KRWG

Anya Kamenetz

Two weeks' notice: Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina voted on Oct. 28 to close schools on Nov. 12 for a "day of kindness, community and connection."

The vaccination of children ages 5 to 11 against COVID-19 is well under way: The White House announced this week that an estimated 10 percent of children in that age group have received their first shot.

California has become the first state to announce that it will add this vaccine to its list of the shots required for all school children. And a handful of districts in 14 states are making similar moves, starting with mandates for student-athletes to participate in sports.

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When can kids safely take off their masks in school? About three-fourths of the nation's largest districts required masks at the start of the school year. Recently, the calls by some parents to unmask children have grown louder, especially now that there is a COVID-19 vaccine available with emergency authorization for children as young as 5 years old.

The first time kids had to get a vaccine to go to school was more than 200 years ago. The disease? Smallpox.

It touches most every household in the United States, whether as taxpayers or as parents, but come Election Day, education rarely makes it to the top of voter priorities.

That wasn't the case this week.

The Poway Unified School District, in San Diego County, Calif., was planning a pretty typical school board meeting in September. They were hearing reports from their student representatives and honoring their teachers and other staff members of the year.

Because of the pandemic, the general public has been asked to join and comment via livestream.

That hasn't stopped protesters from showing up in person.

Karen Watkins works in supply chain management and has two children in public school in Gwinnett County, Ga. She's one of those moms who has always been very involved in her kids' education. So much so that local officials urged her to run for school board last year.

"They said, 'This is probably going to be a good thing for you and you can probably make a difference.' ... But I didn't realize it came with a package, a big package," she says with a rueful laugh.

Natalie Saldana would love to put her 1.5-year-old daughter in a quality child care program while she works and goes to school, but the $700 monthly price tag makes it impossible.

"Seven-hundred dollars is almost my rent," Saldana said.

Brayan has spent only one uninterrupted week in fifth grade since classes started in early August. His charter school has sent him home six separate times to quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19, though he has never tested positive. He's struggling to keep up with his lessons.

"Yesterday he was crying. He says he wants to go to school, he wants to be smart, he wants to learn, but he can't," says his father, José.

On Tuesday, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate panel. The hearing's focus was advertised as "protecting kids online."

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Confrontations over masks, vaccines and how race is taught in schools have many school board members across the U.S. worried for their safety.

Mobs are yelling obscenities and throwing objects. In one district, a protester brandished a flagpole against a school board official. Other cases have included a protester yelling a Nazi salute, arrests for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct, and numerous death threats against public officials.

This week marked the first day of school in New York City, the largest school district in the country. Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference last week showing off air purifiers, stacks of child-sized surgical masks and electrostatic sprayers. The message? "I say to all parents ... the best place for your kid is in school."

On Thursday, President Biden announced a series of actions aimed at getting control of the surging pandemic. Alongside new vaccine requirements for private businesses, he announced new steps to encourage K-12 schools to mandate masks for all, require vaccines for employees and step up testing for COVID-19.

Hurricane Ida has closed schools for more than 250,000 students across Louisiana, according to a tally by NPR. Districts in some of the hardest-hit areas, including Orleans and Jefferson Parish, have not yet announced a reopening date. School leaders have had their hands full so far trying to make sure staff and students are safe, whether they stayed in town or evacuated, and assessing damage to their buildings.

In June 2019, attorney Warren Binford traveled to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Clint, Texas. She was there on a routine visit to monitor the government's compliance with the Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs how long and under what conditions migrant children can be held in detention facilities.

When the pandemic hit last March, David was visiting his family on a furlough from the Swanson Center for Youth. That's a state juvenile facility in Monroe, La. He was finishing up a four-year sentence that began when he was 17.

David (we're not using his last name to protect his privacy) was planning on going "mudding" that weekend with some friends — riding all-terrain vehicles in a mud pit. But Swanson said he had to come back a day early.

The U.S. Education Department has released the first in a series of school surveys intended to provide a national view of learning during the pandemic. It reveals that the percentage of students who are still attending school virtually may be higher than previously understood.

Updated March 19, 2021 at 12:46 PM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance for schools. On Friday, the agency announced it "now recommends that, with universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings."

Almost exactly one year ago, the pandemic caused a cascade of school and university closures, sending 9 out of 10 students home as the coronavirus raced through the United States and the rest of the world.

By Labor Day, 62% of U.S. students were still learning virtually, according to the organization Burbio. That number dropped significantly during the fall and rose in the winter as COVID-19 surged. And today, just under 1 in 4 public school students attends a district that still hasn't held a single day of in-person learning.

Pullups for a toddler who is potty training. A bicycle. Clothes that aren't hand-me-downs. A home with heat and working plumbing. A trip to the zoo.

Four in 10 children in the U.S. live in households struggling to afford basic expenses, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Now, as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the House and Senate have passed a child benefit, the first of its kind in the United States.

One year after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered classrooms around the country and the world, U.S. parents are guardedly optimistic about the academic and social development of their children, an NPR/Ipsos poll finds.

But 62% of parents say their child's education has been disrupted. And more than 4 out of 5 would like to see schools provide targeted extra services to help their kids catch up. This includes just over half of parents who support the idea of summer school.

The COVID-19 relief bill working its way through Congress is full of big ideas to help people. But there's one idea that's so big, it was politically unthinkable not that long ago.

President Biden and Democratic lawmakers want to fight child poverty by giving U.S. families a few hundred dollars every month for every child in their household — no strings attached. A kind of child allowance.

If this proposal survives the wrangling in Congress and makes it to Biden's desk, experts say it could cut child poverty nearly in half.

When you think of the history of Black education in the United States, you might think of Brown vs. Board of Education and the fight to integrate public schools. But there's a parallel history too, of Black people pooling their resources to educate and empower themselves independently.

Enslaved people learned to read and write whenever and wherever they could, often in secret and against the law. "In accomplishing this, I was compelled to resort to various stratagems,"like convincing white children to help him, wrote Frederick Douglass. "I had no regular teacher."

The U.S. Education Department says states must resume the annual testing of students that was suspended a year ago amid the pandemic.

For the past two decades, federal law has required schools to test students once each year in math and reading, in grades three through eight and once in high school. And they are required to publicly report these standardized test results, broken out by racial and ethnic group and disability status, and in some cases, hold schools accountable with various sanctions if their students score too low.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday its much-anticipated, updated guidance to help school leaders decide how to safely bring students back into classrooms, or keep them there.

It's been 11 months since schools first shut down across the country and around the world.

And most students in the U.S. are still experiencing disruptions to their learning — going into the classroom only a few days a week or not at all.

To respond to this disruption, education leaders are calling for a reinvention of public education on the order of the Marshall Plan, the massive U.S. initiative to rebuild Western Europe after the devastations of World War II.

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