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Schools Were Crowded Before COVID-19. After, Educators Say It Will Be Worse

They may be social distancing, but teachers, principals, and superintendents worry their schools will be seriously cramped for space come fall, according to the EdWeek Research Center's sixth coronavirus-focused survey.

Educators in the survey worry returning to in-person instruction could put their own health or a loved one's health at risk, but also voiced concerns about the logistics of keeping six feet of distance among students in classrooms built for much closer interactions. More than half of respondents in the survey (1,014 teachers, 447 principals, and 446 district leaders polled between May 20 and 28) believe that if they implement social distancing to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, their schools will be "very" or "extremely" crowded, and a third of them believe the crowding will be so bad that they will need to break school into multiple sessions.

Teachers were more likely than school or district leaders to report their schools had already been seriously crowded before the pandemic, however:

States are already trying to address concerns in their reopening plans. For example, California's new guidance for reopening schools requires schools to keep people at least six feet apart at minimum, and suggests schools split their students between remote and on-campus learning, either by alternating days or weeks, or by creating more and afternoon school sessions.

Yet according to the EdWeek survey, less than half of teachers have taught live online classes during the school closures this spring, and researchers argue that children will benefit from having in-person interaction with their teachers, even if they aren't on a traditional schedule. "The intermittent or shift approach is still preferable to the continued distance learning one," said Dimitri Christakis, the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development at the Seattle Children's Research Institute. "There'll be, I think, considerable value in terms of being physically present and engaged." 

Holly Kurtz, director of the Ed Week Research Center, discussed findings from the ongoing coronavirus-related education surveys on student and teacher engagement in recent discussions with the Education Writers Association and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education's Research Minutes podcast, below:

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