K-12 School Reopening Trends

June 14, 2021

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

Where We Are Now

In addition to observations from across the US, this week we feature a look back on in-person trends over the course of the year with a series of visuals that illustrate the year. More below.

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Now Including State Averages

  • % US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 2.1% (no change from last week)
  • % US K-12 students attending "traditional" in-person/every day" schools = 69.6% (no change)
  • % US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 28.3% (no change)

    The above percentages are set to Sunday, June 13th. 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, 69.6% offering traditional, etc.

Trends and Observations

  • This week from across the country

  • Prince George's County, MD will offer full time in person learning plus a first semester-only virtual K-6 option that will be "discontinued once a vaccine is available for students in these grade levels" and a dedicated Grades 7-12 online program.
  • In Douglas County, CO, a top 200 district, next year's "Proposed Covid 19 Health and Safety Protocols" - their words - include no distancing, no mandatory masks, no quarantining, no mandatory vaccines, traditional field trips, sports, and school activities resuming as normal, and school visitors and foreign exchange students resuming. They do plan to continue to "disinfect doorknobs" and school buses, "provide access to hand sanitizers" and "encourage families to keep students at home when showing signs of illness."
  • Washington, DC announced their plan for traditional return for all students that includes a mask requirement and to-be-determined rules on asymptomatic testing of students. The District's virtual option will be restricted to students with demonstrated medical conditions. Washington, DC offered a highly constricted version of in-person this past year and will represent a district making one of the more dramatic adjustments from the Spring of 2021 to Fall in terms of student attendance and facility use.
  • We continue to see virtual academies being created in California, with this one from Davis Joint Unified and this from Woodland Joint Unified. Both of these are open to students from outside the host districts.
  • We changed New York back to dark blue (more below) on our State Mask Policy Tracker this past week and here are some highlights.

  • In our Labor Day release we noted that in early September over 60% of US students were attending schools that were virtual only. Only 18% of US K-12 students were attending traditional schools during that period. The map indicates the high concentration of in-person learning in the Sun Belt and the Rockies:

  • Over the course of the Fall, districts across the Midwest and the Northeast, along with additional Sun Belt districts, opened, and the virtual figure fell to 37%. As Covid rates rose around the country, we noted in our November 9th report that "introduction of in-person learning has slowed to an almost imperceptible level" and districts across the Northeast and Midwest in particular began to signal issues around staying open for in-person. The high point of in-person learning for the year to date - and for the next several months - is seen on our November 10th map:

  • Over the holidays rising Covid 19 rates, concern about holiday gatherings, and quarantining rules triggered widespread shutdown across the US and our virtual number rose to 55%. Our report on January 11th opens with a good survey of the previous two months, but we did note that many districts had plans to return students to the classroom later in January - which proceeded to occur. In our blog of January 25th, as the virtual figure continued to drop, we coined the term "Always Virtual" to describe states (in particular California, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Virginia, and New Mexico) and cities that had never returned students to the classroom. Here is the map from January 10th.

  • By the time of our February 8th blog post virtual numbers had dropped to early November levels. In general, the same districts that were open for in-person learning in early November had reopened. That left the "Always Virtual" states and cities, who proceeded to reopen gradually over the course of the Spring. Here is the map of early June:

  • The chart below shows the average in-person index for each state over the course of the academic year. The District of Columbia, not shown, would be last, behind California. To the points made in the piece in The 74, nineteen of the twenty states with the highest in-person indexes for the year have Republican governors, the exception being Louisiana, and nine of the ten lowest states have Democratic governors, the exception being Maryland.

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