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The dangerous instability of school re-openings

Schools across the country have flip-flopped between in-person and remote learning — and that instability is taking a toll on students' ability to learn and their mental health.

The big picture: While companies were able to set long timelines for their return, schools — under immense political and social strain — had to rush to figure out how to reopen. The cobbled-together approach has hurt students, parents and teachers alike.


  • "In hindsight, we can say it would have been better to go all-remote," says Jon Hale, a professor of education at the University of Illinois. "But there was so much pressure to open."

What's happening: Without clear federal or state standards, re-opening strategies — which range from lottery systems that determine who gets to come to school to on-and-off in-person learning depending on the week's caseloads — have been disorganized at students' expense.

  • The instability has affected students within big districts: New York opened for in-person learning and then closed some schools in response to case spikes. Atlanta, Boston and Chicago have all delayed re-opening plans.
  • Smaller districts have been affected, too: St. Cloud, Minn. and Lowell, Mass. schools switched from in-person to remote learning in response to case spikes.

Why it matters: The flip-flopping is hurting already-vulnerable students and exhausting teachers, experts tell Axios.

  • Teachers in the many districts that are using hybrid or opt-in for remote models are struggling to manage in-person and at-home students simultaneously, says Dennis Roche, co-founder of Burbio, which has been tracking re-opening plans.
  • The uncertainty is especially difficult for students with special needs who often rely on structure during the school day.
  • The interruption in services like after-school care and free and reduced-price lunch is disproportionately affecting students of color, who tend to be lower-income, the University of Illinois' Hale says.

In the longer term, this precarious period threatens to destabilize the whole public education system as parents lose faith in it, says Hale.

  • Wealthy parents are increasingly pulling their kids out of public schools and enrolling them in private schools that are offering in-person learning because they don't have to contend with teachers unions and local lawmakers to do so.

The bottom line: "It's just such tradeoff," says Meira Levinson, a Harvard professor of education.

  • It probably would have been better to commit to a remote fall in June so schools could plan the logistics and services, she says. "But on the other hand, everybody agrees that in-person education is better."

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Driving the news: The e-commerce giant may have illegally interfered in a mail-in election tallied in April on whether workers at the plant should unionize, according to a statement from an NLRB hearing officer assigned to the case.

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Evictions lead to rare clash between the White House and Dems

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Lindsey Graham tests positive for COVID-19

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Why it matters: Graham emphasized that the mildness of his symptoms is due to being vaccinated. If he had been unvaccinated his symptoms would be "far worse," he said.

U.S. consulting with U.K., Romania and Israel on response to alleged Iran attack

The British and Romanian governments summoned the Iranian ambassadors to London and Bucharest on Monday to protest last week's drone strike on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which both countries have attributed to Iran.

The latest: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a briefing Monday that the U.S. is consulting with the U.K., Romania and Israel to prepare a collective response to the alleged Iranian attack.

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