Getting students back to class
Mixed success on Biden’s 100-day school reopening plan
High school seniors in San Francisco have the option this week to walk back into their classrooms for the first time in over a year. Months of negotiation and the promise of extra funding for schools that reopen bought the students some in-person class time, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, but it might be as little as one day.
President Joe Biden has technically fulfilled last year’s promise to get most schools open by his first 100 days in office. But some students have more access to in-person classes than others. San Francisco’s high schools are an example of the gaps that remain as students contend with limited, imperfect options and schools discover some families are reluctant to return.
After his December promise to open most schools, Biden softened in February to include only K-8 but emphasized he was shooting for five days a week. To support this goal, he sent a flood of funding, and first lady Jill Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona toured schools they praised for offering in-person classes. Declining case counts, increasing vaccination rates, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortening the distance between desks from 6 feet to 3 have all helped schools open their doors. As of April 26, the American Enterprise Institute’s Return to Learn tracker estimated 49 percent of districts offered full-time in-person classes, up from 28 percent in early January. Another 48 percent offered hybrid options, according to the tracker.
But certain students are more likely to log in from home. Nationwide, urban and low-income students are less likely to be in-person. A December McKinsey analysis found that makes them more vulnerable to falling behind, especially in math. Experts have suggested greater caution and higher COVID-19 rates in urban areas contribute to those numbers. In addition, Cardona noted on April 30 that the majority of African American, Hispanic, and Asian elementary public school students are still in remote school, compared to just 24 percent of white students. “Anything under 100 percent means we have more work to do,” he wrote.
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