President Joe Biden’s promise to reopen schools in 100 days rings hollow as the administration set the bar for fulfilling it so low that the nation has met it already, according to several data sources.
Reopening the schools was one of Biden’s core vows before taking office. As late as Feb. 7, he called the situation a “national emergency.”
But when pressed for what “reopening” means, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it would be at least one day a week of at least some in-person instruction at more than 50 percent of the nation’s schools.
The 100-day window closes on April 29, leaving 44 weekdays before schools break for summer vacation. That means at least half the students have been promised at least 10 days of at least some in-person instruction.
However, as of Feb. 10, more than 40 percent of K-12 students were already attending schools that offer traditional, in-person learning, according to data collected by Burbio, a community tracking firm.
Another more than 25 percent of students were attending schools that offer at least two days a week of in-person instruction, according to publicly available data collected from 1,200 school districts that represent 35,000 schools in all 50 states, Burbio states on its website.
“So we show 66.1 percent of U.S. K-12 students currently attending schools that are either traditional in-person every day, or hybrid,” Burbio’s Dennis Roche told The Epoch Times via email.
“Almost all ‘hybrid’ is 2-3 days a week.”
Roche said the lowest point for in-person instruction was on Labor Day, when only 37 percent of students were receiving it, according to Burbio’s Sept. 2, 2020, release.
School is mostly in-person in rural districts and mostly remote in the urban ones, according to a Nov. 24–Dec. 28, 2020, survey of a nationally representative sample of 477 school districts conducted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (pdf).
Nearly 60 percent of rural districts taught pupils in person while 23 percent were in remote-learning mode only. The rest of rural districts were in hybrid mode or different modes grade by grade, the survey of publicly available information shows. Less than 22 percent of suburban districts were fully in-person and more than 33 percent were remote. Urban districts were less than 9 percent in-person and more than 74 percent remote.
The reopening of schools has become a focal point for judging Biden’s ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents have been struggling to cope with school closures and remote learning, which has proved less effective, especially when parents can’t maintain constant supervision. Students are falling behind both academically and in overall well-being. Reports of domestic abuse and child predator activity online have skyrocketed.
Teachers’ unions have been a major roadblock to reopening as they demand that teachers, and even students, be vaccinated against COVID-19 first. The administration has promised enough vaccines for virtually all Americans roughly by summer, but that would mean many students would lose another semester.
Biden’s head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently appeared to greenlight the reopening of schools even before full vaccination, but her comments were discounted by the administration. CDC guidelines for reopening are expected this week.
Biden’s reopening plan has been criticized by Republicans.
“Working moms and dads have been at the end of their ropes for months, and some kids have been out of school for nearly a year. When schools are closed poor families and kids with special needs suffer the most. Local, state, and federal officials should be following the science and getting kids back in schools as soon as possible.”
Biden is asking Congress for $130 billion in relief funding for schools, but Sasse said federal money should be tied “to actual school reopening.”