Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

A Kids’ Vaccine Isn’t Coming Anytime Soon

This is the Coronavirus Schools Briefing, a guide to the seismic changes in U.S. education that are taking place during the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

A vaccine for kids? Prepare to wait

Parents, brace yourselves: You may be able to get a coronavirus vaccine by next summer, but your kids will have to wait longer — perhaps a lot longer.

While a number of vaccines for adults are in advanced clinical trials, there are currently no trials in the United States to determine whether they’re safe and effective for children.

“ I’m pretty worried that we won’t have a vaccine available for kids by the start of next school year,” said Dr. Evan Anderson, aprofessor at the Emory University School of Medicine.

Children’s vaccine needs are different than those of adults. Pediatric immune systems can respond differently to a vaccine, and even children among different age groups might vary in their responses. And because children are less likely to get seriously sick from Covid-19, the bar will be especially high to make sure there are no adverse side effects.

Whenever pediatric trials do begin, it could take a year or more for the vaccines to become available to the general public. That extends the timeline out until the latter half of next year, said Carl Zimmer, who reported the story for The Times.

“If children are vaccinated by the fall of 2021, and if the rates are low in their community, you can imagine getting back to life as normal,” he told us. “But if rates are still high and vaccines aren’t ready until spring of 2022, then all the stuff we’re struggling now with kids in school will still be continuing a year from now.”

His takeaway? “Everybody’s got to get ready for a long winter.”

Finding “lost” students

Across the country, students are regularly missing virtual class — especially students in poorer urban communities. Last spring, elementary school students in Seattle logged into the district’s learning portal less than half the time they were supposed to. At the start of this semester, only 65 percent of Baltimore’s students were logging in daily, according to Sonja Santelises, the schools superintendent.

That leaves educators in a bind. They’re trying to make sure students come to class, but have to walk the line between punitive and forgiving policies for regular no-shows.

“I’ll have kids gone for a week, pop in for one class the next, then miss the second class that week,” said Linnet Early, a social studies teacher outside St. Louis who has 100 mostly low-income students spread across eight classes, all online. “It’s hard to know what their struggles are, how to wrap your arms around it.”

Some students are finding online learning tedious and don’t see the point in fighting through the obstacles. Many, though, are missing lessons for reasons outside of their control.

“I have some students who I know are living across the border right now,” said Nicole J., a high school art teacher outside San Diego. A little more than half her class regularly shows up to online learning. “Another is watching her 2-year-old sister all the time — that’s incredibly hard, to get anything done. Some have gotten jobs and are trying to fit school in around their work schedule.”

School Reopenings ›

Back to School

Updated Sept. 23, 2020

The latest on how schools are reopening amid the pandemic.

    • Thousands of coronavirus cases have already been linked to schools this academic year. But a lack of reporting means that a national accounting remains out of reach.
    • Early data for the new school year suggests that attendance in virtual classrooms is down, possibly because students are working or caring for siblings.
    • The death of a football player at California University of Pennsylvania raises questions about how his school is handling the virus and is prompting more athletes to think about their risks.
    • A fraternity at the University of Georgia was suspended after racist messages were exposed.

    Technology problems account for a disproportionate number of absences. In Mississippi — which has the highest child poverty rate in the country, about 28 percent — some students won’t receive their school-issued devices until November. Nevertheless, officials are calling for reinstating the state’s truancy rules. In some states, those rules could carry fines and even jail time — most often for parents, but in rare cases, for students too.

    Instead of discipline, many districts are pursuing creative solutions. Public schools in Washington, D.C., will send students “We Miss You” postcards and call relatives and emergency contacts in addition to parents to track them down. And a new California law requires districts to develop “re-engagement strategies.”

    Last year, after students had already established an in-person rapport with students, it was easier to have those conversations. This year, it’s harder. “How will it work in the fall when the students don’t know I love them?” one educator wondered.

    Around the country

    The organization that runs the ACT college-admission test closed more than 500 testing centers this past weekend because of the virus or the recent wildfires.

    A 20-year-old student at the California University in Pennsylvania died this month from a blood clot after being hospitalized with Covid-19. He appears to be the first college football player to die from the virus.

    Middlebury College, in Vermont, removed 22 students from campus during the weekend for violating the school’s virus policies.

    James Madison University, in Virginia, asked students to leave campus housing and sent them home weeks ago, after outbreaks. Now, the university will bring them back.

    The chancellor of the University of Wisconsin and the executive of the surrounding Dane County had a public dispute over how to contain a surge in local cases.

    K-12 update

    The Miami-Dade County school board approved a plan for students to return to classrooms full time starting next month. The reopening would make Miami-Dade, the fourth-biggest district in the U.S., the largest to bring students back into the classroom full time. (Families who prefer virtual learning would be allowed to continue with it.)

    Rhode Island and Massachusetts have some of the lowest per capita positivity rates in the country, and both vowed to bring students back to schools. The Boston Globe examines why only Rhode Island seems to have succeeded.

    In Kenosha, Wis., 276 teachers called in sick, forcing seven schools to go virtual.

    Classrooms in Des Moines, Iowa, will reopen on a hybrid model next month. The district had openly defied the Republican governor’s demand for in-person learning by teaching remotely.

    Baltimore’s school district plans to lay off about 450 temporary employees and halt hiring as it tries to make up for a $21 million budget shortfall.

    Washington State seems to have some of the most cautious reopening guidelines in the country. It is one of the few states to provide clear guidelines that tied case counts to in-person classes.

    The governor of Pennsylvania vetoed a bill that would give school districts authority to decide on school sports and crowds during the pandemic, which is likely to start a political fight in the swing state.

    Across the country, there has been more cheating and academic dishonesty as schooling has moved online, Axios reports.

    Tip: Manage snacking

    The pandemic has disrupted kids’ normal snack habits. Without structure, it’s hard for kids to know when to eat and when to abstain. Remote learning exacerbates matters. Here are a few suggestions to keep kids on track.

    Remember that snacking is normal, especially when the world is topsy-turvy. Don’t penalize them for eating: They might develop bad habits later on.

    You need to intervene only if your child’s snacking has turned into the kind of all-day grazing pattern that replaces regular meals. Focus on when and where they eat, not what.

    Make snacks into a sit-down affair. And cut down on screentime during meals: Distraction makes it difficult for kids (and adults) to tell when they’re getting full.

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