Students rely on their schools for a lot more than math class and social studies. Nurses offer health care. Teachers can flag social services agencies if they think a child has been neglected or abused.
And of the 30 million U.S. children who eat school meals, 22 million qualify for free or reduced-price meals. They rely on schools to eat. That’s a stark reminder of the widespread poverty and food insecurity across the country.
“We all know what it feels like to be hungry and how we can’t concentrate,” said Pamela Koch, the executive director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College at Columbia University. “Imagine feeling like that on a chronic basis, having all the uncertainty that we know children are experiencing at this time and then trying to learn.”
This spring, when most schools were closed, only 60 percent of eligible families still managed to find access to affordable meals, according to an Urban Institute study. The proportion would have been even lower without the Agriculture Department’s temporary policy changes, which allowed anyone to pick up free meals for their remote learners, regardless of income.
On Monday, hours before the changes were set to expire, the department reversed its stance and said it would continue waiving stricter requirements “through the end of 2020, or until available funding runs out.”
At schools that have opted for in-person teaching this fall, feeding students safely requires extensive changes. To limit exposure, some schools are making students eat solely with their class or allowing lunch outside.
Willow Lewis-Moskowitz, a 10th grader in Florida, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal that unmasked lunch was one of the reasons she did “not feel safe going back to school.”
The faces of hunger: The photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally photographed hunger and food insecurity across the country. “I call it the Great Depression with minivans,” one man told The Times, as he drove through the parking lot of a high school in the Cleveland area to get emergency food.
A higher-education crisis in Latin America
Over the last two decades, millions of young people in Latin America became the first in their families to head to college, a historic expansion that promised to sweep a generation into the professional class and transform the region.
But as the pandemic grips the continent, killing hundreds of thousands and devastating economies, an alarming reversal is underway: Millions of university students are being forced to abandon their studies because of financial shortfalls, according to the Inter-American Development Bank, which helps finance student loans.
Most courses have moved online, but millions do not have internet, or even a reliable cellphone connection. Some students said they were going hungry to pay for data to attend remote classes.
School Reopenings ›
Back to School
Updated Sept. 4, 2020
The latest on how schools are reopening amid the pandemic.
- There have been at least 51,000 coronavirus cases at more than 1,000 American college campuses since the pandemic began, the latest New York Times’s survey shows.
- SUNY Oneonta canceled in-person classes and sent students home because of a coronavirus outbreak.
- Millions of college students in Latin America are leaving their studies because of the pandemic.
- Professional licensing exams have been severely disrupted by the coronavirus, making it difficult for newly trained lawyers, doctors and others to start their careers.
Wendi Kuetgaje, 22, is trying to attend a university in Bogotá from a rural, Indigenous community. Cell service comes in sporadically, so she sometimes studies under the stars while everyone else is asleep. Last semester she had so much trouble logging in that she missed two important tests and nearly failed, which would have led to the loss of her scholarship.
If that happens, she said, “I lose everything.”
Updates from around the country
A New York Times survey of more than 1,500 American colleges and universities has revealed at least 51,000 cases and at least 60 deaths since the pandemic began. That includes more than 45,000 additional cases at colleges since late July, and more than 24,000 additional cases since late August.
The University of South Carolina reports that more than 1,000 students have the virus, with a positive test rate of nearly 28 percent between Aug. 28 and 31. The university has suspended students and disciplined several Greek life organizations who held parties in violation of local ordinances.
Over the next few months, The Times is taking an inside look at how athletes, coaches and administrators are preparing for a return to athletics at the University of California, Berkeley.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has logged more than 700 cases, and has instituted a two-week restriction of movement for undergraduates. Many researchers had celebrated the school as a potential model for reopening campuses to in-person classes, because of widespread testing.
Cornell University announced Thursday that 39 people on campus had tested positive, including 36 student athletes. Officials expect the cluster to grow because of “gatherings where masks were not worn nor physical distancing observed.”
On Thursday, administrators at Indiana University at Bloomington urged students living in Greek houses to move out, citing an “alarming” rate of positive tests exceeding 50 percent in those residences.
The State University of New York at Oneonta will send all on-campus students home and suspend all in-person classes and activities for the rest of the fall semester, after outbreaks linked to parties.
Tips of the day: Structuring remote school
School from home — without structured lunch time, recess or after-school activities — can feel like an endless, unbroken stretch of time. The solution: establishing routine.
The Times spoke to two teachers, a psychologist, a child development researcher and a licensed clinical social worker to find out how parents can add structure into their children’s school days. Tips include:
When establishing a morning routine, avoid multitasking. Instead, give your kids choices and encourage them as they do simple chores. “Celebrate the first day,” one teacher said. “Celebrate that you brushed your teeth.”
Make a designated space for remote learning. It doesn’t matter if it’s just the same chair at the same part of the table. Set it up for schoolwork each day and keep it free of clutter to help your child to get into school mode.
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