Giving Compass' Take:

• Northwestern University urban politics professor Sally Afia Nuamah discusses school closures due to COVID-19 and their impact on Black and Latino families that have already experienced student displacement. 

• What are school districts doing to support families of color during coronavirus? 

• Learn about the impact of school closures on student health. 

In 2013, Chicago and Philadelphia together closed a record number of public schools, displacing more than 20,000 students, 90% of whom were low-income African-American and Latino. Their parents aggressively fought these school closures, saying they crumbled neighborhood anchor institutions while leaving their children feeling undervalued. But districts were undeterred, citing financial strains, low enrollment, and poor achievement.

What happens to families in the aftermath of these closings? For her forthcoming book, “Closed for Democracy,” Northwestern University urban politics professor Sally Afia Nuamah found that school closures tend to imbibe mostly black and Latino families with a sense of “mobilization fatigue”: They expend considerable political energy fighting to keep their schools open only to watch their elected officials cater to families who actually support closing schools.

While school closures have historically affected a limited segment of cities and neighborhoods, today school closures are a potentially permanent fixture across a much larger swath of communities. There are currently 43 states that have closed schools for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, along with Washington, D.C., with the potential for that number to grow at any moment. There’s no guarantee that any of these school districts will be ready to open in time for the upcoming academic year, or how parents will respond when they do. And for some, Nuamah worries there’s a chance they may not ever reopen.

While school closures and all the attendant mental toll, destabilization, and loss of academic momentum have mainly affected black and brown families, today families of all races are getting a feel for the burden of currently having no guaranteed school home for their children. Meanwhile, many black and Latina families are feeling the compounded burden of enduring multiple school closings in their lifetimes.

Read the full article about democracy during school closures by Brentin Mock at CityLab.