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Online learning, no reopen date in sight

With at least 70% of America’s schools shutting down and a chorus of prominent voices calling to close the rest, millions of parents entered a strange new reality this week: attempting to manage their children’s education from the confines of home.

The new landscape of remote work coupled with remote schooling is bizarre and chaotic. And it stands to get worse before it gets better: Districts and states vary wildly in their ability to deliver educational services at a time of social isolation. 

President Donald Trump on Monday called for limiting gatherings of people to no more than 10 for the next 15 days and suggested school-age students take classes from home. Although it has not called for all schools to close, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said to avoid crowds of 50 or more people. 

Traditional schools that stay open may be technically defying these recommendations. But they lack firm guidelines.

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“Nobody is taking the bull by the horns and saying, ‘This is what we’re doing or should be doing,’ ” said Dan Domenech, head of the American Association of School Superintendents. “We need more guidance.” 

Nevertheless, a nationwide shutdown of schools looks increasingly to be a case of when, rather than if. And it’s becoming clear the nation’s schools could be closed not just for a couple weeks, but for months or the entire rest of the school year.

That means, ready or not, schools will have to try to figure out online education.

“This is a whole new world around online learning, even for very sophisticated districts,” said Keith Krueger, the CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, a nonprofit that connects technology officers at schools.

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