Back to school during the coronavirus pandemic

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Back-to-school season is hitting differently in 2020. This year, first-day-of-school jitters are mixed in with fears of a still-raging pandemic, families stretched to their limits, and economic catastrophe.

Schools across the country are already starting classes, an unqualified mess that involves shifts to distance learning, optimistic reopenings, and realistic reclosings. Hand sanitizer and laptops have replaced backpacks and lunch boxes as must-have items for the class of COVID-19.

Decisions made by districts and systems could affect parents, students, and communities for years to come. COVID-19’s consequences for schools reverberate far beyond health — touching education, policies, and tech. Parents of the country’s roughly 56 million K–12 students are looking for practical ways to cope with distance learning. And teachers of students of all ages are trying to figure out how to teach remotely without being quite so remote.

We’re taking a week to dive into the struggle, bringing you the perspectives of parents, teachers, students, nurses, bus drivers, and others who are doing their best to make this pandemic school year work — even surrounded by COVID’s chaos.

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