K-12 School Reopening Trends

December 7, 2020

Dennis Roche

Where We Are Now

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Map

  • % US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 50.8% (up from 49% last week)
  • % US K-12 students attending "traditional" In-person/every day" schools = 32.5%
  • % US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 16.7%

The above percentages are set to Sunday December 6th. We set our numbers to the day of our reports due to changes that occur the day before announced plans. Our data is presented as "students attending schools that offer this learning plan" - most districts also offer virtual even when providing in person. For above, 50.8% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer virtual-only plans, 32.5% offering traditional, etc.

Trends and Observations

  • To review, Burbio launched the audit on August 11th showing 52% "virtual only" and it shifted dramatically as the month went on and increased to 62% by Labor Day as large districts such as Hawaii, Dallas, small cities in the Northeast, Boston and parts of the Midwest and Sun Belt reversed previously announced in-person plans. Post-Labor Day, large Sun Belt cities such as Houston, Dallas and Miami returned in person, plus communities across the Northeast and the Midwest, and by early November less than 40% of US K-12 students were attending virtual-only schools. In the last three weeks, Covid-19 related closures of mid-size city districts such as Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Oklahoma City, widespread closures across states such as Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan and Minnesota, and the closure of the NYC schools to in person drove the the virtual-only figure back up to over half at 50.8%.
  • Large scale announcements this week included Kansas City schools postponing in person return to at least April and the Governor of Delaware recommending - but not ordering - all schools in the state to close through January 8th. Red Clay School District and Christina School District, both in Wilmington, immediately went virtual, among many others in the state.
  • As noted last week many districts closed to in-person learning the week after Thanksgiving. Some are sticking with those plans, among them Lower Merion, PANorth Penn, PASyracuse, NY. and Canton City SD in Ohio which is in a region that just entered the "purple" Covid-19 alert level, which is the state's highest. Others are extending the virtual-only closures further including South Butler, PA, which is closing to in-person through January. Schools in Trumbull County, OH extended their virtual break through January at the order of the Board of Health. Brunswick City School District, OH pushed to an all-virtual mode until January. as did Anderson, IN, and School District 24 in Schaumburg, IL.
  • This past week the CDC reduced quarantine guidance to as little as seven days. Forsyth County, GA quickly changed their regulations. In Bay County, FL they are waiting for state level guidance before implementing any changes, as is Katonah-Lewisboro School District in NY as the situation is still developing nationwide.
  •  A recent announcement from Fairfax County schools described an increase in failing grades among students, among other media reports from large districts and that trend extends to smaller districts as Wilson County, NC schools report almost half of students having failed at least one class so far this year, double the previous year. Guilford County, NC is going to begin testing students' academic progress, a trend we expect to see at districts of all sizes as the educational establishment measures the size of the learning deficits that have developed since last March. Dickinson School District in Galveston, TX, is requiring parents to apply to opt-out of in person learning and go through an evaluation of academic progress, one of a number of districts in Texas tightening criteria for virtual instruction. With the return of NYC elementary students scheduled for this week - the largest school district in the US - and other districts planning on returning from post-Thanksgiving breaks (even as some postpone, as noted above) there could be some slight movement away from virtual in the figures over the next two weeks. That said, we don't expect large movements for the balance of 2020 and the situation around quarantining and Covid-19 spread continues to put pressure on districts that remain open in the Northeast and the Midwest. With Covid-19 vaccine roll out beginning this month, there will be considerable discussion as to where educators fit in the plans after health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. It's much too early to tell how this may affect timing of school openings.too early to tell how this may affect timing of school openings.


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Burbio data was featured in this November 20th overview of school closures in USA Today plus a recent segment on CNBC. Burbio data has been cited in CNBC stories about racial inequality in education and the impact of virtual learning on retail sales Axios led with the data in a piece on virtual learning glitches; Bloomberg in multiple stories as well as NPR Marketplace, Politico Burbio has also been cited by JohnsHopkins Center for Health Security in a recent newsletter The Information in a piece about Ed Tech as well as CNBC in a piece about working parents and virtual education. an NBC News piece about physical stress of remote learning on children and the USC Center for Health Journalism. NPR highlighted our data in a piece summarizing Fall school openings. and Axios featured Burbio in a piece about the instability of school openings. CNBC featured Burbio data in a piece about how disruption in K-12 education is affecting women in the workforce. CBS featured Burbio data in an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci and Burbio has been a resource for numerous government organizations, academic researchers, trade associations, think tanks and non-profits.

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