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A survey by the Biden administration released Wednesday found that just 34% of K-12 students attending public schools have returned to full-time in-person learning even though it’s being offered at 46% of schools in the US.
According to the survey, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and first reported by the Associated Press, older students were more likely to return full-time to classrooms compared to younger students. The report found that just 29% of eighth-grade students had opted for a full-time return to school, compared to 39% of fourth-grade students who returned to school full-time.
The report included data from 37 states that participated in the survey. The data comes from 3,500 schools with fourth-grade students and 3,500 schools that serve eighth-grade students.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February released guidelines for reopening schools, which President Joe Biden called for on the campaign trail and since taking office in January. Precautions included the continued wearing of masks and social distancing.
And in March, the CDC shifted its longstanding guidance that recommended a maintained six-foot distance between students in schools and said a distance of three feet was acceptable if students were wearing masks. It still recommended a six-foot distance between students in cases where masks weren’t worn, like during lunch.
Most K-12 schools shifted to virtual education in March 2020, though many, including some of the nation’s largest systems, in the following year have returned to the classroom at least in some capacity.
According to the Biden report, just 18% of students in fourth grade have returned to classrooms partially through a hybrid approach. A notably higher 24% of eighth-grade students have opted for hybrid in-person and virtual learning; it’s a 4% jump from when the survey was last conducted in January.
The survey also found differences between regions in the US. While about 50% of fourth-grade students in southern states were in the classroom full-time, just 19% of fourth-grade students in the Northeast were learning full-time in the classroom, the report found.
In total, more than one-third of students in the South and Midwest were back in the classroom, but less than a quarter of students have returned in the West and Northeast regions of the US, the report found.
In-person learning fell among fourth-graders in the Northeast by 4% between January and February, the report found.
More than half of white fourth-graders were back in the classroom full-time compared with less than a third of Black and Hispanic students, according to the report. Just 15% of Asian fourth-graders have returned to schools five days per week.