Dozens of teachers, parents and district leaders around the country told NPR that the back-to-school season — that beloved annual ritual — has fogged over with confusion. States, districts and the federal government are pushing and pulling in different directions. Scientists are updating their advice to reflect emerging research and the changing course of the pandemic. And parents and educators are finding it hard to make decisions in the murk.
What’s at stake: An unknown number of lives, the futures of tens of millions of children, the livelihoods of their caregivers, the working conditions of millions of educators and people’s trust in a fundamental American institution.