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Coronavirus Must-Reads — Key Coverage for Schools & Communities: How a Pandemic Is Impacting Distance Learning, Student Safety, Equity, Funding & More

By Andrew Brownstein | March 25, 2020

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This is a special edition of EduClips, our recurring roundup of top education headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across 10 states typically attend class every day. See our full EduClips archive right here

It’s only been two weeks since Seattle became the first major U.S. district to close its schools due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it may as well have been a lifetime ago. As of Wednesday, all but three states — Iowa, Nebraska and Maine — had required that schools be shuttered; and two, Kansas and Virginia, announced closures for the remainder of the school year.

The changes in those 14 days have been seismic and, for many, profoundly unsettling. With schools employing a patchwork of distance learning systems and parents suddenly put in the uncomfortable role of teachers, this period could become “a vast unplanned experiment in mass home schooling,” said Kevin Carey, vice president for education policy at the New America think tank. Along the way, it is introducing a whole new slang (Zoombombing?) and putting under a microscope the enormous equity gap between the digital haves and have-nots.

The pandemic has also exposed fissures between states, districts and the federal government as schools clamor for clear guidance on a host of issues. Even the dilemma of school closures, which district and state chiefs more or less settled unilaterally, appears to be an open subject at the White House. Asked about it this week, President Donald Trump said such decisions are “up to the governors” and that, in some states, “the schools are going to open.” Last week, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a one-year waiver on standardized testing, but large questions remain on issues such as how to provide distance learning to special education students — issues that may be ultimately decided by the courts. At press time, the House was poised to act on a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that could provide substantial relief to parents, teachers and schools. The House needs to reconcile that package with its own version, which proposes significantly more funding for education.

A quick scan of key coronavirus clips for educators, district leaders, students and school communities:

Top Stories

Student Safety — With School Out and Activities Canceled, Community Leaders Confront the Challenges of Keeping Kids Safe (Read at The Washington Post)

Schooling at Home — ‘A Really Big Experiment’: Parents Turn Teachers Amid Virus (Read at The New York Times)

Homeless Students — Reaching ‘Our Most Invisible Population’ During a Pandemic: How Schools Are Scrambling to Protect Homeless Students as Coronavirus Disrupts Lives (Read at The74Million.org)

Federal Policy — How Does Current Law Limit Betsy DeVos’ Power to Waive Education Mandates? (Read at Education Week)

‘Social Distance’ Learning

School Districts Take Unplanned Plunge into Online Learning (Read at The New York Times)

Analysis: How Are Schools Shifting Student Support, Instruction and District Operations Amid Coronavirus? 5 Early Findings From New National Survey (Read at The74Million.org)

The ‘New Reality’ of Coronavirus: Here’s What NYC’s First Day of Remote Learning Looked Like (Read at Chalkbeat)

Teachers Find Many Obstacles as They Try to Keep Kids Learning Amid Coronavirus (Read at Los Angeles Times)

What Is and Is Not Working as Educators Transition to Online Learning (Read at Education Week)

Parents and Families

Need Help Sorting Through the Avalanche of Online Resources for Kids Who Are Now Learning at Home? 11 Sites for Parents to Look At (Read at The74Million.org)

Childcare Providers Are Feeling an Unprecedented Squeeze. Now, They’re Asking for Help (Read at Chalkbeat)

Kids’ Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Stories, Lessons from Home (Read at The Washington Post)

45 Tweets From Parents About Social Distancing With Kids (Read at HuffPost)

A Social Activist in Texas Taps His ‘Coolest Friends’ to Host Afternoon Adventures Online During Coronavirus Shutdown, and Parents and Kids — By the Thousands — Tune In (Read at The74Million.org)

Educators

‘Bright Star’ Principal, 36, Dies From Coronavirus (Read at Education Week)

Brooklyn Principal Hospitalized After Another Principal in the Same Building Died from Coronavirus (Read at Chalkbeat)

With Schools Shut Down, What Happens to Hiring (Read at Education Week)

Special Education

‘Am I Doing Enough?’ As Districts Try Remote Learning for Students with Disabilities, These Challenges Lie Ahead (Read at Chalkbeat)

For Parents Trying to Replicate School for Children with Disabilities, a Confounding Task (Read at The Washington Post)

Despite Assurances of Flexibility, Educators Fear Liability in Online Instruction of Special Ed Students (Read at EdSource)

Equity and Activism

Federal Policy Says Students Must Pick Up School Meals In-person. Families with Susceptible Children Face Wrenching Decisions. (Read at The Washington Post)

NYC Student Activists Can’t Boycott Schools That Are Closed, but as Coronavirus Highlights Long-Standing Inequities, a Chance to Change Policy Emerges (Read at The74Million.org)

Working From Home Reveals Another Fault Line in America’s Racial and Educational Divide (Read at The Washington Post)

Essays and Reflections

Social Distancing Without a Social Safety Net: How Shutdowns Came to My Child’s Fragile School Community (Read at The74Million.org)

How the Coronavirus Could Take Over Your Body (Before You Ever Feel It) (Read at New York Magazine)

The Stimulus Package Will Help Families, But It Doesn’t Go Far Enough (Read at Education Week)

Coronavirus: Are California Kids Actually Learning Since Coronavirus Closed Their Schools? (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

Student Voice: Part Staycation, Part Home Detention, My Life During Pandemic Is a Study in Contrasts (Read at The74Million.org)

QuotED

“It’s a really big experiment.” —Roxanne Ojeda-Valentin, a single mother of a sixth-grader in Buffalo, New York, on educating her son during the pandemic. (Read at The New York Times)

“Of course, I’m concerned for the health of my family and community. But as self-absorbed as it feels to say it, I’m also worried about not being able to go to prom.” —Sadie Bograd, a high school junior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky. (Read at The74Million.org)

“It is really shedding light on some inequalities in a new way. A lot of people who have highly paid, white-collar jobs that are computer-focused can adjust to this crisis without a lot of pain. And then there’s a much larger group that can’t adjust without a lot of pain to themselves and their families.” —Heidi Shierholz, former chief economist for the Labor Department, now at the Economic Policy Institute. (Read at The Washington Post)

“The friend’s family said, ‘You can’t stay here because people are getting sick,’ and so they asked her to leave. This wasn’t the first time she had spent the night in the car.” —Casey Gordon, who manages homeless-student outreach efforts at the Kent Intermediate School District in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the plight of homeless students during the pandemic. (Read at The74Million.org)

“Zoombombing is no joke. I don’t think we were ready for that. If a teacher wants to hold a review session for 100 kids, you just can’t monitor what kids are screenshotting and what’s going on in the chat.” —Pat Finley, co-principal of Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in New York City. (Read at Chalkbeat)

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