Initial Closure of U.S. Schools during COVID-19

At the state-wide level, several states either ordered or recommended for schools to be closed. State-wide ordinances for school closures began on March 16, 2020, and by March 24, 2020, all states had closed schools until further notice. In the interest of public health, school closures for the COVID-19 pandemic were used to curb transmission of the disease and encourage social distancing, much like in the past with Swine Flu and MRSA outbreaks.

Disruption of school feeding programs
A major concern regarding the shut down of in-person learning in the U.S. was the disruption of school feeding programs. It is estimated that 29.4 million children daily receive their meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Food insecurity can have very serious effects on children's outcomes: short-term effects may be fatigue and low immune while long-term effects may be emotional, physical, and psychological harms. Given that such a large volume of students depend on subsidized meals provided through the NSLP, several individual school districts and state legislatures initially moved to respond accordingly to distribute meals even after the closing of schools. The Department of Education in South Carolina announced in March 2020 that they would be instituting "Grab-n-Go" meal sites throughout the states that would be open five days a week.

On a nationwide scale, during Summer 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an extension of meal waivers that would allow students to receive meals throughout the summer. On October 9, 2020, the USDA announced that meal waiver programs would be extended until the end of the 2020-2021 school year and, on March 9, 2021, the USDA announced that they intended to keep the program in effect until September 30, 2021.

However, even amid the widespread implementation of meal waivers, certain school districts have identified problems with getting students and families to access food resources. In Arizona, the Tuscan Independent School District, which would serve 35,000 meals a day in a normal year, has experienced a 90% decrease in meal consumption. The School Nutrition Association also concluded that they were serving about 80% fewer meals than they would normally. Potential reasons for this drop in school meal usage are lack of parental availability (as they cannot visit food sites due to work conflicts) or public health concerns.

Effects on post-secondary education
Universities were among the first institutions in the United States to transition to online learning. Enrollment for community colleges in the Fall 2020 semester dropped by 10% from the past year, with the sharpest declines occurring among first-generation students and students of color. Fall 2020 enrollment losses in undergraduate institutions were also more pronounced for men than women, with men experiencing an overall 5.1% decrease in enrollment compared to a 7% decrease for women.