Anya Kamenetz

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.

Brayan has spent only one uninterrupted week in fifth grade since classes started in early August. His charter school has sent him home six separate times to quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19, though he has never tested positive. He's struggling to keep up with his lessons.

"Yesterday he was crying. He says he wants to go to school, he wants to be smart, he wants to learn, but he can't," says his father, José.

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

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

When the pandemic hit last March, David was visiting his family on a furlough from the Swanson Center for Youth. That's a state juvenile facility in Monroe, La. He was finishing up a four-year sentence that began when he was 17.

David (we're not using his last name to protect his privacy) was planning on going "mudding" that weekend with some friends — riding all-terrain vehicles in a mud pit. But Swanson said he had to come back a day early.

The U.S. Education Department has released the first in a series of school surveys intended to provide a national view of learning during the pandemic. It reveals that the percentage of students who are still attending school virtually may be higher than previously understood.

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."

Almost exactly one year ago, the pandemic caused a cascade of school and university closures, sending 9 out of 10 students home as the coronavirus raced through the United States and the rest of the world.

By Labor Day, 62% of U.S. students were still learning virtually, according to the organization Burbio. That number dropped significantly during the fall and rose in the winter as COVID-19 surged. And today, just under 1 in 4 public school students attends a district that still hasn't held a single day of in-person learning.

Pullups for a toddler who is potty training. A bicycle. Clothes that aren't hand-me-downs. A home with heat and working plumbing. A trip to the zoo.

Four in 10 children in the U.S. live in households struggling to afford basic expenses, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Now, as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the House and Senate have passed a child benefit, the first of its kind in the United States.

One year after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered classrooms around the country and the world, U.S. parents are guardedly optimistic about the academic and social development of their children, an NPR/Ipsos poll finds.

But 62% of parents say their child's education has been disrupted. And more than 4 out of 5 would like to see schools provide targeted extra services to help their kids catch up. This includes just over half of parents who support the idea of summer school.

The COVID-19 relief bill working its way through Congress is full of big ideas to help people. But there's one idea that's so big, it was politically unthinkable not that long ago.

President Biden and Democratic lawmakers want to fight child poverty by giving U.S. families a few hundred dollars every month for every child in their household — no strings attached. A kind of child allowance.

If this proposal survives the wrangling in Congress and makes it to Biden's desk, experts say it could cut child poverty nearly in half.

When you think of the history of Black education in the United States, you might think of Brown vs. Board of Education and the fight to integrate public schools. But there's a parallel history too, of Black people pooling their resources to educate and empower themselves independently.

Enslaved people learned to read and write whenever and wherever they could, often in secret and against the law. "In accomplishing
this, I was compelled
 to resort to
various
 stratagems," like convincing white children to help him, wrote Frederick Douglass. "I had
no regular 
teacher."

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.

It's been 11 months since schools first shut down across the country and around the world.

And most students in the U.S. are still experiencing disruptions to their learning — going into the classroom only a few days a week or not at all.

To respond to this disruption, education leaders are calling for a reinvention of public education on the order of the Marshall Plan, the massive U.S. initiative to rebuild Western Europe after the devastations of World War II.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Ever since the pandemic closed the nation's schools in March 2020, there has been no official national source for understanding where schools have reopened, how many hours of live instruction students are getting online and just how unequal the access to learning has been over the past 11 months.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In November, I reported for NPR on a scientific paper that estimated millions of years of life could be lost due to prolonged school closures in the U.S. — far more, in fact, than might be lost by keeping schools open. The paper has since been corrected and critiqued. The central question it tried to answer remains.

Diana Muhammad, who teaches PE and dance in Chicago Public Schools, was "unsure," "uncertain" and "reluctant" about her district's plan for in-person classes starting Monday. At a Chicago Teachers Union press conference earlier this month, she said the plan felt "rushed." And then things got really scary.

"Over the winter break, my life was devastated when my daughter, who was sick with various symptoms all over the place for an entire week, woke up one morning and could not see."

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.

When schools shut down in the spring, that raised immediate worries about the nearly 30 million children who depend on school food. Those worries were essentially borne out, with researchers reporting a large rise in child hunger.

Pages