Districts diverge on vaccine mandates.,

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This is the Education Briefing, a weekly update on the most important news in U.S. education. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

Today, we’re looking at efforts to mandate vaccinations for teachers and students.

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Sofia Geraldo, a teacher’s aide, helped students settle in on the first day of school in Los Angeles.Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

Vaccines for staff … and students?

Over the last few months, teachers have been the focus of vaccine mandates.

President Biden last week called on states to require vaccines for school staff, and he mandated vaccines for federal educators. Nine states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., already have vaccine mandates in place.

But other states and districts do not seem to be rushing to adopt mandates. A survey of 100 large urban districts found that just one quarter require teacher vaccinations. Schools have other mitigation policies in place: 89 are requiring students to wear masks, according to the survey, conducted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. And 94 offer a remote option to families not ready for an in-person return to school.

Now, there are signs that more pressure may be put on students to get vaccines.

Last week, Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest district, announced that it would mandate vaccinations for students 12 and older who are attending class in person, in addition to requiring teachers and staff members to be vaccinated.

The Board of Education’s decision, which will eventually apply to more than 460,000 students, may face legal challenges.

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Teachers and kindergarten students returned to school in the Bronx.Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

For now, Los Angeles is the only large school district to mandate vaccines for students. New York City, the nation’s largest district, and Chicago, the third largest, are not mandating vaccines for students — at least not yet.

Remote learning may help explain L.A.’s decision. Districts need to be able to accommodate families that refuse vaccinations. Los Angeles offers online independent study for those who opt out of in-person learning this year.

New York and Chicago are offering limited online schooling only to students with medical issues.

Still, as New York’s students streamed back into classrooms on Monday, education experts were optimistic. Citywide, 71 percent of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated, although rates vary by neighborhood. The city requires vaccines for all adults who work in school buildings, and has a universal mask mandate in schools.

“I just want everybody to find their happy again,” Simone Shenloogian, a kindergarten teacher in the Bronx, told The Times. “I think we’ll be creating a new normal together.”

A City Stirs

As New York begins its post-pandemic life, we explore Covid’s lasting impact on the city.

The Workers: We photographed more than 100 people who work in the service economy — cleaners, cooks, store clerks, fitness trainers — who were part of the hardest hit industries in the city.The Economy: New York’s prosperity is heavily dependent on patterns of work and travel that may have been irreversibly altered.The Epicenter: The neighborhoods in Queens where Covid hit the hardest are buzzing again with activity. But recovery feels far away.Dive Deeper: See all our stories about the reopening of N.Y.C.

Other virus news

Masks

A judge blocked Iowa from enforcing its ban on mask mandates. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said she would appeal, Reuters reports.

Lawmakers in Kentucky voted last week to end a statewide mask mandate in schools, The Associated Press reports.

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, says that he wants to mandate school masking statewide, but that he’s at the mercy of a state law that allows lawmakers to repeal health orders, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

The Michigan State Senate will weigh in on a series of bills that would ban mask and vaccine mandates in schools, WXYZ Detroit reports.

Reopenings

About half of the public schools in Maine will try pool testing to identify outbreaks, The A.P. reports.

Since July, nearly half of all Covid clusters in North Carolina‘s public middle and high schools have been tied to sports, CNN reports.

Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University, is starting one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to document how schools operated during the pandemic.

A good read from The Times: Seven teachers told us how they managed remote learning.

What else we’re following

College

Harvard announced that it would not invest in fossil fuels, a major victory for the climate change movement.

Would-be reporters often graduate from journalism school with a mountain of debt and few career prospects, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The first parents to face trial in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal were both conned into thinking that they were making donations, according to their lawyers in opening statements.

K-12

Connecticut schools will be required to teach Native American studies, with an emphasis on local nations, after Indigenous activists pressed for a new law, The Associated Press reports.

Pedro Martinez, the current head of the San Antonio Independent School District, will be the next chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, Chalkbeat Chicago reports.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican with an eye toward national office, is ending most year-end state assessments, the Tampa Bay Times reports. He said the state should replace them with shorter “progress monitoring” tests, which are tailored to individual students.

From Opinion: “You could come home and there’s not a home,” Sarah DeBacher, a mother in New Orleans said, describing parenting in an era of climate disaster.

Another good read: Facebook has played down its own research showing that Instagram can be harmful for teenage girls’ mental health, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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Credit…Shutterstock

Tip: Good water-safety practices

As we barrel toward the last official weekend of summer, families across the country will be heading for a swim. (Bring sunscreen!)

Dr. Perri Klass has long written about ways to splash safely and prevent drowning. It’s the leading preventable cause of death in children ages 1 to 4, and then again in adolescents, especially boys, where it’s the second-most-common cause of preventable deaths for ages 15 to 19, after car accidents.

A few tips, from her comprehensive piece in 2018:

If your child is not a competent swimmer, stay within an arm’s length.

Instead of inflatable floaties, try life jackets.

Barriers and pool fences are essential to keeping small children safe.

Swimming lessons are a good idea, but they don’t mean your child doesn’t need a lifeguard.

In June of this year, when she revisited the topic, the advice mostly hadn’t changed. A layered approach to water safety is essential to enjoying your last splash of summer.

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