K-12 School Reopening Trends

September 06, 2021

For more detail on Burbio's dataset, please email dennis@burbio.com

Where We Are Now

Through 9/3 roughly 90% of US K-12 public school students have started school. This week over half the students in New Jersey, Oregon and Minnesota start school, and large chunks of Virginia, Maryland, and the state of New York. New York City schools begin 9/13.

School closures continue to increase (the up-to-date map can be found at the top of our School Opening Tracker page in addition to the visual below) and this week we share updates on trends.

Burbio School Opening Tracker-- With School Disruption Map Added

Burbio's School Mask Policy Tracker

Trends and Observations

  • An update on school closure trends:

  • To date we have identified over 1,400 in-person school closures (up from 698 last week) across 278 districts (from 158) in 35 states (from 25).
  • In 52% of the disruptions schools have gone to virtual instruction, in just over 40% schools have closed entirely for a period, just under 5% have delayed school start and just under 3% have moved to a hybrid format.
  • Average school closure is 8.7 days (versus 9.7 days from last week) at the district level. When "weighted" by number of schools, the average school closure is 7.3 days. This indicates that when districts close more schools at once (which tend to be bigger districts) they are closing in-person for shorter periods of time than districts that are closing a smaller number of schools.
  • Most of the closures we pick up are on a "trailing" basis meaning there is a lag of 1-3 days after the closure has begun before they are in our system. A "closure" can be for an entire district with multiple schools or just an individual school. With that, here is a week by week overview of closures we have picked up so far based on when the closure started.
  • The following chart shows the number of days from the first day of the school year to when a school or district closed for in-person learning. The chart shows the majority of schools are closing in the third and fourth weeks of school. The importance of this trend will fade as we get further into the school year but it is worth noting at this point in time.
  • Local district reporting shows the increase in case rates this year versus year ago, and also the perspective on the percentage of affected students and staff:

  • We caught some interesting policy signals around virtual and quarantining rules both in the Northeast and nationally:

  • In New York City's safety plan one case of Covid 19 in an elementary school class will result in the entire classroom going into quarantine and learning virtually. For middle and high schools, unvaccinated students will be required to quarantine and will learn asynchronously with the opportunity to test out of quarantine. There is no mention of exceptions for close contacts wearing masks.
  • Montgomery County, MD's quarantine guidelines read as follows, "Unvaccinated students who have been in close contact with an individual who is displaying any single symptom of COVID-19 will be sent home." If the individual tests positive, all students quarantine for ten days. There is no mention of exceptions for masks. In late August, in the district's reopening plan the last bullet notes, "MCPS will not close school buildings and move to fully virtual instruction for all students unless state government officials order the school system to do so," and notes hybrid is their back-up plan.
  • In Connecticut, this report out of Litchfield summarizes: "Remote Learning: Clarification: We (received) confirmation from the Connecticut State Department of Education that a district may go to remote synchronous instruction if a classroom or a school is closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Some good news."
  • In Bellefonte, PA this Superintendent letter reflects the emotions of last week's mask mandate by that state. On virtual it notes, "Some parents have asked if they can transfer their children to (virtual learning) temporarily during the mask order time frame or beyond. The answer is yes. . ." East Stroudsberg, PA is offering to let parents switch as a result of the mandate, and this survey from Central Green, PA, asks, "With masks now being required by the Governor, will you be sending your child to school for in-person learning for 5 days per week?"
  • In Albemarle County, VA the virtual academy is at capacity with 400 students and a waitlist has been established.
  • This note from Princeton, NJ schools gives a good overview of New Jersey's approach to virtual and quarantines: " . . the only option for remote learning is when a student is either in isolation due to a positive COVID diagnosis, or if they have been identified as a close contact . . . the district will provide remote instruction starting 24 hours after the quarantine or isolation period begins."
  • In other parts of the country:

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