Since last week we saw a rise in school disruptions driven by Covid 19 cases, in particular among staff. In this report we introduce a new "disruptions by day" chart that gives a more precise look at the post-vacation dynamic of the school year. We will be updating our School Opening Tracker on a daily basis so please check that for changes.
In Chicago, a vote by the city's teacher's union to unilaterally return to virtual learning in a dispute over Covid 19 mitigation policies has resulted in the cancellation of all classes for students for Wednesday, January 5th . Since August 2020, districts across the US have had a wide variety of in-person learning situations that have varied due to local Covid 19 policies and stakeholder concerns. We include the Chicago closure in our charts below while noting the size of Chicago's district as it makes up a material percentage of current disruptions.
Outside of Chicago and a handful of districts that announced a shift to virtual learning before Christmas (discussed in our December 23rd report) current disruptions tend to be triggered by cases among staff. The near-universal approach for K-12 schools in the new year has been to open for in-person learning and only close in the event of Covid 19 cases being identified at levels that create resource constraints Below is an updated chart that shows the number of schools who either shifted to virtual or closed temporarily for at least one day. There are approximately 98,000 US K-12 schools.
Disruptions fall into a number of categories. In the overwhelming majority of cases schools choose to go virtual. A handful of larger districts have closed schools this week to distribute or conduct Covid 19 tests. The following chart takes a more granular look and shows the number of active schools closed for in-person learning by day from late December and into 2022. Information on future dates is based on district announcements:
Below is our updated School Disruptions map for the past thirty days. A dynamic version can be found on our School Opening Tracker . Disruptions have been concentrated in the Northeast - in particular in the Mid-Atlantic, New Jersey and Philadelphia - and the Midwest:
School districts in many parts of the country are actively monitoring Covid 19 cases among staff and students, some with the aid of on-site testing or test distribution and some through requested self-reporting, and the resulting identification of cases upon the resumption of school is creating last second changes. Among some examples from across the US:
Forsyth County, GA reports "To assess our ability to staff schools and transport students, Forsyth County Schools will have virtual learning days for all students on Thursday and Friday, January 6 and 7.. We plan to resume face-to-face instruction on Monday, January 10 if we have adequate staff coverage. A final decision for Monday will be made by the close of business on Friday, January 7."
Montgomery County, MD school district is one of the only districts we have seen using a predetermined case percentage (5%) for school closures. As of this writing 11 schools in that district are virtual for two weeks.
Lancaster ISD, TX is virtual from January 5th through 7th - closed on January 4th - and describes a detailed plan in their announcement.
Ipswich, MA school districts closure announcement gives an interesting flavor to the situation - their words: "The Ipswich Public Schools will be closed Monday, January 3, 2022 for a "snow day". In light of the holiday break and the number of positive COVID cases involving students and staff, tomorrow we will be administering self-test kits to staff along with KN95 masks that have been provided by the state. This will also give us a chance to identify any lingering concerns and adjust staffing accordingly. Thank you for your continued support during these challenging times."
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