Having slogged through weeks of unevenly administered distance learning, schools in the U.S. are preparing to shut down for the summer. Amid the stress of the pandemic, students, teachers and parents undoubtedly deserve a break. They should keep it short.
How to get students back in classrooms will be driven by public health considerations. In areas at low risk of coronavirus outbreaks, schools might safely reopen if they plan for proper social distancing. For everyone else, some form of remote learning should continue. Forgoing a traditional 10- to 12-week summer vacation might not go over well with students, to say nothing of the adults who will need to supervise their work. But especially for disadvantaged children, the alternative is worse.
The disruptions caused by the coronavirus have harmed learning across the board. By the end of April, more than 80% of public schools had already canceled in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year, leaving 55 million students to learn from home. School districts were ill-prepared for the shift to remote teaching, though the vast majority have since managed to provide students with at least some academic work. However, both the quality of instruction and the expectations for student performance vary widely. Although close to three-quarters of all school districts are delivering material through online platforms, less than half require students to actually use them.