Hundreds of thousands of children are still attending school from home, one year after COVID-19 shutdowns hit the United States. In California, where the school reopening fight has reached the courts, “the fireworks have gone off,” said William Koski, a professor of law and education at Stanford University. “Families are hurting, and they are frustrated, and they have a right to be mad at this point.”
On this episode of School’s In, Koski joined Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about the debate over school reopening and the challenges facing districts, from legal issues to infrastructure problems.
There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on, said Koski, from federal and state government (“Where’s the money?”) down to local leadership. Cities that have been most successful in reopening schools, he said, are those where mayors control the schools, such as Chicago. Campuses there are “old, they’re vertical, they’re dense, it’s cold, there’s not a lot of outdoor space,” Koski said. “That is a very difficult public health project there, and yet the mayor was able to hammer [a deal] out.”
On a hopeful note, with vaccination ramping up, full reopening is expected on the horizon. “Realistically, are schools going to be open in Los Angeles, in Oakland and in San Francisco by the end of this [school] year? I don’t know,” Koski said. “But we will have done something very wrong if we’re not open in September.”