Parenting in a Pandemic

School districts weigh health risks and costs of reopening in the fall

Justin Ho Jul 14, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is sticking with online classes come August, has over 600,000 students. Testing them for COVID-19 could cost $300 per student over the year. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
Parenting in a Pandemic

School districts weigh health risks and costs of reopening in the fall

Justin Ho Jul 14, 2020
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is sticking with online classes come August, has over 600,000 students. Testing them for COVID-19 could cost $300 per student over the year. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
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The Los Angeles Unified School District will not reopen when school starts again in August, as COVID-19 cases spike in Southern California. Online learning will continue indefinitely in the nation’s second-largest school district. Across the country, school districts are weighing the costs of reopening.

In addition to the potential health risks of reopening during the pandemic, districts would have to pay for protective gear, for expanding the square footage of schools to make social distancing possible and for more buses.

“You’re looking at a significant increase in your transportation costs,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng with the American Association of School Administrators.

The organization found that, on average, districts are facing nearly $2 million in reopening costs.

“And an average district enrolls 3,500 students. And LA is no average district,” Ng said.

It has over 600,000 students, and LA says that testing those students and staff for the virus could cost $300 per student over the year.

But keeping kids at home also comes with costs. Julie Marsh, an education policy professor at the University of Southern California said that in the spring, teachers had problems using online tools.

“A lot of the challenges had to do with teachers not knowing how to even get students to show up, and turn on their screens, and to engage,” Marsh said.

LA’s school district said teachers and students will receive additional training in online education.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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