As the 2020 academic year draws to a close, schools are pursuing a patchwork response of in-person, remote and hybrid classes on top of varying mask and social distancing rules.
This week, New York City reopened public elementary schools after closing briefly in response to surpassing a city-wide 3 percent test positivity rate. At public elementary schools in Baltimore, some students are returning to the classroom for the first time since March.
Recent data from random testing in the U.S. and Britain suggest that in-person instruction in elementary schools does not appear to significantly impact community transmission of the virus. Children under 10 are less likely to be affected by coronavirus and spread it less efficiently than older populations.
Cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles are following NYC and Baltimore, with plans to bring young children back to the classroom first. In-person learning is critical for the development of younger children – and logistically, online learning is much more cumbersome with them.
For now, many public middle and high schools will remain online until a vaccine is widely distributed. Private schools for kids of all ages have more flexibility with reopening, and often, more money to put precautionary measures in place.
University instruction plans are similarly inconsistent. Many colleges have started announcing plans for the spring, with some sticking to complete remote education with a small number of students on campus and others allowing all students back to campus for hybrid in-person and online classes.