K-12 School Reopening Trends

August 02, 2021

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

Where We Are Now

Just over 10 percent of US K-12 students start school this week, with the majority of students in Hawaii, Mississippi, Arizona and Georgia starting, plus about half of Tennessee students.  The updated CDC guidance is generating considerable activity around mask policies. The stated reasons for the guidance change, specifically both the spread of the Delta variant and it's effect on vaccinated individuals, has potential implications for how schools operate as the year proceeds

Burbio School Opening Tracker- 2020/21 History

Burbio's Mask Policy Tracker

Trends and Observations

  •  This week the CDC updated guidance and "recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status" amid the Delta variant and a rise in cases among vaccinated individuals.  The Washington Post published this CDC document on "breakthrough" infections that informed the new guidance, and on Friday the CDC published this study of an outbreak among vaccinated individuals tied to gatherings in Provincetown, MA.

    We have not seen any schools change their opening plans this week although there is movement around mask mandates (more below).    Given that K-12 schools have widespread testing protocols in place, the issue for the short term is what that testing for Covid 19 will discover and how it will play out in terms of quarantines.   Schools are operating using three feet distance among students, but many quarantine guidelines (including those recommended by the CDC) call someone a close contact if they have been within six feet of an individual and require 7 to 14 day isolation. 

    As of Friday, of the 200 largest K-12 districts in the US, 69 currently mandate masks for all students, 106 do not, 21 are undecided and 4 have vaccine contingent/partial mask requirements.   This is a fast moving situation that will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and we plan continued updates.  
  • In state and big city news from around the US:

  • The details around plans for virtual academies continue to be announced:

  • Round Rock ISD, TX citing rising Covid 19 cases and the fact students under 12 aren't eligible for a vaccine, announced a virtual academy for grades K-6, as did Austin, TX  school district.
  • Jefferson County, KY schools have applied to the state to create a K-5 virtual academy. 
  • Stockton, CA, where school starts Monday, announced their virtual plan earlier this week. 
  • This Baltimore Sun piece reports 1.5% of Maryland K-12 public school students will be taking classes online to start the year.  Maryland was one of the most virtual states in the US during the 2020/21 academic year. 
  •  In news related to testing and quarantining plans

  • Los Angeles Unified School District, CA has announced their Covid 19 testing plan.  "All students and employees, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, returning for in-person instruction must participate in baseline and ongoing weekly COVID testing. This is in accordance with the most recent guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Baseline testing begins on Monday, August 2," reads the note. 
  • This is an informative read from District 300 in Illinois on testing and quarantining.   From January to May the district reports there were 254 positive tests for Covid 19, 2,155 students experienced a quarantine (@ 20% of all students) and just over 24,000 lost in-person instructional days.  In the note the Superintendent lays out how she is thinking about the upcoming year.  
  • Reports out of Atlanta indicate a charter school that opened Tuesday quarantined over 100 students by Thursday based on positive tests of two students and a staff member. In Arizona, Ash Fork School District, a small district, cancelled classes  after 18 students and staff tested positive for Covid 19. "(The Superintendent is) not sure if the increase in cases is due to the district's COVID-19 testing resources, which are improved from last school year. ..  " reads the piece. 
  • This is another representative summary, out of a district in Troy, IL, on the mixture of factors at play over the next few weeks.  80% of staff and half eligible students are vaccinated, 80% of parents want masks optional, and 16% of K-6 parents want their children in a classroom where masks are required.  The district is putting a weekly testing plan in place and students who do not participate will have stricter quarantine rules.  
  • The CDC guidance had an immediate impact on mask policies and we expect continued policy shifts on this element of school opening in the coming weeks.

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