Tags: Coronavirus | Trump Administration | Virus Outbreak

Communities Still Wrestling With Shut Classrooms, Even as Trump Proposes Brief Reopening

Communities Still Wrestling With Shut Classrooms, Even as Trump Proposes Brief Reopening

Joanne Collins Brock, a second grade teacher at St Francis School, teaches online in her empty classroom in Goshen, Ky., earlier this month. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 03:23 PM

The question of when to reopen schools looms large as European countries and U.S. states draw up piecemeal plans to restart their battered economies.

In the U.S., some 30 states have indicated they intend to keep schools closed for the remainder of the academic year. A handful of officials are also discussing loosening grade requirements for this year because of the disruption in routine over the past few months.

And a growing number are now throwing in the towel on remote learning, planning an early end to the school year, said The Wall Street Journal. 

Washington, D.C., as well as parts of Georgia, Texas and elsewhere plan to end a week to several weeks early.

Schools have struggled to launch remote learning for more than 50 million children across the country -- what The Journal has called the largest remote learning experiment in history. Among the difficulties: Not all students have internet access or have parents available to help. So results are uneven, some districts haven’t required schoolwork be completed or graded. And student participation has often been below regular attendance level.

Said The Journal, the Bibb County School District in Macon, Georgia, is ending school Friday for 21,500 students—three weeks early.

“The vast majority of our community was feeling stressed,” Curtis Jones Jr., superintendent, told the paper. "There were inequities between schools. I had teachers who were telling me, `I’m trying to figure out how to do my job as well as teach my class.’ It made sense to us to get rid of the stress and get ready for the following school year.”

Still, on Monday President Donald Trump made a case for reopening classrooms, however briefly, before the school year is out.

"I think you'll see a lot of schools open up, even for a very short period of time," Trump told reporters during the White House coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden. "I think it would be a good thing."

He continued: "Because, as you see, in terms of what this vicious virus goes after, young people seem to do very well. Young people seem to do very well, so I know that there are some governors that aren't necessarily ready to open up their states, but they may be ready to open up the school systems.

"The governors are going to make those decisions," Trump said. "That's their choice, but the word is 'safety,'" he said. "Rapid – but safety."

At the same time, with so many students immersed in online classes and distance learning, Vice President Pence noted Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is preparing a website of "best practices information" for distance education, Politico noted.

Over 7,500 educators and parents have written a letter to the FCC requesting the agency use the E-rate program to pay for home Internet access for over 50 million students who cannot attend school in person due to the pandemic.


Worldwide, officials and educators are confronting the same issue in varying ways.

Despite alarm among some teachers, parents and mayors, France detailed plans Tuesday to start opening schools on May 11, with limits on class size and rules requiring face masks. Hard-hit Italy intends to keep schools closed until September. 

Although the coronavirus seems to affect children far less seriously than adults, many officials, teachers and parents are concerned about the health risks that school openings could pose.

Some point to the difficulties of ensuring that children stick to social distancing and frequent hand washing, and to the dangers for teachers.

But many parents would struggle to return to work without schools being open, hampering efforts to counter the world's deep economic slump.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that elementary schools will reopen May 11 and high schools May 18. He said all high school students will have to wear masks, and class sizes will be capped at 15.

Joel Wilmotte, mayor of the French town of Hautmont, went on Facebook to list seven reasons he is not ready to open the schools, including ill-equipped teachers and cleaning staff and opposition from parents.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis outlined his government’s plan for a gradual lifting of the lockdown there, saying high school seniors will restart classes on May 11, followed a week later by students in lower grades. Elementary schools and kindergartens will remain closed, and might open on June 1 “only if we are absolutely certain that the course of the epidemic is waning,” he said.

In Italy, the decision to keep the schools closed until the fall could make it harder for parents to return to work. Typically grandparents in Italy are fallback baby sitters, but they are now off-limits because they are vulnerable to the virus.

Emer McCarthy, who works in the Vatican’s child protection office, tweeted that Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte had addressed a lockdown exit “for everyone except Italy’s children. Incredible. No mention of schools, childcare options, nothing. But football yes. #ChildrenNotSeenNotHeard.”

Newsmax's John Blosser and Jeffrey Rubin contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The question of when to reopen schools looms large as European countries and U.S. states draw up piecemeal plans to restart their battered economies.
Virus Outbreak
Tuesday, 28 April 2020 03:23 PM
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