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School’s In… After Almost A Year Of The COVID-19 Pandemic

School buses are parked at a bus depot in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio closed all New York City public schools for in-person learning after NYC hit a 3 percent coronavirus positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average.
School buses are parked at a bus depot in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio closed all New York City public schools for in-person learning after NYC hit a 3 percent coronavirus positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average.

Parents and caregivers have been struggling with how to best keep educating their kids during the pandemic. Zoom class isn’t as engaging as the real thing. A lack of school lunch has been an issue for food-insecure families. A lack of interaction with friends means kids miss out on vital social development. Those concerns have officials all over the country pushing to return to in-person school. Some caretakers are cheering the efforts. But other teachers and in-school workers across the country are concerned about returning to the classroom before the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.

In addition, school officials across the country haven’t won the trust of communities of color. COVID-19 has hit these communities hard during the pandemic. Half-hearted attempts to stem the tide of the virus have only served to sow distrust.

From the U.S. Department of Education:

“COVID-19 has been devastating for students and families. Despite heroic work by teachers and staff, the pandemic has led to increased absences, worse learning outcomes, more kids going hungry, and more social isolation. These negative outcomes are particularly hurting lower-income students, students of color, English-language learners, and students with disabilities. It is critical that we get kids back to school quickly, but we need to do so safely. The Biden Administration is directing a whole-of-government effort to give schools and local health officials the resources and information to safely reopen schools and to support students wherever they are learning. That’s why the Education Department is expeditiously working to provide information to schools on how to safely reopen, and President Biden is calling on Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan and provide at least $130 billion to provide the critical resources needed to safely reopen schools and support students wherever they are learning. These resources will provide local schools with the resources and financial stability they need to make smart decisions about reopening safely; support students’ academic, social, and emotional needs; and advance educational equity.”

Find our conversations from ‘Homeworked,’ our series about education during the pandemic, here. 

In Washington D.C., local politicians are working to get students back into schools. However, schools in wealthier sections of the city are opening at full capacity while schools in predominately Black sections of the city remain closed due to low enrollment. Critics of the plan to reopen schools in the city are wondering if government officials should be spending so much money on a program that heavily favors the city’s white residents.

Is it time for schools in the U.S. to return to in-person education? And if so, how does the U.S. make sure it doesn’t leave any students behind?

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