Finally Students

Finally, Some Students Return to New York City’s Classrooms – The New York Times

Up to 90,000 children in pre-K and students with advanced disabilities returned to in-person school on Monday.

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Eliza Shapiro

Early on Monday, Tiyanna Jackson, who had quit her job in the spring to care for her 4-year-old daughter, Zuri, was flooded with relief as she arrived at a pre-K center in the South Bronx. Finally, with Zuri starting school, she could get back to work.

In East New York, Brooklyn, Balayet Hossain’s day began with disappointment after he brought his two daughters to school, only to find that the children, a kindergartner and first grader, could not return to school buildings until next week.

And in Corona, a Queens neighborhood that was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus in the spring, Baryalay Khan said dropping off his daughter, Fathma, at pre-K made him feel that the city was finally recovering.

“Schools are reopening, it’s a good sign,” he said.

New York City, home to the largest school district in the country, took the biggest step of any major city toward restarting in-person classes by bringing up to 90,000 of the city’s youngest students and children with advanced disabilities back into about 700 school buildings on Monday.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious push to reopen has been fraught with risks and challenges, and has been met with major opposition from some educators and union leaders, no other major school system in America is even attempting such an undertaking during the pandemic.

But at 9 a.m. on Monday, just as the vast majority of the city’s 1.1 million students were attempting to sign in for their first day of classes, the Department of Education’s login page for remote learning crashed for about 10 minutes, a sign of how difficult it will be for the system to balance virtual and in-person classrooms.

The city’s roughly 1,400 school buildings have sat largely empty for six months, after the city abruptly closed classrooms in mid-March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Though Monday’s reopening falls far short of what Mr. de Blasio originally promised — all students having the option to return to classrooms — it still marks a significant milestone in New York’s long path to fully reopening. New York is one of the few cities in the country where some children are now back in classrooms, with many more expected in the coming weeks.

Across New York City, Monday was a day of joy, confusion and hope; it was a first day of school unlike any other.

“Something great is happening today in New York City,” the mayor said during a news conference on Monday, shortly after he visited a pre-K program in Queens.

Still, the start of the school year here was freighted with anxiety and unknowns, many of which were on display on Monday morning.

At Public School 149 in Brooklyn, where Mr. Hossain’s daughters attend school, five students were turned away at the door since they were not in pre-K.

Mr. Hossain said he received an email on Sunday from a teacher at the school that said, “I can’t wait to see you all tomorrow!” But his children cannot return until Sept. 29. Shortly after arriving, he turned around and headed home with his children, who were wearing masks and backpacks.


Credit…Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

For the children who were actually able to return to schools on Monday, it was an extremely unusual first day back. At Public School 513 in Washington Heights, only five pre-K students reported to school. Principals across the city still do not have final numbers for how many students are expected in classrooms this week and next, since parents can opt out of in-person classes at any time.

But some parents said they were relieved to finally have their young children in school.

“I need to get back to work,” said Ms. Jackson, who had left her job at Amazon to care for Zuri. “I trust that the schools can stay clean and stay safe.”

And Zuri was desperate to get back to school after her first year of pre-K was interrupted by the virus. “It’ll be good for her,” Ms. Jackson said. “She’s been crying about not being able to see her friends.”

Many other parents were left scrambling for child care options on Monday, after the city fell short of its promise of offering free programs for tens of thousands of vulnerable students and the children of essential workers — including teachers, many of whom were left stranded without child care.

Mr. de Blasio said on Monday that putting together the child care program, called Learning Bridges, had been even more complicated than the city imagined. About 30,000 seats would be available starting next week, he said.

Over the summer, New York City seemed poised to become the only big school district in America to offer in-person classes at the start of its school year. Despite recent stumbles, New York will eventually have more students back in classrooms this month than any of the nation’s 10 largest school systems — if all goes according to plan.

So far, it has not.

Last week, just three days before schools were scheduled to physically reopen, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would delay the return to classrooms for most students, citing a severe staffing shortage that was created by the city’s attempt to have separate teachers for remote and in-person learning.

The new plan is for a staggered reopening; elementary school students will start in-person classes on Sept. 29, and middle and high school children can return on Oct. 1, about three weeks after schools were originally slated to reopen. That initial scheduled opening had been delayed after the city’s powerful teachers’ union threatened an illegal strike because of safety concerns.


Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

As a result of the two delays, city students have now lost about 10 days of remote learning, though schools held three days of virtual orientation sessions last week.

Mr. de Blasio has stressed that he is intent on reopening schools to ensure an adequate educational experience for city students, the majority of whom are Black or Latino and low-income.

“If what we wanted to do was the simple, easy thing, we all would have said, ‘Hey, let’s go all remote,’” the mayor said during a recent news conference. “And we know we’ll be cheating kids and cheating families. And we know we will be, once again, ignoring the facts that in-person learning is so much better for kids.”

But scores of city parents, including many working families, have said they preferred remote learning for now, citing safety concerns and the need for consistency when making child care arrangements that would allow them to return to work. As of Monday, 46 percent of families had already opted their children out of in-person classes entirely through at least November, with nonwhite parents opting out at higher rates than white parents, and that number is expected to rise.

Fanny Reyes, a mother of two who lives in the Bronx, said she had opted her children out even though her younger child is on the autism spectrum and struggled with remote learning. But Ms. Reyes said she has continued to receive conflicting information about what school reopening would look like and wanted to wait until later in the fall for the city to get more organized.

“It’s very unfortunate, it’s very sad,” she said.

Still, the reopening of some classrooms is an achievement for a city that was a global epicenter of the virus just six months ago. New York now has one of the lowest virus transmission rates of any city in the country, around or below 1 percent.

The children returning to classrooms Monday are in many cases the students for whom remote learning has been most disastrous.


Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

For the nearly 25,000 students in a special district for children with the most advanced disabilities, known as District 75, school is not just a place for academics. It is where students can get the extensive support they need from trained professionals.

In interviews throughout the spring and summer, parents of students in District 75 described watching their children regress in basic life skills and said it was clear how much their children needed to be around their peers and teachers whom they trusted. And educators said it was frustrating trying to deliver occupational and physical therapy through a laptop screen.

And having pre-K classes virtually has proved very difficult, in part because 3-and-4-year-olds cannot log themselves into Google Classroom, the computer program used in remote learning.

During his tenure, Mr. de Blasio has expanded pre-K for tens of thousands of children, and it remains his signature, and arguably most successful, initiative.

For Liza Rodriguez, the start of pre-K meant that she would no longer have to rely on her mother to care for her son, Mason, so that she could work. Ms. Rodriguez said she would miss the comfort of knowing Mason was safe at home with his grandmother every day, but said it was important that he was back at school with his friends.

“I’m nervous,” she said, “but I’m pretty confident things are going to be OK.”

Derek M. Norman and Juliana Kim contributed reporting.

Read More

College Students

College students brace for the ‘second curve’ of COVID-19 — its mental health impact – NBC News

After five months of being home, Danielle Cahue was looking forward to returning to campus — that is, until she got there. When the 19-year-old sophomore arrived at Illinois State University, she saw her peers gathering in large groups without masks, disregarding the university’s COVID-19 guidelines.

There have been more than 400 positive cases of COVID-19 at Illinois State as of Friday. The pandemic has stressed her mental health, especially when she sees her classmates acting carelessly about safety and social distancing, Cahue said. She tries to leave her on-campus apartment as little as possible, even delaying buying groceries until she has almost no food left.

Danielle Cahue,19, a student at Illinois State University.Danielle Cahue

“This is the most anxious I’ve ever been, I think, in my entire life,” Cahue told NBC News. “It has made it a lot worse and made me kind of worried just to do anything.”

More than half of 50,307 college students who participated in the American College Health Association’s Spring 2020 National College Health Assessment reported receiving mental health services from their current campus health or counseling center in the last year. Those numbers are expected to dramatically increase as students return to college this fall, experts predict.

“Many experts believe there’s going to be a second curve, which is the mental health impact of COVID,” said Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization Active Minds, a group geared toward bringing mental health awareness and education to young adults. “And schools have a responsibility to be responsive to their students’ mental health.”

Preliminary data shows the pandemic has already negatively affected people’s mental health, particularly college students, according to Catherine Grus, the American Psychological Association’s chief education officer.

“They’re seeing higher levels of depression, they’re having financial insecurity, which is also leading to mental health problems,” she said. “And this is concerning because, before the pandemic, we knew that college students were increasingly having mental health concerns. So, now you add the pandemic and we have a population that’s particularly in greater need for mental health services.”

In a survey conducted by Active Minds in April, 91 percent of the 2,086 college students surveyed reported that COVID-19 had added greater “stress and anxiety” to their lives, while 81 percent reported the pandemic caused them “disappointment and sadness.”

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

Maryorie Delgado, a senior at Brigham Young University, said the pandemic is intensifying her responsibilities at home and at school. The 23-year-old, whose family immigrated from Peru, helps her father manage their used car dealership in Orem, Utah, while attending school full-time.

Maryorie Delgado, a student at Brigham Young University.Deontrez Todd

“So a lot of just the stress from my family falls on me because basically I am the oldest and I speak the language and my parents helped me out with my tuition. And so, I feel like I owe them a lot and then they feel like I need to help them a lot,” Delgado said. “The load of that plus, honestly, going to school, everything shutting down, it’s just like so much stress.”

With the transition to remote learning and most students leaving campuses in the spring, schools turned to telehealth to continue providing students with counseling services, support groups and even creating task forces dedicated to mental health.

But some students, like Michigan State University student Devonté Henderson, said it wasn’t an ideal situation.

“I will tell you it’s very challenging to schedule a therapy session through Zoom,” Henderson said. “I would much prefer just to see my therapist in person, so that is a big concern of mine.”

Devonté Henderson, 22, a student at Michigan State University.Devonté Henderson

Michigan State University, which recently announced that it would conduct its fall semester remotely, said 814 students asked for mental health services this summer as compared to 616 students in the summer of 2019 — a 32 percent increase. The uptick has been attributed in part to expanded telehealth services, as well as stress and anxiety surrounding the pandemic, a university spokesperson said.

Macy Faust, a junior at the University of North Texas who is part of the school’s Active Minds chapter, said she and her friends held weekly check-ins over Zoom during the spring semester to solve things like turning in assignments or how to access the school’s counseling center, and to generally provide support for each other. They invited other UNT students to join, and Faust said they plan to continue the check-in sessions heading into the fall.

Macy Faust.Courtesy Savannah Thomas

“If you have access, therapy is an amazing tool just to kind of talk out what you’re feeling and to expand on your coping skills, but also participate in peer support groups,” she said.

Some schools, like Howard University, are also working to address the fact that the pandemic has disproportionately affected Black Americans and people of color who have experienced higher mortality rates due to the coronavirus, as well as higher rates of unemployment.

Mike Barnes, director of the counseling center at Howard, said the school is working to educate students on issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as how to go to school in a virtual setting. They have also expanded their social media presence to send students encouraging messages over the last few months, most recently posting on Twitter, “Wishing all Bison a good first week. With every bump in the road that you experience…..there is support a call, email or DM away.”

“Many of our students have backgrounds that are fraught with frustrations and challenges and so forth. And so getting to Howard is, sometimes, a haven away from home,” Barnes said. “And so we’ve had to deal with students who have gone back home during the spring and obviously the summer, and live in what we’ve called a toxic environment or, not such a pleasant situation.”

Some students are feeling anxious and unsure about the fall semester as coronavirus outbreaks have already forced some schools to send students home and switch to fully remote instruction.

North Carolina State on Thursday asked students to move out of dorms, following the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which also canceled in-person instruction for the fall semester after it saw its positivity rate jump from 2.8 percent to 13.6 percent within its first week.

Courtesy Geralyn Timm

Other colleges like the University of Notre Dame insist that students can safely return to campus, despite continued COVID-19 cases, which is causing some students, like sophomore Hailey Abrams, to worry about her exposure to the virus.

“There’s a huge range of possibilities of how this disease can affect people and knowing that it spreads so quickly within close proximity, it’s a little nerve-wracking to be on a college campus, in a dorm, with so many other people, with a disease that spreads so quickly like this,” she said.

Nonetheless, mental health professionals are urging students to remain hopeful and to take care of themselves as the semester begins.

“I know that there’s a ton of pain and tragedy associated with the pandemic and with the associated increased awareness and backlash around social inequity. What I want to try to get across to people is maintain hope. I have nothing but hope,” said Allen O’Barr, UNC’s counseling and psychological services director. “I think that the way to do that is to really focus on the brief moments of joy.”

Read More

arrested Students

Hong Kong students arrested under national security law – BBC News

Tony Chung

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Mr Chung was the former leader of a group that called for Hong Kong to become independent

Four students have been arrested in Hong Kong in the first police operation to enforce China’s new national security law for the territory.

The four were detained for “inciting secession” on social media after the new law began on 1 July, police said.

A pro-independence group said those arrested included its former leader, Tony Chung.

Beijing’s controversial new law criminalises subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces.

Previous arrests under the new law have been made for slogans and banners at protests.

Critics say China’s new law erodes Hong Kong’s freedoms. But Beijing has dismissed the criticism, saying that the law is necessary to stop the type of pro-democracy protests seen in Hong Kong during much of 2019.

What do we know about the arrests?

Three men and a woman aged between 16 and 21 were arrested on suspicion of organising and inciting secession, police said.

“Our sources and investigation show that the group recently announced on social media to set up [sic] an organisation that advocates Hong Kong independence,” said Li Kwai-wah from the new national security unit inside Hong Kong police.

Computers, phones and documents were also seized, he said.

The students were former members of or had links to Studentlocalism, a pro-independence youth group. It was disbanded in June before the new security law came into force and said it would continue to campaign from abroad.

But Mr Li said overseas activity could still be prosecuted.

“If anyone who tells others that he advocates violating the national security law from abroad, even he does that from overseas, we have the jurisdiction to investigate these kind of cases,” he said.

Photos posted on social media showed Mr Chung being led away in handcuffs in the district of Yuen Long.

Studentlocalism said Mr Chung was detained at about 20:50 local time (12:50 GMT). Police officers also took away items in several bags, the group said.

Prominent rights activist Joshua Wong said Mr Chung had been followed by police for several days. He said Mr Chung had been arrested for writing a Facebook post on “China’s nationalism” and alleged that the detainees’ phones had been hacked shortly after their arrest.

“Tonight’s arrest will clearly send a chilling effect on HK online speech,” Mr Wong tweeted.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionHong Kong activist Joshua Wong believes he is now being followed after the new security law was passed

What is the new security law?

  • It is wide-ranging, making inciting hatred of China’s central government and Hong Kong’s regional government illegal
  • Allows for closed-door trials, wire-tapping of suspects and the potential for suspects to be tried on the mainland
  • A wide range of acts, including damaging public transport facilities, can be considered terrorism
  • Internet providers might have to hand over data if requested by police

What has been the reaction to the law?

Authorities in both Hong Kong and mainland China insist the security law will not affect freedom of speech and is needed to quell successive waves of unrest in the city.

But critics say it undermines the freedoms that set Hong Kong apart from the rest of China and helped define its character.

The UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all suspended extradition treaties with Hong Kong since the new law was enacted. Meanwhile the US has decided to rescind Hong Kong’s special trading privileges.

In recent years, Hong Kong has seen a series of protests demanding more rights. In 2019, rallies over a now-scrapped bill permitting extraditions to the mainland turned violent and fuelled a broad pro-democracy movement.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionHong Kong activist Nathan Law: How we can hold China accountable?

Read More

Classrooms Students

Many Students Will Be in Classrooms Only Part of the Week This Fall – The New York Times

Some American school districts are beginning to announce hybrid schedules that include a mix of online and in-school learning, presenting a difficult challenge for working parents.

Credit…Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Dana GoldsteinEliza Shapiro

As school districts across the country began to reveal reopening plans this week, parents and students were forced to grapple with a difficult reality: It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue.

Students in Seattle are likely to go to school in person only once or twice a week, officials said. Half of Omaha’s students will attend Monday and Tuesday, and the other half Thursday and Friday, rotating Wednesdays. And Fairfax County, Va., outside Washington, said students would spend at least two days a week in class, with the rest online.

The governors of Connecticut and New Jersey announced guidance that they said would allow students to return to school, but left the details up to districts, with Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey acknowledging on Friday that some schools would likely need to adopt a hybrid model and restrict daily attendance.

Many of the nation’s largest districts have yet to announce plans, although Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York suggested on Friday that all of the city’s 1.1 million students are unlikely to return full-time during the pandemic. “One day there’s going to be a vaccine,” he said, “and I think that’s the day when you’re going to see things go back 100 percent — to every kid in the classroom — as normal.”

Reopening decisions are likely to vary greatly based on the size and density of districts, as well as region. In the South and West, where political leaders have been more eager to reopen their economies despite a recent upswing in coronavirus cases, school systems may be more likely to return to a full-time schedule, albeit with distance restrictions, new sanitation procedures and mask recommendations.

But for districts that hope to closely follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it would be nearly impossible to maintain sanitation and social distancing with normal school attendance. Class sizes in many schools would need to be cut by more than half. And while health experts generally recommend face coverings for both staff and students, some educators and parents say that is not realistic, especially for the youngest children.

Those complications are likely to prompt many districts — where administrators must decide how to implement the broad guidelines from federal and state health officials — to adopt a hybrid model in which students will spend some time in the classroom but a significant portion of the week at home.

Although that reality has been apparent to many educators for weeks, it is just beginning to confront parents. Some are finding out this week that their scramble to balance their own jobs with their children’s education and daily care will continue for many months, if not all of next school year.

“Everyone, including myself, wants to go back every day,” said Naomi Peña, a mother of three New York City public school students. “I’ve come to terms with the fact that that’s wishful thinking.”

Ms. Peña is hopeful that her children will be able to report to school every other day for the fall semester. “These kids need some sense of normalcy back,” she said, adding, “Every single parent I know, their whole routine they have cherished and worked so hard to preserve is completely out the window, and in the trash can.”

The enormous strain caused by remote learning and limited child-care options has been particularly hard on working mothers, said Julie Kashen, the director for women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, a public policy research group. “We’ve worked so hard to have choices for women in the work force, and it doesn’t feel like we have real choices right now,” she said.

Experts on working families are concerned that employers who were flexible in the spring may lose their patience come fall, even if schools do not fully reopen. “Families have used up any slack we’ve created in the system,” said Brigid Schulte, who runs the Better Life Lab at New America, a think tank.

Most parents, teachers and school leaders acknowledge that remote learning did not work as well as it should have during the spring semester, and that it will need to improve rapidly for the coming year. The average American student is expected to return to school significantly behind academically, with low-income, black and Hispanic students experiencing the greatest learning losses.


Credit…Dan Busey/The Decatur Daily, via Associated Press

Many schools are providing professional development to teachers this summer and also reconsidering how they use technology. Still, no matter how much online learning improves, keeping school buildings shuttered will have a profound impact on children, especially the most vulnerable.

Those students have endured economic strife, parental unemployment and the burden of caring for younger siblings while being isolated from their own friends. In cities like New York, some are struggling with the trauma of seeing their family members, teachers and principals die of the virus. Schools offer a support system that is impossible to replicate online.

As they make reopening plans, many districts are taking into account the special needs of some students. In Seattle, where the schools announced this week that their goal was to provide at least two days per week of in-person instruction to elementary students and one day to middle and high school students, officials said children with disabilities, those learning English and those living in poverty would be given priority for additional in-school support.

Educators crafting reopening plans face a daunting set of challenges this summer, from how to procure enough masks and cleaning supplies, to how to reduce class sizes and redesign lesson plans to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Instead of clustering around tables for group projects, teenagers will likely receive more individual assignments, with the students seated at desks facing forward. Younger children won’t be able to pile onto a soft rug for story time; instead, they will be required to sit in clearly marked spaces, six feet apart.

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Many districts are surveying parents to better understand their comfort level with reopening school buildings. They are finding a significant minority — up to a third of parents in some large districts — do not want to send their children into classrooms, according to Mike Magee, chief executive of Chiefs for Change, a coalition of district and state education leaders.

Most districts are expected to give parents the option of keeping their children home. Schools in Nashville and Marietta, Ga., said this week that families would be given a choice between in-person schooling and full-time online instruction.

But the hybrid approach, with only limited classroom time, could become the norm in states that have experienced heavy coronavirus caseloads and have chosen to take a slower approach to reopening the economy. Those states, mostly controlled by Democrats, also tend to have powerful teachers’ unions, which have repeatedly raised a red flag about the health risks of reopening schools — even as they have pushed for limitations on the expectations placed on teachers working from home.

The American Federation of Teachers, a national union, has estimated that in order to safely and effectively reopen, the nation’s schools will need an additional $116 billion to cover costs such as reducing class sizes, increasing cleaning staff, and hiring counselors and educators to help students recover from the emotional and academic impact of the pandemic.

Despite the challenges, some education and health experts have called for fully reopening schools before the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, given the central role that American schools play in both the lives of children and the ability of parents to work outside the home.

The experts point to hopeful evidence from child care centers that have remained open to serve the children of essential workers: Widespread outbreaks of the virus there appear to have been rare or even nonexistent. Research suggests that children are much less likely than adults to die from the virus or to suffer a severe health consequence; children may also be less likely than adults to transmit the illness.

But the science on the virus has shifted rapidly in recent months, and much is still unknown. In addition, the pandemic has become politicized in many parts of the country, leaving school leaders wondering whether they can effectively enforce mask wearing and other risk-mitigating behaviors among students and staff.

That is just one of many concerns for Scott Muri, the superintendent of the Ector County schools in Odessa, Texas. His days are filled with considerations of both logistics and teaching strategies.

For students to return to school, he will have to reduce the number of children on buses at any given time. He is also weighing whether to reassign teachers so that only the most skilled at online instruction are creating video lessons, while others are focused more on small-group tutoring and counseling, which could be provided either online or in person.

Dr. Muri has yet to announce a reopening plan, but expects a hybrid model.

“I will not welcome back any child or staff member if I do not feel it’s the safest environment we could possibly create,” he said. “Until we get past the dangerous period, right now, everything is on the table for consideration.”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

Read More