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  • Rebecca Natow

The Policy and Politics of "Reopening" Schools

There has been a lot of news this week regarding "reopening" schools, or more accurately, reopening campuses for face-to-face instruction, as instruction virtually everywhere has continued at least online. Here's a summary of the latest news on the policy and politics of reopening for face-to-face instruction:


On Monday, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a notice stating its intent to issue a temporary final rule for Fall 2020 that would prohibit international students on F-1 and M-1 visas taking coursework entirely online. From the ICE notice: "Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States... Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online... Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online."


This announcement came amid news that some colleges -- including Hampton University, Harvard University, and others -- will be offering all classes remotely this Fall. Harvard and MIT have already filed a lawsuit against ICE and the Homeland Security Department in federal court in Boston, seeking a preliminary injunction against implementation of the rule.


President Trump is also pushing for K-12 schools to reopen for face-to-face instruction in the fall. From National Public Radio: "President Trump vowed to exert pressure on states to reopen their school districts this fall even as large parts of the country are experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases. 'We're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools,' Trump said during a roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon at the White House.

'Get open in the fall. We want your schools open,' Trump said."


On the same day of the ICE announcement, President Trump tweeted that "SCHOOLS MUST REOPEN IN THE FALL." Trump said yesterday at the White House meeting on reopening schools that Harvard's plan for a fully online Fall semester was "ridiculous" and "an easy way out."


Meanwhile, international students are facing uncertainty about their fall plans over circumstances that are rapidly changing and out of their control. An ABC News affiliate in California interviewed an international student at the University of Southern California who said the following about the prospect of having to leave her college: "The worst thing for me is I know what I would be missing because people who stay here, they don't know what it's like in the U.S... They don't know what they're missing. But, I would know that this would be taken away from me, and I don't even want to think about it."


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