The Politics of School Reopening During COVID-19: A Multiple Case Study of Five Urban Districts in the 2020–21 School Year

This qualitative study delves into the complexities surrounding the reopening of traditional public and charter schools in five urban areas during the 2020-21 academic year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all U.S. schools shut their doors in early 2020. The research team collected and analyzed interviews with school and district leaders, parents, and guardians, and publicly available data of the five urban areas chosen for the analysis – Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, Portland, and Washington D.C. The authors find that, in general, both traditional public and charter school leaders followed the recommendations of public health authorities while balancing the concerns of parents, teachers, and other local community members. Differences across the five urban areas can in part be explained by state and local political dynamics. The study offers insights into the broader landscape of education during unprecedented times and the pivotal role of leadership in navigating these challenges.

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