Schools worldwide face difficult choices as they try to balance student and staff safety with their educational mission during the pandemic. All-remote learning eliminates the risk of an outbreak at the school, but at-home education doesn’t provide the most productive learning environment for everyone, and it can put at-risk students at a disadvantage for a variety of reasons.
Schools and districts are making decisions about their approach by taking into account factors like virus prevalence in their area and student and family needs. An August 2020 McKinsey report notes that in the U.S., about 75 percent of the 50 largest districts started this school year on an all-remote basis. Others returned to all in-person learning, and some had to shut down again due to outbreaks.
Some districts have adopted a hybrid model where online instruction alternates with in-person teaching in classrooms that have reduced class sizes and social distance protocols in place. Hybrid education can help schools address the needs of vulnerable learners, including younger children who are difficult to engage online, as well as low-income and special education students, along with English-language learners.