It’s probably worse than the data suggests. The NWEA researchers warn that the data may not capture the entire universe of the students. They observed a greater proportion of the wear and tear on the tests from 2019 to 2020 among minority students, among students with lower achievements in the past year, and among schools with more students in economic trouble.
In New York, for example, there are some children in lower grades – from preschool through fifth grade – who begin personal learning from December 7th. The middle and high schools will not open until January. While it’s good news that 330,000 children are returning to school, the bad news is that fewer than a third of the more than 1 million children in New York City public schools are in school.
And what even that required was a complete withdrawal from the 3% positivity threshold for New York Covid infections.
Related card: States where schools are open and closed
The deficit date
Schools, counties and states don’t systematically test children, Emily Oster, a Brown economics professor who launched her own website to share data on Covid infections in schools, told CNN last week.
The data it collected and warned is absolutely incomplete. They were cited by the CDC as evidence that the virus does not spread the same way in schools. With so many children being asymptomatic, it is not clear how or if the virus spreads in schools.
Schools have to decide for themselves what to do. Like New York City, Kentucky and West Virginia have temporarily closed all schools, though both plan to reopen this month.
The El Paso model. One of the top US Covid hotspots in the past few weeks has been El Paso, Texas, where schools aren’t exactly open but aren’t completely closed. They have a color-coded re-entry plan based on the percentage of people in Texas hospitals with Covid.
The current hospitalization rate in Covid in the El Paso area is more than 36%. It’s been in the “red zone” for 45 days – which means 20% or more of people hospitalized in El Paso have Covid. The rate is falling – it was more than 50% a few weeks ago, said Daniel Martinez, the interim deputy superintendent of public affairs for the Ysleta Independent School District.
The district allows face-to-face tuition, although fewer than 2,000 students, according to Martinez, have used it. And the lessons aren’t exactly normal for kids in the Before Times style in the classroom, more like internet hubs manned by agents who make online learning easier.
Still, it’s outside the home education for those who want or need it. Interestingly, students still play high school soccer, despite Martinez saying there is a strict testing policy in place.
The Florida model. In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has made sure that schools keep his business card open, and he announced on Monday that he would continue that pressure through next year.
Broward County is one of the largest school districts in the state. There officials publish a detailed graphic of the Covid cases reported by employees and students themselves. The cases have been split roughly evenly between staff and students since schools reopened in October. More than half of the cases have occurred in the past 30 days. Each outbreak of more than a dozen people has occurred in a high school.
More than half of students – 55% – in Florida’s largest school district chose virtual rather than face-to-face participation, according to the Miami-Dade School District, which serves nearly 300,000 students.
The district has taken an aggressive approach to finding potentially infected students and staff, and has identified more than 1,300 since October. Two schools were closed for a period of 24 hours.
School-related Covid has increased in states where many or most schools are open. Read about Utah’s high schools here.
Not all closings are from Covid. Baltimore’s school district was the victim of a ransomware attack that suspended online learning for three days.
Children get sick too
Almost 154,000 children were diagnosed with coronavirus infections in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, the highest number to date, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday.
This brings the number of US child infections to a total of more than 1.3 million cases.
“As documented in previous weekly reports, serious illness from Covid-19 in children appears to be rare. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on the longer-term effects of the pandemic on children, including the possibilities of the virus in the long-term affect the physical health of infected children as well as their emotional and psychological effects, “said a statement from the academy.
The count is not complete because not all states report data in the same way. These numbers come from 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
But the doctors still think it’s time to send the kids back. Dr. Tanya Altman, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, writes for CNN that the solution for schools right now is to mask them and focus on reopening them:
“Some may argue that closing bars, malls, theaters, and other publicly accessible businesses will decimate our economies and ultimately hurt students as parents struggle to survive. But in these environments, people are confined and relaxed social environment likely to break rules.
We are aware of far greater transmission associated with indoor gatherings such as wedding receptions, bars, restaurants, malls, and other gatherings outside of the school. It is not during school that Covid-19 is transmitted. It is on the days when children are out of school that they gather without masks.
The United States must establish universal recommendations such as masking, distancing and testing, limiting events and exposures, and reducing the number of cases without harming the education, mental health, and future of our children. Maybe if everyone followed school guidelines, we could flatten the curve. ”
Lost generation. Miguel Cervantes del Toro is the principal at Callaway Elementary School in Baltimore and writes that he is “concerned about losing a generation of students to this pandemic.”
In a piece of advice to President-elect Joe Biden, del Toro says the next education secretary needs to work to get federal funding for schools: “We need the next education secretary to act urgently to make sure we don’t lose ground.” We need resources to reopen schools safely, and we need funds for mental health support to address the trauma caused by the pandemic. ”