After spending much of the past year learning remotely, many U.S. students are returning to in-person classes. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact students and school systems nationwide. COVID-19 cases among children rose as schools reopened, and more than 1,400 schools across 35 states have closed again temporarily for COVID-19 related reasons. Children younger than 12 aren't yet eligible for the vaccine, and remain far less likely to be hospitalized with or die from COVID-19 than other age groups. Meanwhile, 17 states have mandated masks in schools; nine states banned school mask mandates, but three have had them overturned.
The return to in-person learning has been a focus of media coverage across the spectrum. Many left- and center-rated sources have highlighted rising child COVID-19 cases, as well as cases of school faculty or students becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. Many left-rated voices support mask mandates in schools, and some condemn efforts to ban them as discriminatory. Many right-rated voices oppose school mask mandates, citing low COVID-19 risk for kids and concerns about the psychological impact of continued mask-wearing; some accuse public health officials and teachers' unions of being overly cautious with COVID-19 guidance for schools.
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Snippets from the Left
"Some students are returning to schools for the first time in a year. But long-awaited classroom learning can be quickly derailed by an infection or outbreak. In Mississippi and Florida, thousands of students just starting their school year have already had to quarantine. And it doesn't take much for Covid-19 to shut down a school again. Even one case can have a ripple effect on students, faculty and staff."
U.S. News and World Report (opinion)
"While symptomatic and severe cases in kids remain less common than for other age groups, states and counties with mask-optional policies and where vaccination rates remain low are experiencing a harrowing increase in pediatric infections. More than 51,000 students in Texas have tested positive for COVID-19 since the first week of school in August. The same is true for 20,000 students in Mississippi."
Snippets from the Center
"The percentage of parents who are opposed to a vaccine mandate in schools is down by nearly 10 percent from a previous poll conducted in August, which found 51 percent of respondents saying that they will not send their child to school if a COVID-19 vaccine is required."
"To be sure, Republicans are less likely than Democrats to support things like mask mandates and less likely overall to have received the jab, but politics alone doesn’t explain everything we’re seeing here. For some school-safety precautions, the gaps are biggest between those who are vaccinated and those who are not."
Snippets from the Right
"This is not the first instance in which teachers unions have been charged with exerting substantial behind-the-scenes influence over school reopening policies. In May, Americans for Public Trust published formerly classified emails between AFT leaders and Walensky showing that the union was able to influence the administration’s guidelines for full school reopening this fall."
"A December report from McKinsey & Company estimated that students fell behind an average of three months on math and one and a half months on reading in 2020. Meanwhile, an October 2020 study from Stanford University found that students in some states lost up to a year in reading and more than a year in math during the 2019-2020 school year."