School & District Management Interactive

In-Person or Remote Learning: How the Biggest City School Districts Are Operating

By Tonya Harris — February 08, 2021 | Updated: March 02, 2021 2 min read

This page will be updated when new information becomes available.

The second half of the 2020-21 school year is poised to be as challenging as the first half for district leaders who must make high-stakes decisions about student and employee health and safety as the COVID-19 pandemic approaches the one-year mark.

There is no national data that capture the mode of learning in the nation’s more than 13,000 school districts. This tracker presents the current operating status of some of America’s largest school districts (plus, the Toronto, Ontario district). All are members of the Council of the Great City Schools, which is closely documenting how its districts are providing instruction.

Collectively, these school systems serve about 8.2 million students, or roughly 15 percent of the U.S. public school enrollment. Across these districts, 44 percent of students are Hispanic, 27 percent are Black, 18 percent are white, 8 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2 percent are Alaskan/Native American. More than 70 percent qualify for free and reduced-price meals.*

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities—in numbers of infections, rates of death, job losses, and food and housing insecurity.

As of March 1, 2021, 51 member districts in the Council of the Great City Schools—some of the largest school districts in the U.S.—are open for some type of in-person learning.

Search the table for the current status and nuanced descriptions of what’s happening in each school district.

Status Definitions:
Updated Feb. 9, 2021.

  • Hasn’t opened for wide-scale, in-person learning this school year - Most or all students learn remotely, with the exception of small student groups.
  • Has been open for in-person learning, but is currently in remote learning- Was previously open for wide-scale in-person learning, but has now scaled back to small groups or entirely remote.
  • Open for wide-scale, in-person learning - Open for all students to attend in-person, including in hybrid mode.
  • Open for limited, in-person learning - Open for large student groups to attend in-person.
  • Varies by individual school - Decisions are being made by schools, not on the district level.

* These demographics include students in public schools in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, but not students in the Toronto district (a member of the Council in Ontario, Canada). For information on how schools in Puerto Rico are operating, see EdWeek’s state-by-state tracker.

Contact Information

For media or research inquiries about this table and data, contact library@educationweek.org. To contribute data or information, use the comments below.

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