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Where We Are Now
This week we highlight districts starting the school year earliest of those that were hybrid or virtual at the end of the 2020/21 school year. The new CDC Guidance, as expected, provided parameters for districts that need less than three feet distance to operate, although the recommendations around masks differ from what many states have already adopted. School districts are now using the word "hybrid" to describe personalized learning plans for older students. More below.
% 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
On Friday the Centers for Disease Control issued updated school reopening guidance. As previewed in recently issued state-level regulations, the guidelines offer flexibility for districts that need to go below three feet distance for traditional in-person learning. "When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking," reads the guidance, which also recommends the use of testing and quarantining.
While there has been widespread discussion about the Delta variant, children, and schools, to date we have not seen any district revise their announced "traditional" in-person plans in response. The districts to watch most closely will be those that ended the 2020/21 school year in a hybrid or virtual format as they have a history of more aggressive mitigation measures. Some of the districts with early start dates that make them potential bellwethers include Shawnee Mission, KS schools (school start date: July 27th), Wayne Township, IN (July 28th), Clayton County, GA (August 2nd), districts across Hawaii (August 4th), and Tucson, AZ. (Aug 5th). In California, San Bernardino (8/2; ended last year in virtual) and Stockton, (8/2) start early. Notable urban districts in this group that start August 9th include Oakland, CA and Clark County, NV. e logistics of three foot spacing would prevent many districts around the US from operating at full capacity
Testing and quarantine policies will be important issues particularly given the CDC guidance around testing. We saw some interesting developments this week and will be adding district testing plans to the audit profile of our school data set:
The word "hybrid" over the past year came to mean students broken into cohorts and attending on alternate or limited days to create spacing. Burbio will continue to use the word that way in our Tracker, but some districts are offering new versions of hybrid - let's call them "new hybrid" for now - that are variations of independent virtual study mixed with in-person learning.
Janesville, WI schools will offer a program to middle and high schoolers where students will take some classes in-person and some at the virtual academy.
New London, CT outlines blended learning programs in the "Continuity of Services" section of their ESSER plan, describing a program for eligible juniors and seniors taking a mix of virtual and in-person learning days.
Upper Darby PA describes a new program on page 4 of their ESSER plan, "The District approved a new high school schedule on June 1, 2021 that allows for flexible asynchronous (done by the student independently) instruction for most students in the morning and in-person instruction for the remainder of the day."
Orchard View, MI is offering their "hybrid" option with a personalized combination of virtual and in-person instruction. It is outlined at the 0:50 mark of this video.
The CDC Guidance recommends that fully vaccinated teachers and students do not need to wear masks in schools, with a caveat (noted above) in situations where three feet distancing is not possible. We will continue to update our Mask Policy Tracker as states make updates to their policies. From this past week:
As of this writing Connecticut has not adjusted its mask rules, but on page 7 of this report Vernon, CT Public Schools has already issued guidelines indicating masks are optional for grades 6-12.
News reports out of Delaware, where state regulations on masks expire on July 13th, and Virginia, where regulations are in place through July 25th, indicate those states are planning on following the new CDC guidance on masks in schools. We will update our Mask Policy Tracker accordingly when we get more clarification on the level of flexibility that districts will be offered.
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