Texas schools already challenged by the pandemic are now experiencing a historically brutal winter. Lack of power and communication, broken water pipes, mold concerns, and other weather-related damage put more obstacles in place for students and families that rely on schools for shelter and food.

As Texas faced record-low temperatures this February and snow and ice made roads impassable, the state’s electric grid operator lost control of the power supply, leaving millions without access to electricity. As the blackouts extended from hours to days, top state lawmakers called for investigations into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and Texans demanded accountability for the disaster.
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When icy temperatures knocked out Neshia Inmon’s electricity for more than two days, she sent her 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son to a family member’s house while she stayed home.

Inmon, who lives in East Texas, encouraged her children, learning through the Texas Virtual School Network this year, to keep up with their schoolwork when cell service or internet access permitted. Throughout the chaos and instability of the past year, Inmon has done as much as possible to prioritize her children’s education.

She is calm when discussing the details of all the unexpected challenges the pandemic has thrown at her: Over the last year, she was fired from one retail job, had to quit another to help her kids with online school, received eviction notices almost every month, and isn’t sure whether her appeal for unemployment benefits will go through. As she waits for the weather to clear up, she is rationing a limited supply of food and making sure her children get to eat.

“I can’t even imagine about the people who are not as strong who got kids. That’s when it hurts the most: When you have somebody who you have to take care of,” she said.

The winter storm delivered another blow for parents, teachers and students already struggling to get through this academic year, as COVID-19 has destabilized the lives of many Texans. Already students were failing multiple classes learning virtually, feeling increasingly anxious and depressed, and worrying about their loved ones. Now, some families still don’t have power or water and some schools, given the damage to facilities, are unsure when they are going to be able to take students back in person.

Read this full article in The Texas Tribune: Texas students slammed again as storm scrambles already chaotic school year

During the coronavirus pandemic, each state has grappled with varying approaches to education and public health. Now, the Centers for Disease Control have shared comprehensive guidelines for how to safely operate schools. Here’s what you need to know about the new federal guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new and lengthy guidance Friday for how to safely reopen schools for in-person learning – the first issued under the Biden administration and one school leaders across the country have been long awaiting as they grapple over what’s become the most contentious political debate of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I recognize that the decision on when and how to begin in person learning is one that must be based on a thorough review of what the science tells us works and an understanding of the lived experiences, challenges and perspectives of teachers, school staff, parents and students,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in unveiling the new, non-binding guidance. “I know that teachers, parents and state and local leaders have been stretched thin trying to navigate this pandemic. Instead of asking them to piece together a patchwork of guidances by topic, we believed it was important to create a one-stop shop to provide scientific information they need.”

The guidance represents the first comprehensive set of recommendations from the CDC for how classes can safely resume since the coronavirus pandemic first shuttered schools across the country for more than 50 million children in the U.S.

Read this full article in US News & World Report: CDC Issues Guidance for Safely Reopening Schools

Public health experts point to vaccine distribution as a key to getting students back in class and keeping teachers safe. As more districts work to get teachers and staff their shots, leaders debate whether schools should become community hubs for vaccination.

An increasing number of school district leaders are setting up creative partnerships to vaccinate teachers and staff—and now some are pressing local health officials to let them expand to the community at large.

Sprawl, gentrification, and cycles of disinvestment have led to markedly different access to drug stores, supermarkets, and medical facilities across the United States, but nearly all communities still have schools, the leaders note. Centrally located and often at walkable distances for most residents, schools have the potential to serve as powerful vaccination hubs.

It’s unclear how many of the nation’s school districts currently host on-site vaccinations. Partly that’s a function of how much vaccine each state has received and where teachers and other school personnel fall on their tiered plans for rolling out vaccinations.

But if the idea picks up traction, it could increase public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines and potentially also help prioritize communities that have been hardest hit by the virus—and face the most hurdles in access to vaccinations.

Read this full article in EdWeek: Should Schools Become Vaccination Sites for Everyone?

To return to school, or to remain on Zoom- that has been the major question during the pandemic for many school districts across the country. Now, CDC researchers say that evidence doesn’t point to the classroom as a major driver of coronavirus infections. Read on for more about the “reassuring” news, and why it’s still important for school communities to take health precautions.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers on Tuesday said that there is “reassuring” evidence about a lack of widespread coronavirus transmission in schools, amid sometimes-intense debate over reopening.

The researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that there have been some reported cases of the virus in schools, but they have not been major drivers of transmission.
“As many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the US as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” the CDC researchers wrote.

Read this full article in The Hill: CDC researchers find ‘little evidence’ of major school outbreaks, with precautions