WASHINGTON

As the US continues to open schools in tandem with its ongoing coronavirus vaccine rollout there have been “critical gaps” with in-person instruction along racial lines, a Biden administration survey found Wednesday.

Roughly half of all elementary schools have been reopened to some level of in-person learning, but most nonwhite students continued to be taught virtually.

The Institute of Education Sciences, an independent entity within the Education Department, found that among schools enrolling fourth-graders, 47% offered full-time in-person instruction in February. That figure falls to 38% for schools that enroll eighth graders.

There were sharp distinctions in in-person learning based on race. About 49% of white enrolled fourth graders were able to access in-person learning, compared to 28% of Black and 33% of Latino students.

The figures decrease across all racial groups heading into eight grade education, but white students continued to outpace their counterparts at that level as well. Roughly 37% of white eighth graders had access to in-person learning, nearly double the Black population at 19%, and far higher than Latinos at 21%.

The divides were even higher among Asian students that had just 10% access at the eighth-grade level and 15% at the fourth-grade level.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the data shows “critical gaps” for in-person learning between white and non-white students.

“While schools continue to show us what’s possible as they work to open their doors and meet students’ needs, we know that we still have a lot of ground to go,” he said in a statement.

“We are committed to working with schools all across the country to get them reopened quickly and safely and to build confidence among families and educators. We owe it to our students – especially students in underserved communities and students with disabilities – to get all our schools opened safely,” he added.

The education levels have likely increased from the figures in the latest report, which tracks openings from Feb. 22 through March 12.

The US began to emerge from its highest levels of coronavirus infections and deaths in February, and many jurisdictions eased restrictions beginning in the middle of that month.

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