RALEIGH, NC (AP) – During his first week back to school after a year and a half, 7-year-old Ben Medlin was exposed to a classmate with COVID-19, and he was sent home he, along with 7,000 other students in the district, for 14 days of quarantine.
There hasn’t been much learning in Ben’s house.
On some days of the past week, the second grader did not receive any work from his teachers. On others, he had finished by 9:30 a.m., his daily tasks consisting of solving 10 math problems or punctuating four sentences, according to his mother.
âIt was really a simple and very, very, very easy job,â said Kenan Medlin.
As coronavirus outbreaks driven by the delta variant lead districts in the United States to be suddenly closed or send a large number of quarantined children home, some students receive minimal schooling.
Despite billions of dollars in federal funds at their disposal to prepare for new epidemics and develop contingency plans, some local governors, education departments and school boards have been caught off guard.
In addition, some school systems have been handcuffed by laws or state policies aimed at keeping students in classrooms and strongly discouraging or restricting the return to distance learning.
The disruption – and the risk of young people falling further behind academically – has been troubling for parents and educators.
The Ben District School Board in Union County, outside of Charlotte, relented on Monday and voted to allow most of its quarantined students to return to class until they are known to be infected or have no symptoms. The state’s top health official on Wednesday threatened legal action against the district unless it reverts to more stringent quarantine procedures.
Union County school officials said they do not offer virtual education but are reaching out to parents of affected children to help them match guardians or other helpers for their youngsters. One in 6 students in the optional mask neighborhood was quarantined last week.
In rural Wellington, Kansas, students were given a week off school when a COVID-19 epidemic struck. Instead of going online, the district decided to add 10 minutes to each day to make up for time lost when it reopens on Tuesday. Masks are also mandatory now.
Kansas districts risk losing funding if they offer online or blended learning for more than 40 hours per student per year.
In Georgia, the Ware County 6,000-student district took a three-week break from schooling in mid-August. The district said it was unreasonable for teachers to have to offer virtual and in-person instruction at the same time. He also cited a lack of internet service in some rural areas.
In Missouri, the Board of Education in July repealed a rule that allowed school districts to offer blended and distance education for months at a time. Districts that are shutting down entirely because of COVID-19 outbreaks, like eight small rural school systems did this year, are now limited to 36 hours of alternative education, like Zoom classes. After that, they have to make up for time later.
The US Department of Education said Tuesday that states and school districts should have policies to ensure continuous access to “rigorous and high quality learning” in the event that COVID-19 cases prevent students from attending school.
The Illinois State Board of Education recently passed a resolution requiring districts to make distance education available to quarantined students.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said laws restricting virtual education are shortsighted. She noted that some of those states also do not have mask or vaccine requirements.
“It’s just crazy because this is still a pandemic, and as much as we had all hoped it would be over, delta made it clear that it was not over,” she said. .
In North Carolina, state health officials in July lifted the requirement for districts to provide distance learning for quarantined students, saying virtual options “are not supported by current evidence or are no longer needed due to lower rates of community transmission and increased rates of vaccination. “
In the meantime, parents have to make tough decisions.
Medlin pulled her two children out of school on Thursday and plans to homeschool them like she did last year.
Emily Goss, another Union County parent, said she also plans to home-teach her 5-year-old in kindergarten after being quarantined six days after starting the school year without no distance learning option in place.
âHe’s supposed to be playing outside, riding a bike and learning how to make new friends, and he’s wondering what’s going to happen to him. It’s not how childhood is supposed to be, and it’s just heartbreaking, “she said.” We can’t do this all year round.
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Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Associated Press editors Jeff Amy in Atlanta and Collin Binkley in Boston also contributed. Anderson is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
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