Coronavirus has not ridden quietly into the sunset as many people had hoped and even predicted. The scourge of 2020 is still alive and kicking in 2021 and appears to be evolving. Some would argue the Delta Variant of COVID-19 is even worse than the original, particularly for children. Early research says this particular brand of COVID-19 is more contagious for children though it is inconclusive as to whether or not it makes them “sicker.” Even still, this fact combined with a resurgence of hospitalizations, is starting to make people ask the question: Is a return to remote learning possible?
There is no need to bury the lead. The short answer is yes, but it depends, and probably not.
The truth is some school districts have already returned to remote learning. Less than two weeks into the new school year, some schools were forced to return to e-learning after outbreaks among their teachers and staff. There are some school districts in which kids never returned from remote learning in the first place. So, it is certainly possible.
However, on the flipside of that argument, there are school districts that never fully embraced remote learning in the first place. There are places where remote learning or really any mandated COVID-19 prevention methods are politically unpopular and places where government officials are actually mandating the opposite of remote learning.
Also, even places that would possibly be more receptive to remote learning will be more averse to it than they were the first time around because in some cases, learning via the internet did not go too well. Many students never even logged on.
Additionally, there are more factors at play than just regional politics and antipathies. There is pressure nationally to open and stay open. US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has said he expects every school district at minimum offer full time in-person instruction this year. We also have more tools to fight COVID than we did during the first wave, most notably the vaccine. Many of the former supporters of remote learning have now shifted their focus towards encouraging and potentially even mandating the vaccine … at least for teachers and staff. While such mandates would undoubtedly be controversial, they do have support from the highest education official in the land.
With all of that being said, it is certainly still possible some school districts will opt to close. People with vaccines are still somewhat vulnerable, and it is clear that absent some kind of mandate, everyone won’t get one. If the surge gets bad enough even people that are reluctant to close schools will probably consider it. Secretary Cardona himself said he couldn’t rule it out.
But the question is not if it is literally possible. The question is likelihood. And considering that nationally we are still fighting over simply wearing masks as many states are unwilling to even allow that much, the chances of closing schools altogether seems unlikely. Vegas doesn’t let you bet on the chance of schools staying open; however, if they did, the smart money would take those odds.