The White House has made it unmistakably clear that it wants schools to open this year with full in-person instruction, and that nothing — least of all the science — should stand in the way. But the actual decisions on whether to allow children back into the classroom are thankfully being made not by a president hellbent on making a political point, but by school officials who are listening to public health experts and consulting with members of their communities. Many of them are coming to the reluctant conclusion that the failure to contain the novel coronavirus — something that actually is the responsibility of President Donald Trump’s administration — makes it unwise to return children to the classroom.

As back-to-school season approaches, an increasing number of school districts have abandoned plans for in-person classes or hybrid arrangements and, instead, are opting for an all-virtual start to the fall semester. Some districts have committed to distance learning only for the first few weeks of the school, holding out the possibility — and hope — of in-person instruction, but many others plan for students to learn remotely through the rest of 2020.

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