A Full Reopening for Schools Across the United States in September?

The U.S. has been quite successful so far with its COVID-19 vaccine efforts. The numbers show that the number of cases are declining. As the pandemic comes to an end in America, many businesses are starting to reopen, and some of the most important re-openings involve schools.

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Adam Sultan

Here is the exterior of Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School/Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Harlem, New York. These schools have both been affected by the pandemic in New York City. “Schools reopening this fall would be a good time to reopen, at least in New York City (and that’s the current plan with the NYC DOE). However, some schools in other parts of the country may be able to reopen sooner or later, depending on where they are and how hard their area has been hit by COVID-19,” said Moontachier Tasneem ’23.

The U.S. has been making excellent progress in administering the COVID-19 vaccines. With every day, the end of the pandemic seems to be drawing closer and closer. As this unprecedented 2020-2021 academic school year is ending, and a new one is set to begin in September 2021, many students and educators across the country are now wondering when schools will fully reopen for them.

As of April 28th, 2021, around 300 million vaccine doses have been delivered to pharmacies and medical centers, and approximately 230 million have been administered, with a majority being the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. COVID-19 cases and death rates in the U.S. have also been on the decline, and most recently, vaccines have been approved for everybody older than 12.

Due to this recent success, many people have started to push for the full reopening of schools, as it is now much safer for almost all age groups going to school. A significant number of students have already been vaccinated. In early April 2021, it was reported that almost 80% of all school staff, teachers, and childcare workers in the U.S. have received at least one shot of the vaccine.

Many schools have already made a strong effort to reopen, full-time or not. Federal data gathered in March 2021 revealed that nearly half of all schools in the U.S. were open for full-time, face-to-face learning. Others have adopted a “blended learning” model, where students come to school in-person on some days and learn remotely on others.

Whether schools open or not largely depends on the circumstances in each individual state this fall. Different states have given different orders to schools on whether they should be open or not (click here for a map showing where schools are required to be open). Whereas 50% of all schools are offering in-person learning, about a third of all American schools offer two hours or less of live instruction, and some do not even offer it at all.

Though virtual learning has been implemented with students’ and staff’s safety in mind, it has been found that remote learning has an overall negative impact on students’ academic performance and mental/emotional health, which is why many people want schools to open as soon as possible. “I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to put off reopening schools for much longer, as the remote schooling has been shown to have an overall negative impact on many students. However, if it’s not safe in the area, it’s not safe to reopen,” said Moontachier Tasneem ’23.

On May 24th, 2021, Mayor DeBlasio announced that all New York City public schools will be open full time starting this September 2021 with no blended learning option.  The Los Angeles school district, the second largest after New York City, also announced that they will reopen this fall. 

Even though the pandemic is finally coming to an end as more and more people are vaccinated, restrictions are lifted, and freedom returns to our lives, the recovery process is looking to be difficult and divisive. With dissenting disputes over when to reopen schools, we will have to see how the coming summer and remainder of the pandemic pans out in order to make concrete decisions.

“I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to put off reopening schools for much longer, as the remote schooling has been shown to have an overall negative impact on many students. However, if it’s not safe in the area, it’s not safe to reopen,” said Moontachier Tasneem ’23.

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