Coronavirus and Education
Updated March 20
Forty-five states have decided to close schools in response to the new coronavirus pandemic, Education Week reports. The newspaper says at least at least 118,000 public and private schools are closed, are scheduled to close, or were closed and later reopened, affecting at least 53.7 million students.
Keep Calm and Report On
In any health crisis, the news media is a critical source of information for the public. Education reporters can, and should, play a key role in their newsroom coverage, given that schools are a significant factor in efforts to contain and limit the existing outbreak of the coronavirus.
The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act—dubbed the CARES Act—includes over $30 billion in relief for schools and colleges. The unprecedented aid package, which President Trump signed March 27, has many wondering what’s next: How will the funds be distributed? How will relief dollars be spent? And, is it enough?
Join EWA at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, March 31, for a CARES Act explainer webinar.
To encourage learning while schools are shut down, Illinois education officials have gathered online tools for educators and promoted the hashtag #keeplearning.
Some students in Illinois, however, won’t be able to watch their teacher conduct live science experiments or download a story time video. They don’t have a computer or high-speed internet at home, or a cellphone data plan that would support it.
In her family’s one-bedroom home every day unfolds with one distraction after another for 17-year-old Anais Hernandez: her mother cooking and cleaning in the kitchen; her disabled father watching high-volume TV news; the bustle of her younger sister in their East Los Angeles home.
There’s no escape from the noise as Anais attempts to focus on Advanced Placement Spanish literature and English and economics. Two weeks into shelter-at-home schooling, this Mendez High School senior could use a tool that would be hard for her family to afford — sound-canceling headphones.
Harvey Kesselman, president of Stockton University, got the bad news in a text from New Jersey’s secretary of higher education: Half of Stockton’s state operating aid would be held back for the rest of the fiscal year.
On Monday, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey announced a spending freeze of $920 million that had already been allocated by the Legislature, including half of all funds headed to public colleges like Stockton. (New Jersey had more than 6,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of Thursday.)
Even under normal circumstances, Cheri Mann does a lot to help her students cross language barriers and make sense of an unfamiliar school environment.
She teaches a half-dozen high schoolers who recently moved to the U.S. from Guatemala and Honduras, many as unaccompanied minors, in a small school district in north-central Kentucky. Most days, Mann helps her newcomers practice their English for one period, then accompanies them to their other classes to make sure they understand the instruction.
People across the country are responding to the alarm set off when health care workers on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic reported shortages of N95 face masks.
Now several Brandywine High School students hope to soon start producing masks made with 3D printers so they can be used by health care professionals in need.
“I’m really stoked that my teacher gave me this opportunity,” said Ian Wilt, a Brandywine high junior. “It’s doing everything for a good cause.”
Schools are confronting a wide range of potential problems around student data privacy as they scramble to put technology tools for virtual instruction in place during extended school building shutdowns.
Teachers have already begun connecting with students using a variety of digital tools, some of which are new to them and their schools and weren’t designed for classroom use—everything from videoconferencing apps like Zoom to digital devices like Chromebooks and learning platforms like Babbel and BrainPop.
Carol Gibbs started providing child care from her home in Bellevue 30 years ago. Usually she and her staff are serving 12 kids a day, doing everything from diapering infants to teaching 4-year-olds. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, attendance is down to three.
“We’re like an extension of their home,” she said of the children in her care. “I have an intimate relationship with these families.”
Educators and advocates are raising alarms over the city’s decision to stop publicly confirming positive cases of the coronavirus in school communities — as even with schools closed, teachers, parents and students may be left in the dark over their exposure to the potentially fatal disease.
In the rush to move classes online, there are some concerns that students who need special accommodations might be left out.
For schools that specialize in behavioral and other needs, having to go to school remotely is presenting a lot of new challenges. Melissa Belsito, with the Center for Applied Behavioral Instruction in Worcester, explained a lot of her students struggle with change and depend on their schedules.
North Carolina’s year-end testing is likely to be put on hold for this year, as students face at least nine weeks of learning from home to avoid the coronavirus.
The federal government has granted a testing waiver, and Brian Gwyn, a legislative analyst and lawyer, said that’s all that’s required to cancel End of Grade and End of Course exams.
However, he said, “legislative action would be needed to address all the other statutes that rely on data from the assessments.”
MIT has agreed to extend the pay for dining hall workers who have been sidelined because of the coronavirus through May 22, a small victory for some of the lowest-wage employees on college campuses.
MIT announced this week that it had reached a deal with the union representing 225 dining hall workers and the university’s food service vendors, Bon Appetit and Restaurant Associates. MIT agreed to provide funding for the workers, who were slated to be laid off, after the university sent students home to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Colleges and universities are expected to receive billions of dollars from the coronavirus relief bill moving through Congress. But a top higher education advocate in Washington called funding levels “woefully inadequate” to stabilize a sector of the economy that is hemorrhaging cash.
With campuses across the country shuttered for the foreseeable future, many schools are issuing refunds for room and board, subsidizing plane and bus fare for students forced to leave in a hurry and absorbing myriad other unforeseen expenses and revenue losses.
Allia Phillips was excited about picking up an iPad from her school in Harlem last week. She did not want to miss any classes and hoped to land on the fourth-grade honor roll again.
On Monday, the first day that New York City public schools began remote learning, the 10-year-old placed her iPad on a tray she set up over her pillow on a twin bed in a studio that she shares with her mother and grandmother inside a homeless shelter on the Upper West Side.
And then, Allia saw nothing.
Less than a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, one small rural school district in California remains open.
Child Care and Early Learning During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Five Stories to Tell
How is COVID-19 impacting early childhood education?
The new coronavirus outbreak is sending shock waves through the nation’s K-12 and higher education systems. But how is the spread of COVID-19 affecting the littlest learners, ages 0 to 5, and the adults who teach and care for them?
The situation is fast evolving, and each state is responding to the child care conundrum differently. Here are five story ideas reporters can pursue to dig into the pandemic’s effects on their local early education workforce and the children and families they serve.
As health officials predict a months-long continuation of the coronavirus pandemic, the state Board of Education on Wednesday ordered school districts to keep buildings closed for the remainder of the academic year and pivot to distance learning programs, a directive that lacks uniformity and allows districts extreme flexibility.
“It’s going to look different for all schools and we have to accept that,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister at Wednesday’s board meeting.
As the coronavirus pandemic upends college life, it is causing a knock-on effect for admissions: High-school seniors may find it easier to get into some schools this year.
Students considering offers or awaiting decisions later this week from colleges across the selectivity spectrum can expect higher acceptance rates, as colleges take measures to ensure they will still have enough students enrolled come fall.
Read the full story here.
The abrupt closing of nearly the entire American school system is a massive story. It deserves an enormous amount of attention. And so far, the quality and quantity of the coverage that I’ve seen has been encouragingly high — especially given what a fast-moving, complex situation we’ve been in since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arailia Jeffries works for a plasma collection company, but her hours as a phlebotomist are being cut as the coronavirus pandemic scares away potential donors. Her husband, a metal fabricator, also is working reduced hours for reduced pay. So Wednesday evening, as dark clouds built outside Jeffries’ house near the Pearsall Park neighborhood, frustration built inside her sweltering living room where, still wearing navy scrubs, she and her four school-aged children waited on hold with Spectrum.