Feb 28, 2020 - Health

U.S. schools prepare for coronavirus spread

Vice President Pence and HHS Secretary Alex Azar (left) tour virus operations center yesterday. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Schools across the U.S. are canceling trips abroad, preparing online lessons and even rethinking "perfect attendance" awards as they brace for the possibility that the coronavirus spreads to their communities, AP's Collin Binkley reports.

Why it matters: If schools are forced to close for long stretches, it could have a heavy impact on students who rely on school meals and for parents who use their schools' child care programs.

Cleaning crews have been told to pay extra attention to doorknobs, keyboards and other surfaces that students touch through the day.

  • Some districts have invested in handheld disinfectant sprayers that are used in hospitals.
  • Others are adding hand sanitizers in schools and buses.

Officials are considering how they would handle large numbers of absences among students or teachers, and how to make up days that could be missed because of the virus.

  • In Miami, public school leaders said they're readying 200,000 laptops and tablets for students in case buildings close and force classes online.

The National School Boards Association is asking districts to reconsider attendance awards to students who don't miss a day of class for an entire year or semester.

  • Some schools have previously abandoned the practice amid fears that it encourages students to come to school sick, but some still award gift cards, cash or raffle prizes to students with perfect attendance.

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America's startling school nurse and counselor shortage

Reproduced from the ACLU using U.S. Department of Education data; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

An overwhelming majority of schools in the U.S. lack nurses and counselors to help students in need, per a 2019 ACLU report from Education Department data on every school district.

Why it matters: Children are reporting just as much stress as adults, with one in three reporting that they are feeling depressed.

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Schools turn to ride-hailing services to transport students

Jalen Walker heads to football practice using service HopSkipDrive with driver Jacqueline Bouknight in Springfield, Virginia last April. Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

When startups set out to become the “Uber for kids” several years ago, they predicted parents would use them to ferry children to and from school and activities — but they’ve since found a much bigger customer: schools.

The big picture: Companies like HopSkipDrive and Zum are getting much of their business from schools using their services to replace or supplement the traditional school buses, especially for students with special needs or for trips outside of existing routes.

Coronavirus: Columbia University the latest to cancel in-person classes

Columbia University's Low Memorial Library in New York City. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images


Columbia University announced Sunday night it canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday and plans to hold remote lessons for the rest of the week after a member of its community was quarantined following exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: The Ivy League school is the latest educational institution to suspend in-person classes and move studying online in response to the outbreak as the virus continues to spread across the U.S., which now has more than 500 cases, per data from Johns Hopkins and state health departments.

Go deeperArrowMar 9, 2020 - Health