A Timeline of How COVID Upended Schools

July 8, 2020: Trump threatens to withhold federal funding to schools that do not reopen

President Donald Trump says his administration “may cut off funding” for schools that do not resume face-to-face instruction, and points to CDC reopening guidelines that he calls impractical and expensive. The next day, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says that rather than “pulling funding from education,” her department supports the idea that students in places where schools do not reopen should be able to take federal money and use it where they can get instruction in-person.

July 23, 2020: CDC stresses the importance of in-person learning

The CDC revises its school guidance to stress the importance of in-person learning. About “7.1 million kids get their mental health service at schools,” then-CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield says in a congressional hearing. “They get their nutritional support from their schools. We’re seeing an increase in drug use disorder as well as suicide in adolescent individuals. I do think it’s really important to realize it’s not public health versus the economy about school reopening. ”

Read more: The Pandemic Is Causing Widespread Emotional Trauma. Schools Must Be Ready to Help

July 28, 2020: AFT moves to delay reopening of schools to protect teachers

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten says the union would pursue various tactics, including lawsuits and strikes, to keep schools from reopening without adequate safety precautions. “If authorities do not protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve … nothing is off the table — not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary and authorized by a local union, as a last resort, safety strikes, ”she says at a remote meeting of the national teachers’ union’s biennial convention.

July 28, 2020: Fauci says there are still unanswered questions about how the coronavirus is spread

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, tells educators in a virtual town hall that when it comes to reopening school buildings for in-person instruction, there are still many unanswered questions about how the coronavirus is spread by children, and that teachers will be “part of the experiment.” His comment sparks uproar on Twitter from teachers, who say they did not sign up to be part of such an experiment.

Fall 2020: Many districts opt to start the school year in remote learning

Some districts provide hybrid instruction, and some are able to offer full in-person instruction to all students.

Read more: School Districts’ Reopening Plans: A Snapshot

Deer Creek Elementary kindergarten teacher Vanessa Lackey prepares her classroom for the first day of classes Thursday, Aug.  13, 2020, in Nevada City, Calif .. The school is offering in class and distance education options.  About 30 percent of the students are taking part solely in distance learning from Deer Creek Elementary.

Sept. 2020: Federal vaccine distribution plan says states should prioritize teachers and school employees, alongside other critical workers

Not only does a new federal plan identify teachers and school employees as priority recipients of a vaccineit also identifies US schools as a crucial partner for administering the shots.

December 2020: Teachers in line for the first doses of COVID vaccines

A wave of states announce that they will prioritize teachers and school employees in their vaccine distribution plans, but most states — if not all — are still focused on administering vaccines to health-care workers and long-term care residents.

Valerie Kelly, a 5th grade teacher in Vincennes, Ind., Receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec.  28, 2020.

Dec. 27, 2020: Second federal COVID aid package provides $ 54.3 billion

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act allocates more than $ 190 billion to help schools pay for tutors and cleaning supplies and millions of computing devices.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Schools and COVID Relief Funds

A line of volunteers carries iPads to be delivered to parents at curbside pickup at Eastside Elementary on March 23, 2020, in Clinton, Miss.  Educators are handing out the devices for remote learning while students are forced to stay home during the coronavirus outbreak.

January 2021: Biden calls for unified efforts to reopen schools within the first 100 days of his administration

A 200-page federal plan and executive orders from newly elected President Joe Biden call for “sustained and coordinated” efforts to reopen schools for in-person instruction, with the cooperation of states and new resources, guidance, and data.

Read more: Biden Launches New Strategy to Combat COVID-19, Reopen Schools

February 2021: In Chicago and other big cities, teachers’ unions influence school reopening plans

The Chicago teachers’ union reaches a reopening deal with the district that includes a delay that gives the district more time to vaccinate teachers, which was a sticking point in weeks of negotiations. Many big-city unions are in heated negotiations with their districts around this time period.

Elementary 1 teacher Melissa Vozar sits outside of Suder Elementary in Chicago to teach a virtual class on Jan.  11, 2021. The Chicago Teachers Union said its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom before they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, setting up a showdown with district officials who have said such a move would amount to an illegal strike.

February 2021: CDC releases new guidelines as core part of Biden’s plan to reopen schools

“I want to be clear,” CDC Director Rochelle Walenksy says. “With the release of this operational strategy, CDC is not mandating that schools reopen. CDC is simply providing schools with a long-needed road map for how to do so safely under different levels of disease in the community. ”

March 2021: Vaccine access speeds up for teachers

The vaccine landscape for teachers shifts dramatically the day after Biden announces a federal push to get all teachers their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March.

Read more: Vaccine Access Speeds Up For Teachers After Biden’s Declaration

Teacher Lizbeth Osuna from Cooper Elementary receives the Moderna vaccine at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago, Ill., Thursday, Feb.  11, 2021.

March 2021: Schools get federal aid for homeless students

The American Rescue Plan, the third major package of federal COVID aid, includes $ 800 million for homeless children and youth (allocated through states), which is money that wasn’t set aside specifically for them in the two previous relief deals.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Schools and COVID Relief Funds

March 19, 2021: CDC eases recommendations for social distancing in classrooms

The CDC issues recommendations saying 3 feet of space between students who are wearing masks is a sufficient safeguard in most classroom situations. Many educators and policymakers viewed the agency’s previous recommendation of 6 feet of space as a major hurdle to a full return to in-person school.

Students learn in-person and virtually in Courtney Choura's geometry class at Seton LaSalle Catholic High School on March 3, 2021, in the Mt.  Lebanon suburb of Pittsburgh.

Early April 2021: Vaccines become available for teens

States begin to open vaccine eligibility to those 16 and up, a watershed moment for the pandemic. By early April 2021, two-thirds of teachers tell the EdWeek Research Center they’d been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. By the end of the month, that figure had shot up to 80 percent.

April 20, 2021: USDA waives school meal regulations through June 2022

After extending waivers of school meal regulations several times, the USDA says the flexibility will last until June 2022. The waivers will also allow schools to continue distributing meals to students who are learning remotely without red tape that can make it logistically difficult to do so.

May 10, 2021: Pfizer vaccine approved for 12- to 15- year-olds

The approval is a major development in the overall campaign to vaccinate more Americans and help ensure healthy and safe operations of middle and high schools in the pandemic. Schools begin opening their buildings to facilitate getting school-age children vaccinated.

May 13, 2021: American Federation of Teachers says schools must reopen five days a week in fall

“We can and we must reopen schools in the fall for in-person teaching, learning, and support,” AFT President Randi Weingarten says in virtual speech. “And keep them open — fully and safely five days a week. ”

Graduation 2021: Health worries and financial instability impact college-going decisions

EdWeek Research Center surveys comparing the class of 2020 and 2021 graduates find that 74 percent of 2020 graduates who were planning on attending a four-year college followed through with their plans and ended up attending a university. Only 62 percent of the class of 2021 were able to do the same. Among students who had planned to attend a two-year college in 2021, only 44 percent succeeded in doing so, compared with 57 percent of graduates who wished to enter a two-year degree program in 2020.

An Odessa High School graduate looks up into the stands after walking onto the field of Ratliff Stadium at the start of the class of 2021's graduation ceremony on May 28, 2021 in Odessa, Texas.

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