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Where We Are Now
This week we look at districts who are dropping virtual learning days into their ongoing schedules, trends in Covid-19 testing, mask mandate changes in Illinois, and a look back at how school started last Fall.
% 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
As previously described, there are universal plans being made for traditional in-person learning this Fall in K-12. However, we are also seeing plans that outline scenarios where schools would shift to virtual in the event of health precautions. This week we highlight the variety of virtual-only learning days scheduled across K-12. One of the legacies of the last academic year is districts' ability to switch from in-person to remote seamlessly and the role synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning now play during a typical school year. It's also an indicator that districts can move learning online very tactically should they decide to in the coming year.
In Pennsylvania, the state issued guidelines for "Flexible Instruction Days" for "when circumstances prevent the delivery of instruction in its customary manner or location. For example, this could include an epidemic, hazardous weather conditions." and other situations.
News from the US currently focuses testing and mitigation plans and how they will be applied.
The state of Oregon will support Covid 19 testing for all public and private schools offering in-person instruction. "This program is intended to test symptomatic and exposed students and school staff only . . . .tests should not be used to screen asymptomatic individuals or those without a known exposure to COVID." Missouri's program is similar.
Rhode Island's opening plan no longer requires districts to offer remote learning. "(Districts) will still need to develop plans to ensure services and educational programming will be provided if a student must remain home for short periods of time due to illness, isolation, or quarantine."
North Allegheny, PA is another district that outlines plans for remote and hybrid learning in cases of "heightened community spread" of Covid 19.
In Ohio Governor DeWine signed a bill that included a ban on mandatory Covid 19 vaccination mandates for K-12. The amendment "Forbids public K-12 schools and colleges from requiring any vaccine that has not yet received "full approval' from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."
Last week we highlighted some larger districts that will start in early August that ended last year as either virtual or at least partially hybrid and would provide early indications of how the new school year will start. Notable CA districts included San Bernardino (8/2), Stockton (8/2) and Oakland (8/9). Additional districts we should add from CA with early starts in that category are Corona Norco in Riverside, CA (8/10), Sacramento (8/11), LA Unified (8/16) and San Francisco (8/16).
In Illinois, individual districts have flexibility to eliminate mask mandates for all ages. Glenbard District 87's Superintendent writes, "While the CDC and IDPH note that unvaccinated students should wear masks indoors, the guidance is not a mandate for schools to require students to wear masks. Given the current metrics in DuPage County, mask use will be optional for students and staff." District 200 in Illinois also removed mask mandates for all age levels.
Reports out of Hawaii indicate the state is keeping school mask mandates for now.
We expect districts who have flexibility to change mask policies throughout the year, and DeKalb, GA schools got off to a fast start by reversing its weeks-old "no mask required" policy and imposing a mask mandate for school start in early August.
On our School Opening Tracker we show a series of maps with the in-person index over the school year. Below is a bar chart with the figures from September 10th, 2020. Covid 19 rates were rising across the south, and many large districts in Florida and Texas were virtual. States such as Arizona and Alabama had very low indexes relative to where they would shortly be. States such as Oregon, Washington, California, Virginia, New Mexico, Hawaii and Maryland, plus many cities, would stay largely virtual the entire Fall. For industries that sell services to families or K-12 districts, business comparisons versus year ago, when "Back to School" spending was spread out of over months and institutional spending was highly irregular, will be difficult to translate due to all the factors that were in flux.
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