Schools reopening in US face challenges of safe in-person learning

Cutouts of Elvis Presley and former Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, instead of fellow students, occupy seats to encourage social distancing at desks next to Simone Moore, foreground, and Hailey Rousseau at the Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, Jan. 29, 2021, in Poland, Maine. With instruction time reduced as much as half by the coronavirus pandemic, many of the nation’s middle school and high school teachers have given up on covering all the material normally included in their classes and instead are cutting lessons.

Full-time teacher Monica Rey during class at Grassy Waters Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Jan. 8, 2021.

Pre-kindergarten teacher Sarah McCarthy works with a student at Dawes Elementary in Chicago on Jan. 11, 2021. President Joe Biden says he wants most schools serving kindergarten through eighth grade to reopen by late April 2021. But even if that happens, many schools in urban areas that serve high concentrations of minority students are likely to stay closed.

Full-time 3rd grade teacher Kathryn Dorros teaches math class online and in person at the same time at Grassy Waters Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Jan. 8, 2021.

Pre-kindergarten teacher Angela Panush reads a story to her students at Dawes Elementary in Chicago on Jan. 11, 2021.

Third grader Gabriella Desrosiers, 8, listens to her teacher during class at Grassy Waters Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Jan. 8, 2021.

Rycc Smith welcomes Montello Elementary School students as they board his bus outside the Lewiston, Maine school, Jan. 21, 2021 after the first day back in nearly a month. The entire school district switched to all remote learning after an uptick in COVID-19 cases last month. Smith has been driving a school bus for the past 40 years and said the students have been very cooperative following the protocols.

A teacher sets up her laptop outside of Suder Montessori Magnet Elementary School to begin virtual classes in solidarity with pre-K educators forced back into the building in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021.

Second grader Cody Yang spreads out his arms as he practices socially distancing while standing in the hallway Jan. 19, 2021 at Park Brook Elementary School in Brooklyn Park, Minn. About 100 students in prekindergarten to second grade returned to school for in-person learning.

Susan Gould, Spectrum Academy elementary school principal, receives the COVID-19 vaccine at the Davis County Legacy Center, Jan. 12, 2021, in Farmington, Utah. Utah began vaccinating teachers and school staff across the state. They are aiming to have all teachers and school staff vaccinated by the end of February.

A sign that indicates a room has been disinfected hangs in a fourth-grade classroom, Feb. 2, 2021, at Elk Ridge Elementary School in Buckley, Wash. The school has had some students in classrooms for in-person learning since September of 2020, but other students who attend the school are still learning remotely.

A preschool student gets his temperature checked as he walks into Dawes Elementary School in Chicago on Jan. 11, 2021.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, left, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, second from left, visit a preschool classroom at Dawes Elementary School in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021.

Students wear masks as they work in a fourth-grade classroom, Feb. 2, 2021, at Elk Ridge Elementary School in Buckley, Wash. The school has had some students in classrooms for in-person learning since September of 2020, but other students who attend the school are still learning remotely.

A preschool student washes her hands before breakfast at Dawes Elementary School in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021. Monday was the first day of optional in-person learning for preschoolers and some special education students in Chicago Public Schools after going remote last March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A view of 1st grade students in the gym at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 on Jan. 13, 2021 in New York City. New York City Public Schools continue to adapt learning environments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation’s largest school district continues to face uncertainty with COVID-19 cases on the rise city, state and nationwide.

Seventh grader Trinity Cressey works on her computer at the Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, Jan. 29, 2021, in Poland, Maine.

Preschool students eat lunch at Dawes Elementary in Chicago on Jan. 11, 2021.

Full-time 3rd grade teacher Kathryn Dorros gives her students a thumbs up after they answered her questions correctly at Grassy Waters Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Jan. 8, 2021.

Hand sanitizer, wipes, and surgical masks rest on a desk in a fourth-grade classroom, Feb. 2, 2021, at Elk Ridge Elementary School in Buckley, Wash. The school has had some students in classrooms for in-person learning since September of 2020, but other students who attend the school are still learning remotely.

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