12 big challenges from last school year that could now define the fall of 2021

If the 2019 school year ended in a surge of shutdowns and socially-distanced chaos, the 2020 school year commenced with an unprecedented mix of innovation, improvisation and isolation, as districts rushed to rethink everything from school safety to remote instruction, student nutrition, social-emotional supports and beyond. From fall to spring – through all the spikes in COVID cases, the rolling campus closures, the approval of vaccines for adolescents and the evolving CDC guidance surrounding the spread and mitigation of the disease – school communities did their best to pivot and adapt to the twists and turns that made the past nine months an academic year unlike any other.

Now with nearly every elected official and education leader calling for a full restoration of in-person learning for the 2021 school year, there’s a feeling today, in July of 2021 as we enter the holiday weekend, that we’re taking collective stock of the fallout from the COVID school year – and laying the groundwork for the engagement and interventions that will be required to help all kids make up for lost time.

If the 2019 school year was when things derailed, and 2020 was the year we did the best we could in an impossible situation, 2021 is poised to be the moment the nation turns the page and doubles down on education as a post-COVID priority.

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