Summer vacation ends for millions of U.S. students — but without a return to classrooms.
For millions of American schoolchildren, particularly in the Northeast, the Tuesday after Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer vacation and a return to their classrooms. But this year, instead of boarding buses and lugging backpacks, most of those students are opening their laptops at home as schools commence the fall term virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Classes started Tuesday in some of the nation’s largest districts, including Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Baltimore, along with many suburbs of Washington, D.C. But almost all began the year remotely, with some still hoping to hold classes in-person several weeks from now.
In New York City, the nation’s largest district, teachers and staff members returned to schools on Tuesday, but the city’s 1.1 million students won’t arrive until Sept. 21 — 10 days later than initially planned. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the shift a week ago after many educators said classrooms would not be ready to reopen this week.
In other parts of the country, including several states in the South and Midwest, schools have been open for more than a month now, resulting in a series of student quarantines and temporary shutdowns in some districts. Others seem to have reopened without major outbreaks — although reporting is uneven, making cases difficult to track.
While some educators spent the summer break seeking improved online instruction, concerns have grown over the academic impact of the pandemic, which has widened racial and economic achievement gaps. In Texas, more than 100,000 children never participated in remote learning assignments last spring, according to an analysis of state data by The Dallas Morning News, and 19,000 students dropped out of contact with teachers entirely.
Several large districts in Texas that opened remotely on Tuesday have said they plan to shift to some form of in-person instruction in the coming months, if case numbers allow.
For some districts, technical glitches are also hampering instruction. The Virginia Beach school district’s first day got off to a rocky start on Tuesday as an internet outage left students and parents unable to access online classes. “This outage is affecting schools up and down the East Coast,” the district announced in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning.
In other education news:
The graduate employees’ union at the University of Michigan began a four-day strike on Tuesday over concerns about the university’s reopening plans and lack of broad coronavirus testing on the Ann Arbor campus. The union’s demands include the right for graduate student instructors to work remotely, child care subsidies and rent freezes in campus housing.
The opening of the public schools in Hartford, Conn., has been delayed by a virus — but not the coronavirus or any other biological virus. Rather, the school district’s computer servers fell victim to a computer virus in a ransomware attack. Officials were hoping to restore the systems on Tuesday, which was to have been the first day of school, but have not yet announced when students will be able to go to class.
With just under two weeks left until the start of in-person classes in New York City, a vast majority of classrooms in the nation’s largest school district passed ventilation inspections and will reopen as planned on Sept. 21, the mayor said Tuesday. The mayor also said that the city will open a child care program this month with 30,000 spots for homeless students and children of essential workers and teachers, and will add more spots throughout the fall. Children will attend child care on the days when they are learning remotely.
Nine drugmakers pledge to thoroughly vet any coronavirus vaccine.
Nine drug companies issued a joint pledge on Tuesday that they would “stand with science” and not put forward a vaccine until it had been thoroughly vetted for safety and efficacy.
The companies did not rule out seeking an emergency authorization of their vaccines, but promised that any potential coronavirus vaccine would be decided based on “large, high quality clinical trials” and that the companies would follow guidance from regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration.
“We believe this pledge will help ensure public confidence in the rigorous scientific and regulatory process by which Covid-19 vaccines are evaluated and may ultimately be approved,” the companies said.
President Trump has repeatedly claimed that a vaccine could be available before Election Day, Nov. 3, heightening fears that his administration is politicizing the race by scientists to develop a vaccine and potentially undermining public trust in any vaccine…