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How America’s Schools Got So Sick

For students in low-income communities, the coronavirus crisis is layered on an existing public health crisis: deteriorated school buildings that are unhealthy places to learn.

The new Morrow High School, now under construction in Georgia, is designed to optimize student health, with outdoor classroom space and abundant natural light. But such “green schools” are rare in low-income urban school districts. 

The new Morrow High School, now under construction in Georgia, is designed to optimize student health, with outdoor classroom space and abundant natural light. But such “green schools” are rare in low-income urban school districts. 

Courtesy Perkins + Will

This fall, the usual back-to-school anxieties have been coupled with a new one in the U.S., as wide swaths of the populace are desperately asking if their child’s classrooms can provide any level of safety. In many major U.S. cities, public school buildings remain fully or partially closed for in-person instruction due to the ongoing risk of coronavirus infection among students, staff and their families.

It’s a calamity that is not exactly as unprecedented as it appears to be. For many Americans, especially poor ones and people of color, American public schools have never been safe places to learn.