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How the new variant could affect children and schools

But that study, Apoorva said, did not consider lax enforcement of safety standards in schools – such as not requiring masks.

“The schools were open without precautions,” she said. “They didn’t take all those other factors into account. This fueled a lot of fears that this variant would be more contagious in children and that the protection that children seem to have was not there with the new variant. This did not turn out to be the case.

While there have been a lot of infections in schools, contact tracing has added complexity to the story. Data from about 20,000 people infected with the new variant – including nearly 3,000 children under the age of 10 – showed that young children were about half as likely as adults to pass the variant on to others.

“The variant East more contagious, but it’s more contagious in all age groups, ”said Apoorva. “If children were half as likely to be infected before, they are also half as likely to be infected now.”

“We already know how to make schools relatively safe,” Apoorva said.

A mask warrant is a must, she says, as is physical distancing. Good ventilation is important – open windows will circulate air and even an inexpensive air filter can make a big difference. Thorough testing and contact tracing is essential. The new variant will lead to more infections in children unless schools step up their precautions, experts told Apoorva.

“We know these measures work, but only if they are actually implemented,” she said. “It becomes all the more important with this variant because it is so much more contagious.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, echoed the need for mitigation (with masks, separation, ventilation and cleaning), testing and appropriate quarantines. It also prioritized reasonable accommodation between teacher unions and districts, as well as vaccination of adults working in school buildings.

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How the new variant could affect children and schools

But that study, Apoorva said, did not consider lax enforcement of safety standards in schools – such as not requiring masks.

“The schools were open without precautions,” she said. “They didn’t take all those other factors into account. This fueled a lot of fears that this variant would be more contagious in children and that the protection that children seem to have was not there with the new variant. This did not turn out to be the case.

While there have been a lot of infections in schools, contact tracing has added complexity to the story. Data from about 20,000 people infected with the new variant – including nearly 3,000 children under the age of 10 – showed that young children were about half as likely as adults to pass the variant on to others.

“The variant East more contagious, but it’s more contagious in all age groups, ”said Apoorva. “If children were half as likely to be infected before, they are also half as likely to be infected now.”

“We already know how to make schools relatively safe,” Apoorva said.

A mask warrant is a must, she says, as is physical distancing. Good ventilation is important – open windows will circulate air and even an inexpensive air filter can make a big difference. Thorough testing and contact tracing is essential. The new variant will lead to more infections in children unless schools step up their precautions, experts told Apoorva.

“We know these measures work, but only if they are actually implemented,” she said. “It becomes all the more important with this variant because it is so much more contagious.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, echoed the need for mitigation (with masks, separation, ventilation and cleaning), testing and appropriate quarantines. It also prioritized reasonable accommodation between teacher unions and districts, as well as vaccination of adults working in school buildings.

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What does a more contagious virus mean for schools?

“When we look at what happened in the UK and think about this new variant, and we see all the numbers of cases increasing, we have to remember that in the context of open schools with virtually no changes at all. Dr Jenkins told me. “I would like to see a concrete example of this type of country, state or place, which has succeeded in controlling things in schools.”

There are a few examples in the United States.

Erin Bromage, an immunologist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, has advised the governor of Rhode Island, as well as schools in southern Massachusetts, on the preventive measures needed to roll back the coronavirus. Schools that have adhered closely to the guidelines haven’t seen many infections, even when the virus was circulating at high levels in the community, Dr Bromage said.

“When the system is designed correctly and we get the kids to school, they are as safe, if not more secure, than they would be in a hybrid or remote system,” he said.

The school attended by Dr. Bromage’s children took extra precautions. For example, administrators closed the school a few days before Thanksgiving to reduce risk at family gatherings and operated remotely the week after the holidays.

Officials tested nearly 300 students and staff at the end of this week, found only two cases and decided to reopen.

“It gave us the confidence that our population was not representative of what we saw in the wider community,” he said. “We were using data to determine the return together.”

The tests cost $ 61 per child, but schools that can’t afford it might consider testing only teachers, he added, as data suggests the virus is “more likely to pass from a teacher to the other than from pupil to teacher ”.

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Private schools have benefited from PPP funding

This is the Coronavirus Schools Briefing, a guide to seismic changes in education in the United States that are occurring during the pandemic. Sign up here to receive this newsletter to your inbox.

This spring, when the federal government disbursed billions of dollars in emergency pandemic funding, traditional K-12 public schools in Los Angeles received an average of about $ 716,000.

Meanwhile, Sierra Canyon School, a private school in the San Fernando Valley where LeBron James’ son is an outstanding basketball player, received $ 3.14 million – part of a loan – pandemic grant to its foundation of the Federal Paycheck Protection Program.

New York public schools have an average of $ 386,000 in federal aid. But Poly Prep Country Day School, a private Brooklyn school with more than $ 114 million in the bank, got a $ 5.83 million PPP loan. Public schools in Washington, DC, received an average of $ 189,000 in federal funding. But a $ 5.22 million PPP loan went to Sidwell Friends School, Sasha and Malia Obama’s alma mater in Washington.

This week, as the federal government releases a second round of P3 loans, watch groups are tracking the money. Since its inception, the $ 659 billion program, to help struggling family businesses and nonprofits cover their wages with loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, has been marred by complaints that rich and connected had ousted the intended recipients.

A recipient database – released in full by the Treasury Department in December after the Times and other major news agencies filed a federal complaint – supported those concerns.

In education, the disparities were particularly striking. Public schools are not eligible for PPP loans because they have a separate aid pot under the federal CARES law. But private and charter schools could apply for the loans. Many did, sometimes to their embarrassment when the demands became public.

The Latin School of Chicago, which revealed an endowment of $ 58.5 million in a recent tax return, applied for a loan and then returned the money after an article in the school’s student newspaper, The Forum. The same was true for the elite Brentwood School in Los Angeles, after the Los Angeles Times noted that his students include two of the children of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Yet many elite private schools kept the money they asked for, citing economic uncertainty and rules that limited their ability to tap into their endowments to cover their salaries. After an initial round of PPP funding quickly ran out, the Small Business Administration released revised guidelines for the program that state that employers with other funding options should not apply. The rules have since been tightened even further.

But Accountable.US – a non-partisan watchdog organization that compiled the aforementioned statistics on schools in Los Angeles, New York and Washington – says it still needs to fill in the gaps that hide fairness issues, making the program vulnerable. to potential fraudsters and continue to leave well connected cash in loans. And minority-focused lenders raise similar concerns. This fight is far from over.

After the epidemics of last fall, the city-state of Singapore has on average less than one locally transmitted case each day. Since the start of the pandemic, reports our colleague Sui-Lee Wee, its three major universities have not reported any cases of community transmission.

From our perch here in the United States, it almost sounds like a fantasy. But the three factors that contribute to its success – technology, restrictions, and compliance – can provide a useful benchmark for educators and government officials around the world.

The National University of Singapore has invested in vast testing resources and is screening dormitory sewage for traces of the coronavirus. It’s in sync with many American campuses.

But the university is also using technology to enforce social distancing measures, especially by evacuating crowds in high traffic areas. The university president regularly scans an online dashboard to see how crowded the cafeterias are. If the real-time map shows that a dining room is too full, it asks admins to send a notice to avoid it and use other options.

Singapore’s government has adopted an aggressive response to the pandemic: it punishes those who violate restrictions, in some cases by deporting foreign nationals and revoking work cards.

In universities, severe restrictions on campus have led to the expulsion of some students from dormitories to accommodate visitors. More than 800 students signed a petition last October to lift the restrictions.

“The consequences are serious, so people are afraid” said 24-year-old law student Fok Theng Fong.

Most students in Singapore do not live on campus. And Singapore has no fraternities and sororities.

Olyvia Lim, a senior at Nanyang Technological University, said reports of American students partying amid a pandemic have confused her friends.

“We all said, ‘Why would they risk doing such a thing? Said Lim. “It’s a little hard to believe because we’re the same age, but I think that’s the culture. It’s all about freedom, but when the government says here, “Wear a mask”, we all do it. “

  • After the University of Alabama won the college football championship on Monday night, thousands of people partied in the streets to celebrate, in a potential super-spreader event.

  • Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte joined a growing list of schools delaying the start of in-person learning. And a community college in California, Chaffey College, canceled in-person classes for the spring term.

  • Many colleges in Rhode Island plans to open soon, despite the rise in cases.

  • Art in the midst of chaos: Three students at Dartmouth College shared their artistic creations with Emma Ginsberg, reporter for the student newspaper. Jazz, pastry and theater are still flourishing.

  • A good read: Our colleague Billy Witz looked at the often absurd inequalities in college sports. “It’s hard to disentangle the hypocrisy from the heartwarming in the college sports mega-business, where the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the conflicts inherent in a financial model that is raking in billions off the backs of unpaid gamers.

  • About 250 public schools in New York City offer full-time classes, five days a week to all of their students, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

  • After delays, Utah began vaccinating teachers on Tuesday.

  • Arkansas expand its vaccine distribution to teachers, child care and higher education workers.

  • Boston plans to bring more students back from public schools for in-person learning starting in February. Last week, Governor Charlie Baker unveiled plans to begin pool testing for Massachusetts students and staff.

  • A notice from Chicago: Stacy Moore, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence-Chicago, did not mince words. “If the leaders of our school district and teachers’ union continue on this path, no one wins,” wrote Moore, a former teacher. “It’s time for both sides to act like adults and come to the table to compromise.”

  • A worthy watch: A teacher at a Baltimore public school posted a powerful video with student testimonials. “It’s so hard to stay connected with your computer,” said one student. “It’s like a curse.” Alec MacGillis, journalist at ProPublica, written on twitter that it was “the first collection of first-hand student accounts that I have seen from anywhere in the country”.

Our colleague Christina Caron has written a handy explainer for everything you need to know about Covid testing for children. She spoke to five doctors and two of the largest emergency care providers in the United States to analyze the following questions: Are there less invasive tests? If so, where? Are they correct? And how should parents prepare a disgusted young child for the sample?

There is a ton of information in the article. But in general, to calm the nerves, Christina recommends going to a pediatrician. “Doctors and nurses who test children regularly will likely know what to do if your child is nervous or scared,” she wrote.

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New year, new drama in New York schools

Will New York City keep schools open for young children and people with the most complex disabilities, even as the number of viruses increases? The answer remains uncertain as the political battle lines have been redrawn this week.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that the state would drop its plan to close schools if the positivity rate reached 9% under state parameters, leaving the decision to local leaders. And Mayor Bill de Blasio said the 190,000 or so children who attend school in person should have the option of staying there: “The safest place in New York, of course, is our public schools.”

But the city’s teachers’ union, which previously partnered with the mayor to support opening classrooms, said schools should close if virus rates continue to rise.

“I get frustrated when they keep changing these policies,” said Michael Mulgrew, union president of the United Teachers’ Federation, in a TV interview. “All it does is cause more fear and anxiety, and it’s going to lead to a fight.

The change means New York City could be in a disruptive showdown between the union and city hall, like in Chicago, where hundreds of teachers challenged a city order to show up at school buildings this week.

A quick word on the numbers: New York and New York State calculate the test positivity rate in different ways. According to the city, its positivity rate is already over 9%; depending on the state, it is just over 6%. The union wants to close schools if the city reaches the 9% mark calculated by the state. (Yes, it’s unnecessarily complicated.)

The test positivity rate at the city’s school is low, but it is increasing: in December, 0.67% of tests were positive, up from 0.28% until the end of November.

And as our colleagues Eliza Shapiro and J. David Goodman report, around 700,000 students in the city have already chosen to learn from home full time, so the latest political battle may be largely unrelated to their own. families. Many children who attend school switch to hybrid mode or face sudden quarantines that force them to resume distance learning for days or weeks.

This means that distance learning is extremely important, even if parents and teachers complain that it was dealt with after the fact. Thousands of children still do not have reliable devices or Internet access. And time is running out to save the most brutal and frustrating school year in recent memory.

Once upon a time, before the internet came into our pockets, there was public educational television. Now, in the pandemic, teachers are back on television, trying to engage children stuck in the doldrums of distance learning.

For some families, the programs complement the online courses. For others, they play a more critical role: reaching students who, without reliable Internet access or laptops at home, have been left behind. (Not everyone has a computer, but 96% of Americans have a working TV, according to Nielsen.)

Educators also say the programs have helped children form deep connections with the teachers they see on screen. This type of relationship, so common in classrooms, can be difficult to replicate through distance learning.

“Students can focus on the lesson, on a bigger screen and with a comfortable stand,” said Melinda Spaulding Chevalier, a former TV news anchor who introduced the concept to her local Fox channel in March.

The programs have popped up across the country. A little air on weekends or after school. Elsewhere, districts have set aside time to watch it during the school day.

“They’ve got Dora and ‘Blues Clues’ and all that, but they’re people,” said Latoya Pitcher, whose 4-year-old son Levi is a devoted fan. “That’s what they lost with the shelter there: seeing people every day.”

  • Colleges across the country have delayed their spring schedules at the last minute or have chosen to start the spring semester with full distance education.

  • the University of California San Diego installed 11 free self-test kit vending machines on campus.

  • Greg Gard, the men’s basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin, postponed the game scheduled for Sunday against Penn State University. “I couldn’t honestly look at my parents and their players and say, ‘I’m confident in the environment we’re going into,'” Gard told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

  • A good read: Thanks to strict regulations, Dartmouth College kept infection rates low. But, Emily Lu reported for The Dartmouth, the student newspaper, “Some students and parents worried that regulation came at a cost to mental health, because collecting rules meant that many students had overcome the pandemic by largely alone.

  • Governor Kate Brown of Oregon is pushing for a return to classrooms by February 15, before many teachers and other key staff received the vaccines.

  • A director in Kentucky got a commercial driver’s license so she could drive students to school after the school’s only bus drivers contracted the coronavirus.

  • In memory: Jamie Seitz, elementary school physical education teacher and high school coach North Carolina, died of coronavirus. He was 51 years old. “He made the worst athlete and the best athlete in a class feel equally special,” wrote his friend Scott Fowler, sports columnist for The Charlotte Observer, in a moving tribute.

  • A good read: Last month, Slate plunged deep into tensions in Brookline, Mass. Over the reopening debate. It’s a long article, but perhaps the best we’ve read on the “Nice White Parents” dynamic during the pandemic.

Tiya Birru, a high school student, wrote a brutal article in YR Media about life in distance learning.

“Even though I’ve been in distance learning for months, studying online isn’t easier,” Birru wrote. “In fact, it’s getting even more difficult for me.”

Birru interviewed two peers about their experiences.

“I feel like I’m letting everything go until the deadline to finish it,” said Leroy Yau, a senior in Oakland, Calif. “I’m just not really motivated by seeing other people’s screens.”

“I’m completely exhausted,” said Ilana Drake, a senior in New York City. “And I know there is seniority. But I think the exhaustion is from being on Zoom all day.

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Public schools face funding ‘death spiral’ as enrollments decline

SACRAMENTO – In Texas, public schools in Austin could lay off 200 people and fail to close the financial hole created by the coronavirus. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington has proposed two new taxes to help pay for catching up with students who have fallen behind in distance learning. And in Los Angeles, the costs of virus tests, laptops and free meals for families have totaled more than $ 400 million.

Even with a promised lifeline of billions of federal dollars, public schools in many parts of the country are heading towards a financial cliff, as the coronavirus pushes up education costs as tax revenues and enrollments increase. students continue to decline.

Schools can expect around $ 54 billion from the coronavirus stimulus package approved by Congress late Monday night, nearly four times what kindergarten to grade 12 education received in a relief program Of March. The deal also includes $ 7 billion to expand broadband access for students who have difficulty connecting, and continued funding for school lunch programs.

But school officials say that’s not enough to make up for the crushing losses state and local budgets have suffered during the pandemic, or the costs of distance learning and attempts to bring back the children. students in classrooms. Supporters of public education estimate that schools have lost nearly $ 200 billion so far.

“We’re going to need a lot more investment both in the short term, to deal with Covid, and in the long term,” said Chip Slaven, a lobbyist for the National School Boards Association.

The pandemic has already forced schools across the country to lay off non-union employees, instead spending the money on distance learning technology, building upgrades, testing and monitoring programs and other related expenses. to coronaviruses. Education was among the hardest-hit sectors of the economy, according to an analysis by Pew Charitable Trusts, with employment down 8.8% in October from a year earlier and lower than any other time in the past two decades – a loss of millions of jobs.

The budget crisis is looming at a time when families who were fed up with education during the pandemic era have increasingly turned to private and charter schools or have chosen to educate their children in House. This is potentially a major drain on public school budgets, as most states base school funding at least in part on enrollment numbers.

The school boards association has estimated that up to three million students – or about 6 percent of the public school population – are not in class right now, and that number could increase.

At the same time, job losses from a pandemic, business closures and depreciation in property values ​​are just starting to show up in tax revenues and state and local revenue pipelines, even as most states begin to draft their budget plans for adoption by the end of the fiscal year in June.

Although the relief package adopted on Monday includes direct aid to education, it does not provide money to state and local governments to help offset budget losses linked to Covid, which could prevent them from helping further schools. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, insisted on ruling out such aid, saying it would be a bailout for financially irresponsible states.

At public schools in Vancouver, a district of about 23,000 students in southwest Washington, enrollment is down 4% so far this year, contributing to a potential shortfall of 21 millions of dollars without state or federal assistance. As schools were primarily providing virtual classes this fall, the district laid off more than 600 people, including classroom assistants, clerks, secretaries, bus drivers and security guards, to save money. silver.

Most states have so far been successful in maintaining funding for schools during the pandemic, but it’s unclear how long that may last, said David Adkins, executive director and chief executive of the council. state governments, which follows state policy at the national level. It will be especially difficult if registrations do not bounce back.

“We will have to see how many of these people return home once normalcy can be achieved,” Adkins said. But if the pandemic accelerates the exodus of affluent families from the public school system, he expressed fears that the loss of enrollment and political support could trigger a “death spiral,” further weakening public schools at a time when students poor and disadvantaged are already lagging behind.

For the most part, schools have been financially protected from the pandemic. Property taxes, which are the primary source of funding for many districts, tend to remain stable until a recession is deep enough to decrease home sales and property tax collection. And many state governments had healthy reserves when the pandemic hit, having squandered money in anticipation of a possible economic recession.

Some states have adopted policies financially protecting schools from enrollment drops related to the pandemic. In Sacramento, California lawmakers pledged to use the number of students before the pandemic to calculate funding for schools through the 2021-2022 school year, to give districts the resources they need to make schools safe and to avoid layoffs in communities where education is often a major employer.

But California entered the fiscal year with a projected surplus of nearly $ 6 billion. Grace periods were more limited in other states. Texas, for example, made its “keep it harmless” policy conditional on schools having the opportunity to attend classes in person and limited it, at first, to part of the semester of school. fall, before extending it to the end of the calendar year.

Now that the semester is almost over, enrollment is down in nearly every district in Texas, in large part because a significant number of parents have withheld kindergarten and kindergarten students. As a result, school funding is poised to suffer.

On December 14, nearly two dozen school principals and education advocates in Texas wrote to Governor Greg Abbott, asking him to at least maintain current education funding. Teachers and school staff “put their lives on the line” this year, the letter said, and not firing them is “the least we can do.”

Enrollments fell 4% in Dallas in October, meaning the district could lose $ 20 million if the governor does not extend the safety policy. In Fort Worth, where registrations have fallen more than 6%, the potential loss on Jan. 1 could reach $ 50 million, the superintendent said. And Austin schools stand to lose up to $ 25 million, which Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said would lead to a thinning of the ranks of teachers.

“We are going to affect the quality of the education given to our students at some point next year when we know that we are going to have to make up for so many losses,” she said.

The decline in enrollment is just as perilous across the country. A 5% drop in student numbers could mean $ 15 million in cuts for schools in Tucson, Ariz., While Massachusetts recently released enrollment figures showing tens of thousands of families had passed through. at private schools with in-person lessons or had withheld kindergarten children, subtract funds from public schools.

In Los Angeles, not only has public school enrollment declined by some 12,000 students – mostly as families leave to find work or hold kindergarten children – the district has also raised some $ 400 million in costs. pandemic, said Austin Beutner, the superintendent, including for Covid-19 testing and free take-out meals for students and adults.

He described the schools as facing a “wall of need”.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has vowed to reopen most schools across the country within the first 100 days of his term in office, a promise that will likely not be fulfilled without more federal spending, though it is unclear whether he will be able to push more humanitarian aid through Congress if the Senate remains under Republican control.

But some states have already taken matters into their own hands. Governor Inslee has proposed taxing capital gains and health insurers in Washington to help generate income to offset the dire impact of the pandemic there, including $ 400 million to combat learning loss and inequalities in access to education. And the budget proposed by Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia last week would protect public school funding despite a drop in enrollment of more than 45,000 students.

In a recent editorial in the Washington Post, Mr. Beutner in Los Angeles and officials from the country’s other two largest public school systems, New York and Chicago, called for a “Marshall Plan” that would spend $ 125 billion. dollars federal funding to districts for Covid screening, mental health care and remedial summer education as schools emerge from the pandemic.

The cost, they note, “is less than 20% of the total amount allocated to the paycheck protection program and about double the amount given to airlines.”

Shawn Hubler reported from Sacramento, Kate Taylor from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Amelia Nierenberg from New York.

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Biden to choose Latino chief of Connecticut schools as education secretary

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to appoint Miguel A. Cardona, Connecticut’s education commissioner, to serve as education secretary, making a Latino the top education decision-maker in the country, according to two officials familiar with his plans.

Dr Cardona, if confirmed by the Senate, would be tasked with bringing the primary, secondary and tertiary education systems back from the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and repairing the extensive damage done. School districts, colleges and universities lost money as they struggled with distance learning, renovated buildings to make them a bit safer, and lost students, especially international students who had paid full tuition fees.

The pandemic has also widened the achievement gap between wealthy students and poorer students who have fallen behind due to insufficient internet access and difficult home learning conditions.

Dr Cardona’s selection would live up to Mr Biden’s campaign pledge to appoint a diverse cabinet and an education secretary with experience in public schools – a direct juxtaposition with President Trump’s billionaire private school champion Betsy DeVos . The official announcement is expected on Tuesday.

Dr Cardona was named Connecticut’s first Latin American Commissioner of Education in 2019 after two decades of experience as a public school educator, starting in an elementary school class in Meriden, Connecticut, according to his official biography. He was also principal for a decade, among the youngest in the state, and as assistant superintendent and adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut.

Dr Cardona has emerged as a leader for the post in recent days, defeating teacher union leaders, higher education academics and superintendents of large urban school districts. It garnered support from key stakeholders in the Biden campaign, including congressional leaders, teachers’ unions, community groups and one of Mr. Biden’s preferred early candidates, Linda Darling-Hammond, who led the campaign education transition team but withdrew from the race. .

Even in the final hours before Mr Cardona’s likely appointment became public, she was endangered by some groups calling for a black woman or a Latina, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

In a letter to Mr. Biden, the Hispanic Congressional Caucus lobbied for greater Latino representation in its cabinet and wrote that it was “proud to offer our enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Miguel Cardona,” and said that he was up to the challenge of meeting Mr. Biden’s immediate and long-term political goals.

“We know that all schools, from elementary to college level, face a difficult path as we strive to recover from the pandemic,” the caucus wrote in its letter. “It is clear that Mr. Cardona’s record of accomplishments demonstrates that he is capable and qualified to lead the Ministry of Education. Additionally, as a Puerto Rican leader, he will bring a valued and diverse voice to the cabinet.

In the letter, the caucus promoted his experience as an educator who worked at all levels of a public school system and his experience as a “Spanish speaking student only when he started the school. ‘school’, which includes the plight of English language learners, among the groups most at risk of losing knowledge during the pandemic.

In interviews, Dr Cardona highlighted his parents’ Puerto Rican roots and his upbringing in the public housing and education system at Meridien as experiences that anchored his career.

“It is not lost on me the importance of being the grandson of a tobacco farmer who came here for a better life, who, despite a second grade education, was able to raise his family and create that cycle of upward mobility, ”he said in a 2019 Connecticut Mirror Profile.

While serving as principal of an elementary school in Meriden, he was named Principal of the Year in 2012 and co-chair of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force. In the task force’s 2014 report, he wrote that “addressing the achievement disparities in Connecticut is more than our moral obligation. It makes fiscal sense, ”because the costs of rehabilitation and incarceration were higher than the cost of educating students.

“In order to address the conditions that perpetuate underperformance, we need to address poverty and systemic barriers while constantly improving our practices in all state agencies,” he wrote.

Dr Cardona has become an urgent voice pressing to reopen schools safely during the pandemic – one of the most immediate challenges Mr Biden faces as the president-elect prioritizes reopening schools in the 100 days after taking office.

Last week, Dr Cardona wrote an opinion piece thanking educators for their commitment to students during the pandemic. He expressed his gratitude as a commissioner, but also as a “father of two attending school in person in the same neighborhood where close family members work daily”. He urged that the same be done for the other children.

“If we provide students with safe in-person learning options, where possible, we can ensure that we are doing everything in our power to level the playing field in education and reduce the gaps.” opportunities for our students, ”he wrote in The Connecticut News-Times. “If we can do it safely, that’s what we owe them.”

While reopening efforts have deeply divided teacher unions from superintendents, Dr Cardona has managed to retain the support of unions in his state, which issued a statement supporting his candidacy a day after the article by opinion.

In a letter, organizations representing more than 60,000 public school employees wrote that Dr Cardona “has been put to the test by the unprecedented upheaval caused by the pandemic” and that his “formative experience as a teacher and administrator has been essential to his accomplishments. Connecticut Education Commissioner. “

“If chosen as secretary of education, Dr Cardona would be a positive force for public education – light years ahead of Betsy DeVos’ sad record,” the letter said.

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Storm dumps snow on east coast, closes schools, tests for viruses

Some parents have decided to stick to the tradition of snowy days anyway, in the hope of giving children a sense of normalcy. Sarah Allen, a mother in Brooklyn’s Kensington neighborhood, said if the streets near her home were blanketed in snow this week, her four children would not be taking distance education.

“I felt like no matter what kind of learning we do this year,” she says, “it’s not something that needs to be taken away from kids who have already lost a lot, ranging from not be able to see friends. losing his parents to Covid.

Even as state and municipal authorities issued severe storm warnings, some greeted the weather with joy. For Lucas Whiffen, 3, of Philadelphia, it would be the first big snowstorm of his life.

His mother, Gail Whiffen, picked him up from daycare on Wednesday, which had closed early in anticipation of the storm. Mrs Whiffen lamented that her son’s new snow pants had not yet arrived, but Lucas was convinced he had plenty of winter gear: “A jacket and mittens and a hat, shoes, boots. He said, eagerly awaiting the snow in which to use them. their.

In Boston, Toni Baraga, 21, said the storm was a welcome start to a new season, as scarred as it could be by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It will finally feel like it’s December, Christmas and the holidays,” she said.

Reporting was contributed by Troy closson, Maria Jiminez Moya, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Heather fletcher.

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Schools to close in Germany as cases rise

This is the Coronavirus Schools Briefing, a guide to the seismic changes in American education that are occurring during the pandemic. Sign up here to receive this newsletter to your inbox.

This fall, even as cases increased across Europe, Germany worked hard to keep schools open, prioritizing them over other aspects of daily life like restaurants and bars.

But even in a country once considered a success, this strategy is no longer viable. German schools will close as well as non-essential shops and services on Wednesday under a strict lockdown that will be in effect until Christmas. Schools are expected to reopen in mid-January.

“The numbers were so out of control that the German leaders decided to lock everything down, even schools,” said Melissa Eddy, Times correspondent in Berlin.

Germany took an aggressive approach to containment from the start, leveraging science, contact tracing and accessible testing to keep the virus at bay. He cited research that said elementary school students were at low risk of spreading the virus, which is now a growing consensus across much of the world. But that couldn’t stop this week’s tough decision.

It is not because schools have spread the virus. Instead, it’s because the community’s spread has exploded.

“This sends the message that Germany has completely lost control of the pandemic,” Melissa said. “The schools were sacrificed because they failed to lock down everything else tightly enough.”

As in the United States, complacency, pandemic fatigue and political wrangling undermined Germany’s coordinated national restrictions. A record number of Germans have been infected or have died in recent weeks.

The coming weeks are now particularly uncertain for schools. Germany, a country long committed to data privacy, has not looked into e-learning software, making the transition to distance learning even more difficult.

“You have a weird school with the inventive technical director, but the others are really struggling,” Melissa said. “Getting into distance education is a big deal here.”

Similar trends are evident in Europe and around the world.

  • In LondonMayor Sadiq Khan called on schools to close early for Christmas, even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson fought to keep them open.

  • In the Netherlands, the Dutch Prime Minister is expected to announce a month-long lockdown during which schools will close.

  • In South Korea, some schools will also close in and around Seoul, the capital.

At the end of the difficult fall semester, many campuses emptied. But coronavirus outbreaks remain.

Deaths in counties with high student populations have doubled since the end of August, compared to a 58% increase in the rest of the country, according to a New York Times analysis.

Deaths from coronavirus among young people are remarkably rare. Since the start of the pandemic, The Times has identified only about 90 deaths involving college workers and students out of more than 397,000 infections.

But the real toll came after the virus spread off campus, leading to deaths among the elderly, especially in nursing homes. A possible transmission route: more than 700,000 undergraduates are nurses, medical assistants and orderlies.

As our colleagues Danielle Ivory, Robert Gebeloff and Sarah Mervosh have reported, people like 94-year-old Phyllis Baukol may have in the past seemed unlikely to spread to college. Baukol, a classical pianist, lived in a retirement home in Grand Forks, ND, far from the classrooms, bars, and fraternity houses frequented by students at the University of North Dakota.

But an increase in the number of cases, first attributed to cases among college students, exploded in Grand Forks this fall. Baukol quickly tested positive. Three days later, staff members pushed her bed against a window so her daughter could say goodbye.

  • Keyontae Johnson, member of the men’s basketball team University of Florida, is in critical but stable condition after collapsing on the pitch during Saturday’s game. Johnson, 21, had the coronavirus this summer.

  • Employees of local businesses in Ithaca, New York, home to Cornell University, have started a petition to close indoor restaurants, receive a risk premium and maintain clear safety protocols, Simran Surtani reported for The Cornell Daily Sun, the student newspaper.

  • Uber drivers had a frustrating semester transporting students to Emory University from dorms to bars and clubs, Ulia Ahn and Matthew Chupack have reported for The Emory Wheel, the student newspaper.

  • The president of the University of Iowa said that a pass / no pass grading option for the fall semester could negatively impact the future of students, Kelsey Harrell reported for The Daily Iowan. Despite lobbying from the student government, university administrators have chosen to maintain the traditional grading.

  • One coach recalled: Tom Burek, Head Swim and Dive Coach Monmouth College, died of complications from Covid-19 on Saturday. Burek, 62, has repeatedly led his team to victory at regional conferences and helped college athletes break records.

  • A columnist’s point of view: Our colleague Kurt Streeter touched on a long-standing ethical issue in varsity sport that has new urgency during the pandemic: Should athletes be paid?

  • A good read: Student athletes at Harvard University wrestled during a fall semester of home training and Zoom reunions, Alex Koller and Ema Schumer reported for The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. “When you work your whole life for something, and you are told that you cannot play, or that you cannot participate in it,” said one football player, “it just complements and s ‘add to itself, sort of creating a semester-long trash can fire for mental health. “

  • Buffalo, New York, will delay the start of its reopening until at least February 1, due to high levels of community transmission. Students who need it will return first during a gradual reopening until mid-March.

  • A teacher in Bend, Ore., was suspended after being shown in a viral video shouting at a crowd of anti-lockdown protesters.

  • Hackers continue to target U.S. schools with ransomware attacks, U.S. intelligence officials have said.

  • An opinion: A group of teachers Connecticut exposed their fears and frustrations with in-person learning in an opinion piece for The Hartford Courant: “Why We Don’t Want To Teach Your Children, In Person.”

  • A good read: About 100 teachers in Chandler, Arizona., staged a breakout on Friday, demanding that schools close after winter recess and stay away until the region’s infection rate declines. The schools did not close: only a fraction of the 2,000 teachers in the district took part in the action. But it underscores the anxiety of many teachers in Arizona, where cases soared last week.

Connie Chang’s daughter started the school year in distance education. But without constant supervision, she could roam freely on the Internet with relative ease.

“My 9-year-old daughter was in several unauthorized Google Hangout groups and chatting with her friends,” Chang wrote. “Within minutes my phone had received 80 more notifications – all with messages like an endless stream of ‘hi’ or a parade of unicorn emojis.”

She spoke with experts and shared some tips for other worried parents about the digital overload recall. Some Suggestions: Normalize digital play and respect your child’s communication needs, while teaching children to use the Internet as a literate user.

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Reopen schools before a children’s vaccine

This is the Coronavirus Schools Briefing, a guide to the seismic changes in education in the United States that are occurring during the pandemic. Sign up here to receive this newsletter to your inbox.

The first adult coronavirus vaccines are almost here, but children’s vaccines will take much longer. Pfizer and Moderna pediatric trials are only just beginning for children over 12 years old.

So what does this mean for the timetable for the full reopening of schools?

For once we have some good news. Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease specialist, told Adam last month that it is “an added benefit when we get the vaccine for children”, but it is not a prerequisite. upon reopening. This has been echoed by many groups of teachers and medical experts.

“There is very little concern or feeling that the school should not be open because the children are not immunized,” said Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators.

Dr Paul Offit, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the FDA’s Vaccine Advisory Board, said: “It is extremely rare for a child to die from this virus, so teachers are the ones who need it. must be vaccinated.

Teachers will be part of an initial group of people to receive vaccines, after health workers and people living in long-term care facilities. Even before teachers are vaccinated, their unions say elementary schools can be safely reopened, provided districts enforce testing, personal protective equipment, physical distance and ventilation protocols. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Young children are not at high risk of infecting others.

“You can reopen elementary schools before you have the vaccine for teachers, but the vaccine will create an assurance that everything is safe,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Above all, it is not only teachers who need to be protected. Day care staff and meal attendants, receptionists and bus drivers are all part of the school community.

“The equity angle is really important,” said Dr. Grace M. Lee, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Practice Innovation at Stanford Children’s Health. “Everyone who helps open a school will be essential to this workforce.”

Similar questions about access and equity for children, however, are months later. The vaccination process and timing for children will inevitably be very different, as researchers would only begin large-scale testing if they found no serious side effects.

“Vaccine developers are very much aware that children are not just miniature adults,” our colleague Carl Zimmer explained earlier this fall. “Their biology is different and can affect how vaccines work.”

For example, young children have a more active immune system than adults and may have stronger reactions, including more fever, body aches and fatigue.

Even once vaccines are available, conspiracy theories and mistrust could slow their adoption. Some governors have already said they will not impose vaccines. While the warrants promote herd immunity, medical and teacher groups fear it will simply distract from the main problem: keeping children learning.

“We will lose the war over whether to vaccinate if we strike up a conversation about whether it is mandatory,” Weingarten said. “Above all, we have to create trust.”

As the fall semester draws to a close, final evaluations and mid-term grades are due. And many, many children will have failed their lessons.

  • In Houston, the seventh largest public school district in the country, 42% of students failed two or more courses during the first grading period, compared to 11% in a normal year.

  • In Fairfax County, Va., Internal analysis found that the percentage of middle and high school students earning Fs in two or more classes rose to 11% in the first term of this year, from 6% a year ago. a year.

  • In Washington, DC, internal testing data shows a sharp drop in the number of kindergarten through second-graders who meet literacy criteria.

  • In Chicago, the nation’s second largest district, 13% of high school students failed math in the fall term, up from 9.5% last fall.

“We are obviously facing unprecedented learning losses and course failures,” said Brian T. Woods, a Texas superintendent, “and it will take years to mitigate them. In his district, the proportion of students failing at least one course in the first grading period has risen to around 25% from 8% last year.

But in many cases, it is the schools that have let their students down. Few of the children in the above districts have spent time learning in person this semester. Many have had difficulty accessing online courses. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged students suffer the most from continued distance learning.

In the spring, districts made major changes to student report cards – removing grades, securing A’s, or ensuring that performance during the pandemic is not factored into students. But many have since returned to normal scoring schemes.

A strong rebuke: Seven families sued the state of California on Monday for the quality of the education their children receive at home this year. In the lawsuit, they said distance learning exacerbated inequalities in schools and deprived minority students from poor families of their right to education.

A careful look: The Washington Post reported on one school where about 90% of first graders met the reading goal in March. In the fall, every child had fallen behind.

  • More than 200 faculty members at University of Florida requested a stay of in-person teaching the following semester. But only 78 will be allowed to teach remotely, Corbin Bolies reported for The Alligator, the student newspaper.

  • Male community college enrollments are dropping, especially among students of color, The 74 reported.

  • Colleges across the country are urging Congress to pass a $ 120 billion higher education relief bill.

  • The student government at the University of Maryland will distribute over $ 400,000 to classmates in need.

  • Students pursue both the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech for a partial refund of tuition and fees after the transfer of online courses.

  • An open letter: “We have every reason to expect the University to be – once again – swamped with infections when classes resume,” wrote the faculty of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professors are asking the university to cancel most in-person classes in the spring semester.

  • Parents in Washington DC, should schedule the return of children to classrooms in February, the Chancellor said.

  • In-person learning has temporarily ceased in 47 of the 50 largest districts in Minnesota, as cases climb.

  • Several districts of Virginia began to gradually progress to face-to-face instruction.

  • Maine plans to keep schools open even as cases increase. “This is largely not due to transmission at school,” the state education commissioner said. “It’s community based. It wouldn’t be the safest thing to do to close schools, even though people might think we should be closing schools.

  • A good read: In South Korea, the pandemic has added anxiety and protocols to the already grueling nine-hour college entrance exam. Thirty-five students who tested positive for the virus took the exam in negative pressure rooms in hospitals across the country.

Independent play is an important skill for kids, but winter could put a wrench in things. Here are a few ways to help promote a guide-less activity, even when the temperatures drop. Above all, give them space to make a mess.