K-12 School Reopening Trends

July 5, 2021

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

Where We Are Now

Burbio's data was the basis for a study published on June 29th in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on disparities in learning by Race/Ethnicity, Geography, and Grade Level over the period September-April 30th.

For the 2021/22 school year Burbio is going to be adding data points to its measurement. We will continue measuring learning plans (T/H/V) across K-12. We will be adding data points around virtual learning academies, mask mandates at the district level, and will be following local districts' use of stimulus funding.

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Including State Averages


Burbio's Mask Policy Tracker

School Year 2020/21: End of Year Final

  • % US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 2.1%
  • % US K-12 students attending "traditional" in-person/every day" schools = 69.7%
  • % US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 28.2%

    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 2.1% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer virtual-only plans, 69.7% offering traditional, etc.

Trends and Observations

  • We have completed a review of the Top 200 districts offerings of virtual academies for the 2021/22 school year and found that 64% - 128 - of the districts will be offering stand-alone, dedicated virtual academies to students, 60 will not, and 12 have not yet decided. A handful of the 60 "no virtual academy" districts exist in states where there is a state level virtual academy (i.e. Virginia), but most of the "no virtual academy" districts are in Texas, Illinois, and the Northeast. As we reported on June 21st a walkout by legislators in Texas related to voting laws scuttled many district-level virtual plans in that state. Elsewhere, district level virtual options are being offered widely across large districts in the South, the Midwest and Rockies, as well as California, Oregon and Washington.
  • Districts across the country are planning to start the 2021 school year with traditional in-person learning, and as noted in previous updates state level guidance in places such as Massachusetts and Washington state, plus cities such as New York, indicate education departments are relaxing the three foot distancing guidance heading into the Fall. The logistics of three foot spacing would prevent many districts around the US from operating at full capacity
  • From our auditing of opening plans around the US, the policy that hasn't been fully clarified is that of quarantining. With closer spacing among students, extensive testing that will capture Covid 19 cases, and a large unvaccinated student population, the specter of widespread, multi-day quarantining of students who then have limited at-home learning options appears to be inevitable under guidelines many states and districts have in place.
  • Some developments this week from across the US:

  • The Manchester, NH school district has issued a detailed learning plan featuring four different color schemes based on different levels of Covid-19 spread. In the most severe "yellow" and "red" phases, virtual learning is the default, and mitigation adjustments begin at the "green," or second most restrictive, phase of learning. Last week we referenced a similar plan in Princeton, NJ that also moves away from in-person learning based on Covid 19 levels.
  • In Illinois, where the state has ordered all districts to resume in-person instruction, this media piece reports 47 districts wrote a letter to the State Board of Education demanding guidance on how they should reopen, citing concerns about distancing, among other issues. The article references state educators monitoring the Delta variant and features quotes from local Superintendents about logistical issues.
  • Fairfax County, VA is planning on a normal return. “Our planning assumptions include no social distancing in our classrooms," says the Superintendent.
  • This survey out of York, SC offers interesting insight into parents' views on how to manage the new school year. Ninety four percent of parents want to "move as close to a traditional school model," 87% want to "maintain contact tracing and quarantining with the most up to date DHEC guidelines" (currently seven to ten days for a close contact) and 84% are in favor of "in-district COVID-19 testing of symptomatic or asymptomatic candidates." Similar to Princeton and Manchester, York outlines a full virtual model in the case of high Covid 19 spread.
  • In-school mask mandates continue to be lifted across the US, often while state education departments continue to strongly recommend them. Our School Mask Policy Tracker has been updated with the changes below:

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