YORK, Pa. (Reuters) – Natalie Cruz, 12, missed math and language arts instruction one recent morning because the school’s virtual interface would not load. Carlos, her 8-year-old brother, sat beside her at the kitchen table, studying with last year’s workbooks because the district had yet to supply him with a PC, weeks after instruction started online.
Across town, Zachary and Zeno Lentz, 5 and 9, were at their high-performing elementary schools, where they attend in-person on Tuesdays and Fridays. They learn remotely the other three days, assisted by their college-educated mother, a social worker who can do her job from home.
The Cruz and Lentz children are separated by just a few miles in York, Pennsylvania. But they are a world apart in educational opportunities, a gap education experts say has widened amid the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic.
Belen Cruz, a single mother and nurse, is most worried about Natalie, who has learning difficulties and would benefit from in-person support. The mother can’t afford a tutor and on weekdays usually leaves both children with her parents, who don’t speak English well, while she works at a nursing home.
“I think she will be behind,” Cruz said, sitting in her two-bedroom row home in a working-class neighborhood.
Her children’s schools are in the York City district, whose student population, about half Latino and one-third Black, scores well below average on the state’s standardized proficiency exams. The Lentz family lives in the predominantly white York Suburban