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Causes of Division Over Reopening Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many changes in daily life for all people. To avoid the spread of the disease, masks and social distancing have been implemented. Among the most impactful of these changes to students has been the closure of schools. For much of 2020 and now 2021, schooling has been either done in a distance learning environment (online instruction) or hybrid learning (part distance, part physical). These disrupted patterns of learning have had repercussions for students. To undo as much damage caused by distance learning, there has been a push for schools’ reopening. However, the reopening of schools has become a divisive issue for not only the US, but all over the world.

In the US, in particular, reopening schools has divided the country into many factions. Parents desperately want their children to return to school, but teachers and other school staff have given pushback. Parents have brought up the gaps in education from many students, particularly those of disadvantaged backgrounds, not having access to the necessary tools needed for distance learning. Educators have been hit hard by the pandemic because their profession required them to be interacting with multitudes of different people. Many have died, but they are not being prioritized in many states. Educators wish for amped up safety measures and vaccinations to have been given to them before attempting to start reopening schools. However, the negative impacts distance learning has had on students has prompted parents to seek action against school districts that remain equivocate and continue to delay the reopening of schools.

Furthermore, the US has become politically divided over the issue. Republicans favor opening schools as fast as possible, while Democrats are largely in favor of delaying the opening of schools. Democrats are pushing a massive Covid relief package that will provide additional funding for schools and President Biden has made the reopening of schools among his top priorities. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that money is not the issue and that teachers’ unions are wielding power over their decisions by donating vast sums of money. Republican governors in states such as Ohio and Maryland are increasing teacher vaccinations and setting early spring deadlines for staff to get vaccinated.

In addition, arguments have been made that reopening schools will not alleviate many of the problems that have arisen from distance learning as groups most negatively impacted by distance learning largely do not plan on returning to school physically. Mistrust of schools and vaccinations has caused many minority groups to be hesitant to return to schools. Minority and disadvantaged groups have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and do not trust schools to keep their children alive. Accordingly, studies have shown that white Americans are more likely to return to schools in person than African Americans, Asian Americans, and other minority groups.

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