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Schools face planning, financial uncertainties

School is likely to be different this fall. In many states, classrooms that normally would have been open by mid-August will not be occupied until September or October, if then.

Whether the education process for millions of children will involve in-person teaching or “distance learning,” both public and private schools will have to do things that cost more money than in a normal year.

Having students in school will require health safeguards such as social distancing, possibly use of face masks and screening to keep children from bringing COVID-19 to classrooms with them. Distance learning will be a challenge too. Millions of students do not have access to the internet at home. Many lack computers to participate in online learning. Some families simply do not fully participate to make distance learning meaningful.

The fact that many school districts must prepare for both scenarios is a strain.

Making the lack of funding even more serious is the fact that the epidemic-related economic slowdown has impacted local and state government revenue. Some states have reacted by slashing support for public schools, at a time when more, not less, is required.

Leaders at the state level should be encouraged by the public to ensure education is funded adequately. If even more federal assistance — earmarked for schools — is necessary, Congress should provide it.

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