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Anya Kamenetz

Two weeks' notice: Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina voted on Oct. 28 to close schools on Nov. 12 for a "day of kindness, community and connection."

The vaccination of children ages 5 to 11 against COVID-19 is well under way: The White House announced this week that an estimated 10 percent of children in that age group have received their first shot.

California has become the first state to announce that it will add this vaccine to its list of the shots required for all school children. And a handful of districts in 14 states are making similar moves, starting with mandates for student-athletes to participate in sports.

When can kids safely take off their masks in school? About three-fourths of the nation's largest districts required masks at the start of the school year. Recently, the calls by some parents to unmask children have grown louder, especially now that there is a COVID-19 vaccine available with emergency authorization for children as young as 5 years old.

The first time kids had to get a vaccine to go to school was more than 200 years ago. The disease? Smallpox.

The Poway Unified School District, in San Diego County, Calif., was planning a pretty typical school board meeting in September. They were hearing reports from their student representatives and honoring their teachers and other staff members of the year.

Because of the pandemic, the general public has been asked to join and comment via livestream.

That hasn't stopped protesters from showing up in person.

Karen Watkins works in supply chain management and has two children in public school in Gwinnett County, Ga. She's one of those moms who has always been very involved in her kids' education. So much so that local officials urged her to run for school board last year.

"They said, 'This is probably going to be a good thing for you and you can probably make a difference.' ... But I didn't realize it came with a package, a big package," she says with a rueful laugh.

Natalie Saldana would love to put her 1.5-year-old daughter in a quality child care program while she works and goes to school, but the $700 monthly price tag makes it impossible.

"Seven-hundred dollars is almost my rent," Saldana said.

On Tuesday, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate panel. The hearing's focus was advertised as "protecting kids online."

Confrontations over masks, vaccines and how race is taught in schools have many school board members across the U.S. worried for their safety.

Mobs are yelling obscenities and throwing objects. In one district, a protester brandished a flagpole against a school board official. Other cases have included a protester yelling a Nazi salute, arrests for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct, and numerous death threats against public officials.

This week marked the first day of school in New York City, the largest school district in the country. Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference last week showing off air purifiers, stacks of child-sized surgical masks and electrostatic sprayers. The message? "I say to all parents ... the best place for your kid is in school."

On Thursday, President Biden announced a series of actions aimed at getting control of the surging pandemic. Alongside new vaccine requirements for private businesses, he announced new steps to encourage K-12 schools to mandate masks for all, require vaccines for employees and step up testing for COVID-19.

Hurricane Ida has closed schools for more than 250,000 students across Louisiana, according to a tally by NPR. Districts in some of the hardest-hit areas, including Orleans and Jefferson Parish, have not yet announced a reopening date. School leaders have had their hands full so far trying to make sure staff and students are safe, whether they stayed in town or evacuated, and assessing damage to their buildings.

So far this fall, children heading back to school have faced many obstacles: battles over masks, vaccines, delta-variant surge fears and mental health needs. Now, in many places, there is a last-mile problem — quite literally.

In June 2019, attorney Warren Binford traveled to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Clint, Texas. She was there on a routine visit to monitor the government's compliance with the Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs how long and under what conditions migrant children can be held in detention facilities.

Updated March 19, 2021 at 12:46 PM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance for schools. On Friday, the agency announced it "now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings."

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday its much-anticipated, updated guidance to help school leaders decide how to safely bring students back into classrooms, or keep them there.

President Biden has called reopening schools a "national emergency" and said he wants to see most K-12 schools in the United States open during his first 100 days in office, which would be between now and April.

President-elect Joe Biden has affirmed his support for erasing some student debt "immediately."

Student debt forgiveness was a major campaign plank of some of his more progressive rivals for the Democratic nomination, but it remains controversial even among some Democrats.

In April, 9 in 10 of the world's children were out of school in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Orange County, Fla., has 8,000 missing students. The Miami-Dade County public schools have 16,000 fewer than last year. Los Angeles Unified — the nation's second-largest school system — is down nearly 11,000. Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina has 5,000 missing. Utah, Virginia and Washington are reporting declines statewide.

New York City, with its 1.1 million students, became the first big city school district in the country to return to in-person classes this week. After the start of the school year was delayed twice, students came back in phases: pre-K and students with significant disabilities last week, followed by elementary students Tuesday, and middle and high school students today. Just over half of the city's students will be attending school on a hybrid schedule, attending one or two days a week in person, in order to preserve social distancing. The remainder are 100% remote.

Monday, Sept. 21, was supposed to mark the start of in-person classes for New York City's 1.1 million public school students. It was the only big-city district planning to start the school year in person. But with just four days to go, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that only the youngest students, in 3-K and Pre-K, and those with significant special needs, would be coming back on Sept. 21. The rest of the students will phase in by grade level between through Oct. 1.

At Dwight D. Eisenhower Charter School in Algiers, a low-slung brick building across the river from downtown New Orleans, school leaders greet students as they make their way into the building. All are masked.

In the cafeteria, a movable wall cuts the space in half, separating the students into socially distanced groups of nine. Strips of tape mark separate pathways for students and staff. Big pumps of hand sanitizer sit on each desk, and everyone, teachers and students, is wearing a mask.

On the morning of March 15, I started getting texts from worried parents at my daughter's New York City public school. Rumors were rocketing around that a second-grade teacher had tested positive for the coronavirus after being out sick for a week. The school hadn't made any announcements, and parents were getting frantic. The tension ended a few hours later when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that evening that all New York City school buildings would be closed the next day.

New York City, the largest school district in the country with 1.1 million students, is also the only big-city school district planning to open its doors to students — albeit on a hybrid schedule with virtual learning — on time this fall. But at a press conference Wednesday, the president of the city's largest teachers union said the mayor needs to make major changes to meet the union's criteria for safe reopening.

Wayne Banks is a middle school math teacher and principal in residence for KIPP charter schools. These days, like many teachers around the country, the 29-year-old is working from his apartment in Brooklyn, New York.

Banks has never been formally trained to teach online, but that hasn't stopped him from trying to make his classes as engaging and challenging as possible.

"I really took the opportunity in March to be like, 'I just have to figure this out.' [It was] a do or die for me," Banks says.

Public schools should delay reopening in coronavirus hot spots but should open fully if they want to receive tens of billions of dollars in new federal aid, President Trump said in a White House briefing.

At the news conference Thursday, Trump talked in more detail than he has in the past about the reopening of schools. He also announced new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening schools.

For American families with children, the pandemic has meant lost income, increased child care responsibilities, worry and stress. But a majority are not eager for schools to reopen this fall, given the health risk.

The NAACP has become the latest organization to sue the Education Department over the distribution of more than $13 billion in federal aid intended for K-12 schools.

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