Students are headed back to class amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to keep you posted on what’s unfolding throughout U.S. schools — K-12 as well as colleges — Yahoo Life is running a weekly wrap-up featuring news bites, interviews and updates on the ever-unfolding situation.
2 young teachers die from COVID-19 complications
A third-grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School in Columbia, S.C., died on Monday, days after her COVID-19 diagnosis. Music lover Demetria Bannister, 28, was known as “Windsor’s Songbird,” principal Denise Quickel said in a press release sent to Yahoo Life. Bannister last visited campus on Aug. 28 and began teaching remotely on Aug. 31. On Friday, Richland School District Two, of which Windsor Elementary School is a part, learned of her test results and began contact tracing and disinfecting procedures.
Also, according to the Washington Post, a 34-year-old teacher in Missouri named AshLee DeMarinis died from COVID-19 complications on Sunday, after spending three weeks in the hospital. “She taught special education, and it was just her calling,” her sister Jennifer Heissenbuttel told the Post. “Her students loved her, and her colleagues loved her.”
A spokesperson from the American Federation of Teachers tells Yahoo Life that 210 union members have died from COVID-19 during the pandemic.
An “irresponsible and selfish” student was arrested for attending school on remote-learning day
A New York teen who defiantly attended school on remote-learning days was arrested after repeated warnings to stay home. “I was going to school like students should be going to school,” Maverick Stow told WABC. The 17-year-old first showed up at William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach on Long Island on Tuesday, had his temperature taken and attended his first-period class, but when the principal told him to leave, Stow refused. He managed to finish his classes that day but was issued a five-day suspension, a punishment he called “out of line.”
That day, William Floyd School District said in a statement: “Students who refuse to adhere to their scheduled in-person days and/or flagrantly disregard directives to leave school grounds and cause a disruptive environment for other students, will face disciplinary actions.”
However, Stow returned on Wednesday. A district statement said the teen “continued to display insubordinate behavior — even at one point squaring up to a district official and stating that the district would have to ‘forcibly remove’ him from school grounds.”
On Thursday, Stow showed up at school, where he was arrested by the Suffolk County Police Department for criminal trespassing. “Mr. Stow continues to display irresponsible and selfish behavior with today’s latest publicity stunt,” read a district statement. “He arrived wearing a neon green shirt — for high visibility — with a contingent of media just outside the fence line trying to capture him getting arrested as he entered the building.” The district threatened to stop in-person learning if Stow continued “this circus atmosphere.”
Stow’s parents told WABC they encouraged his behavior, but a Change.org petition signed by more than 1,400 people condemned his “idiotic mockery of student activism.” In its school reopening plan, William Floyd School District is operating under a hybrid learning model, which requires two days of in-person learning and three days of virtual learning for its high school students.
William Floyd High School Senior Maverick Stow was suspended 5 days today for attending in-person classes on his remote learning day. He says students belong in school. The school district says students who “flagrantly” disregard the schedule will be suspended. pic.twitter.com/ZRDSfrBtgJ
— Kristin Thorne (@KristinThorne) September 8, 2020
This week, teens in Iowa also clashed with local officials over the cancellation of in-person school. On Monday, students from Des Moines Public Schools and the Ames Community School District swarmed Gov. Kim Reynolds’s Des Moines home to oppose the suspension of fall sports and physical learning, the Associated Press reported.
Elmo releases a back-to-school PSA, with help from California Gov. Gavin Newsom
Elmo is wearing a face mask and a backpack — so why can’t he go to school? On Tuesday, Sesame Street Workshop, in partnership with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, addressed the complexities of the back-to-school season in a pandemic PSA, the first of three in the #CaringForEachOther initiative, a hub for COVID-19 learning resources.
“Uh, Elmo, today you’re learning from home on the computer. You won’t need your mask, son,” his father, Louie, says in the video. “This learning transition can be tough on kids, but remember: When things get tough, take a slow, deep breath. It’s going to be OK.”
Newsom said in a press release that Elmo’s cachet may inspire children to wash their hands and physically distance from one another, adding, “We appreciate Sesame Street’s partnership during this critical time when parents and kids are preparing to return to school — many through distance learning.”
Sesame Street has been helping kids make sense of the coronavirus pandemic since April, when it presented The ABCs of COVID-19 town hall with CNN. On Saturday, another joint town hall will focus on “making the most of remote learning.”
West Virginia University postpones in-person classes after students throw Labor Day parties
West Virginia University canceled in-person classes on Tuesday at its Morgantown campus, where 427 students have been infected since July 20. The decision came as the student population saw increasing COVID-19 infections and the suspension of 29 fraternity brothers for hosting a Labor Day party that defied isolation or quarantine orders. Online classes will continue until Sept. 28.
Administrators were concerned “for the probability of increased cases following several reports of parties held this holiday weekend where groups should have been in quarantine,” read the announcement. Jeffrey Coben, the associate vice president of health affairs and dean of the School of Public Health, added: “There is increasing evidence that crowded indoor gatherings, such as those that occurred over the weekend, can serve as super-spreader events.”
College students are frequently implicated in school outbreaks — in August, the University of Notre Dame shifted to online classes, blaming mask-free parties for climbing infections. And Penn State University, Syracuse University and Purdue University recently suspended students for COVID-19 infractions.
One way schools respond to rising infections is to close dorms and send students home — which Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called “the worst thing you can do” for the spread of COVID-19 — or quarantine students in guarded dormitories or off-campus apartments. On Thursday, spokespeople from Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., and the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa confirmed to Yahoo Life that security teams were added to their quarantine units. Officials with the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa say additional security measures are “to help make sure the students’ needs are met and safety guidelines are followed.”
The University of Missouri president blocks students who tweeted about the school’s pandemic response
This week, university president Mun Choi blocked students on Twitter who complained of broken restroom faucets and safety rules that weren’t enforced, according to a Daily Beast report. Two students shared screenshots of messages notifying them of the blocks, one of whom sought legal advice on the president’s “failure of leadership” and infringement of students’ First Amendment rights. Attorney Christopher Bennett, who represented one student, told the Daily Beast that he threatened Choi with a lawsuit if he did not reverse the blocks.
A University of Missouri spokesperson tells Yahoo Life, “It is inconceivable to believe that President Choi doesn’t listen to or addresses student concerns” and that blocked individuals had sent “abusive” and “expletive-filled” messages, some of which were shared with Yahoo Life. However, Choi unblocked the students to “focus on leading the university through a pandemic.” The school has 562 active cases as of Friday.
After teens attend a birthday party in Florida, a high school suspends in-person classes
On Sunday, Orange County Public Schools and the Florida Department of Health in Orange County announced that Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla., would transition to online learning beginning on Tuesday, through Sept. 18, “out of an abundance of caution” after six individuals tested positive for COVID-19. These six students were in direct contact with 156 staff and students. Three of those positive cases were tied to a party, an Orange County Public Schools spokesperson tells Yahoo Life. The pivot was made not due to the number of infections but to the number of quarantines.
WESH reported that 13 Olympia High School students attended a birthday party in late August. Orange County Public Schools could not verify the number of attendees with Yahoo Life. Representatives of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County did not immediately return Yahoo Life’s request for comment, but its director, Dr. Raul Pino, told WESH, “Some of the students mentioned that they had attended the birthday party. We believe that at that birthday party was also a student whose parents were positive at home. We haven't been able to establish that for sure.”
Pino added: “The party environment is not the only positive case. There was also a community-acquired case that may have exposed a high number of teachers.”
Michigan offers essential workers free college
On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer launched a program to offer tuition-free college to the estimated 625,000 essential employees who worked between April and June during stay-at-home orders.
“Futures for Frontliners, inspired by the GI Bill, which provided college [access] to those serving their country in WWII, offers Michigan adults without college degrees or high school diplomas who provided essential services during the pandemic a tuition-free pathway to gaining the skills needed to obtain high-demand, high-wage careers,” read Whitmer’s press release. “The funding is not only available to those in the medical field, but also essential workers in manufacturing, nursing homes, grocery stores, sanitation, delivery, retail and more.” To qualify for the program, applicants must live in Michigan, have worked at least part-time during the state shutdown and have not previously earned an associate or bachelor’s degree.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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