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School districts inch closer to deadlines as fall semesters near, pandemic still very much in sight

Posted at 10:52 PM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 05:54:37-04

Parents and students, politicians and medical experts — each stakeholder making their voices heard before the start of an upcoming fall semester in the midst of a global pandemic, creating a clearly imperfect scenario for students and staff.

Wednesday, the nation's third largest school district ended debate and turned to action, announcing an online-only start to the school year.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfood announced the city's public schools will not welcome students back to the classroom to start the school year, instead relying on remote instruction.

Lightfoot said Wednesday that the shift is based on a recent uptick in coronavirus cases.

"In a perfect world students would be in classrooms more not less," Lightfoot said. "But unfortunately that is not where we find ourselves today."

The district last month unveiled a tentative hybrid plan for the fall semester, which begins Sept. 8. But officials said it was subject to change depending on families’ feedback and area trends in coronavirus cases.

The Chicago Teachers Union strongly opposed the district’s hybrid proposal, saying it wouldn't be possible to keep staff and more than 300,000 students safe.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce his decision on schooling this week. He's already asked for a more detailed plan for public schools in New York City.

On July 30, the New York City mayor and schools chancellor announced new health and safety protocols for children in New York City public schools this fall, including testing and contact tracing plans.

Cuomo said he wants more from the city, and gave officials a two week extension to submit more comprehensive plans.

Wednesday, a union representative for school nurses said the employees that'd be the first line of defense in schools hadn't yet received instruction on how their jobs would most certainly differ from past years.

These conversations come as hot spots develop in parts of the U.S., while testing is dropping.

Even as death tolls rise by more than 1,000 per day, testing has dipped — a worrisome trend officials attribute largely to Americans getting discouraged over having to wait hours to get a test, and days or weeks to find out the results.

An Associated Press analysis found that the number of tests per day slid 3.6% over the past two weeks to 750,000, with the count falling in 22 states.

That includes places like Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Iowa, where the percentage of positive tests is high and continuing to climb, an indicator that the virus is still spreading uncontrolled.