connecting students at home.

Dec 4, 2020 - Health

Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate

Golden Gate Park. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty

Counties around the San Francisco Bay Area will adopt California’s new regional stay-at-home order amid surges in cases and ICU hospitalizations, health officials said Friday.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a three-week stay-at-home order on Thursday that would go into effect in regions with less than 15% ICU capacity. Despite the Bay Area’s current 25.3% ICU capacity, health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley are moving ahead with a shelter-in-place mandate in the hopes of reducing risk.

Dec 4, 2020 - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.