Thu | Aug 6, 2020

Debates turn emotional in US as schools decide how and if to open

Published:Sunday | July 5, 2020 | 1:12 PM
In this April 27, 2020, file photo, a worker passes public school buses parked at a depot in Manchester, New Hampshire. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — School districts across America are in the midst of making wrenching decisions over how to resume classes in settings radically altered by the coronavirus pandemic, with school buses running below capacity, virtual learning, outdoor classrooms and quarantine protocols for infected children the new norm.

The plans for the upcoming school year are taking shape by the day, and vary district to district, state to state.

The debates have been highly emotional, with tempers flaring among parents and administrators, and have been made all the more vexing by record numbers of COVID-19 cases being reported each day.

In Florida, some school districts want students back in the classroom in early August, even though the virus is surging through communities.

On average, Florida has reported more than 7,000 new cases each day recently — more than seven times what it was reporting a month ago.

New Mexico, which has been largely spared major outbreaks, plans a hybrid model of virtual and in-person learning. Parents in New York have demanded schools reopen in the fall.

And in Maine, more outdoor learning is planned. Districts nationwide are coming up with various rules for wearing masks.

Some want all students to wear them.

Others, such as Marion County, Indiana, plan to limit the requirement to older children.

Each of these decisions is fraught, trying to balance health concerns with clawing back as much normalcy as possible. Parents, wrung out after months of juggling full-time work and full-time home schooling, are desperate for help.

Children, isolated from their peers, are yearning for social interaction.

And everyone, including teachers, is concerned about stepping into the unknown, with so much still uncertain about the virus.

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