North High School in Des Moines
Personal commencement event held at North High School in Des Moines, IA, on June 7, 2020. Over the course of eight hours, graduates came back to school in their caps and gowns for their diplomas, awards, photos, and a walk across the stage. Photo credit: Phil Roeder / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Over the coming months, a team of WhoWhatWhy reporters will be covering the challenges and opportunities presented by the disruption of the 2020 school year.

During the coronavirus pandemic, education has been one of the most disrupted sectors in our unsettled society. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, and support staff have had to significantly readjust their lives as school districts have shut down or offered remote learning options. College students left campus to finish their semesters remotely or, in the case of many international students, found themselves stranded in their dorm rooms, unable to return to their home countries.

The necessary reorganization which followed this shift to online education will change schooling forever. In some ways it may improve; in others, it may worsen. Our assessments of what worked — and what catastrophically failed — during this shutdown can help as we plan for the 2020-21 school year.   

Over the coming months, WhoWhatWhy will be reporting on the challenges and opportunities presented by the disruption of the 2020 school year, and examining what advocates, teachers, students, and parents expect when school returns — if it does return, and in whatever form it takes — in the fall. 

We have convened a team of stakeholders from various levels of the education system. Rani Chor is a high school journalist from Los Angeles, CA; Juliette Cohen is a journalism major at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Lindsay Bennett is a writer and high school teacher in Irving, TX; Bethany Carlson is a college English instructor in Virginia and assistant editor at WhoWhatWhy. 

Each week, we will be posting new stories and essays, and updating this page accordingly. If you have been affected by these changes in education and would like to share your story for possible publication, or if you know of a story on this theme which no one is talking about, please contact us here and use the subject line “Education Project.”

The Stories

Teacher Mental Health Amid a Pandemic

I know that distance learning isn’t perfect. But at least it doesn’t kill children.

Pandemic Threatens American DREAMers

Undocumented students face greater challenges than ever in their pursuit of postsecondary education.

US Restrictions Threaten Admissions, Careers for Chinese STEM Students

A “China!” tweet turned their world upside down.

No One Wants Schools Shut Down.

That doesn’t mean they should open.

Why Policing in Schools Is Complicated

For students of color, do officers in school do more harm than good?

 ‘Desperate’ Families, Empty Classrooms for Kids With Special Needs

As districts finalize plans for reopening schools in the fall, many are still uncertain how to best accommodate children with special needs. 

 Going to School Has Never Been Safe for My Child

Due to COVID-19, conventional school is less of an option than ever for my immunocompromised daughter.

 A New College Motto: Buyer Beware

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed that colleges and universities prioritize their bottom line above all else. Students should think twice before enrolling this fall.

Pandemic Leaves International Students Stranded

As the coronavirus shut down universities, a population was left behind.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from DoD.


  • Bethany Carlson

    Bethany Carlson is a writer and editor and the co-director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program.

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