K-12 School Reopening Trends

March 29, 2021

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

Where We Are Now

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Now Including State Averages

  • % US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 16.3% (from 18.1% last week)
  • % US K-12 students attending "traditional" in-person/every day" schools = 53.1% (from 51.2%)
  • % US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 30.6% (from 30.7%)

    The above percentages are set to Sunday, March 28th. 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, 16.3% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer virtual-only plans, 53.1% offering traditional, etc.

Trends and Observations

  • After the revised CDC guidance from 6 feet to 3 feet we saw reactions at both the state and local level.

  • In heavily virtual states, Oregon adopted the 3 feet guidance in revised regulations, as did the state of California. the state of Washington plus Maryland and Washington, DC New Jersey also adjusted guidance. Maine released a statement saying the state has been using three feet all along, and that the new CDC guidance effectively "adopts Maine's long standing approach." It is worth noting that Maine schools are predominantly hybrid according to our audit of the state.
  • Districts moving to traditional in-person explicitly mentioning the new guidelines include Grand Rapids (MI), which is moving from two days a week to four beginning April 12th, while in Maryland, Queen Anne's, MD will do so on April 22nd, Wicomico Schools in Salisbury, MD on Monday, March 29th, and Washington County Public Schools will have all grades traditional by April 12th. Syracuse, NY public schools cites three foot guidance in their move to traditional. Yonkers, NY cites the new CDC guidelines in their transition to traditional and has this pointed quote, "Dr. Stephen Thomas, Chief of the Infectious Disease Branch at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York stated: 'It’s becoming a lot clearer that the risk for kids not being in school is much greater than people anticipated. Our kids are going to be paying the price for what COVID-19 has done to socialization and in-person learning long after this thing is no longer a pandemic.'”
  • Some local jurisdictions need time to adjust. In New Albany, OR they are reviewing the rules and staying in hybrid. San Mateo, CA needs time to review. and Irvine Unified in CA will not change it's plans this year.
  • Certain school districts announced or reconfirmed their decision to stay virtual, such as Santa Ana, CA,, while South San Francisco will keep middle and high school students virtual the rest of the year. Passaic, NJ announced plans to stay virtual all year. San Bernadino City Unified (CA) which had announced in the Fall they would stay virtual all year, reiterated that earlier this month, as has Kalamazoo, MI.
  • A policy note with real world implications is that while the CDC has changed distancing guidance for in-person learning it has not changed quarantining guidance. In Barrington, IL the Superintendent cautions about a potential increase in quarantining because "public health guidelines state social distance for in-person learning is now defined as 3 to 6 feet for students and fully vaccinated staff, however contact tracing guidelines have changed. If a student is within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes in a 24 hour period that student will have to quarantine." In Schaumburg, IL they make a similar observation, as did Traverse City, MI schools. Glen Ellyn, IL cites a 14 quarantine period for 3 foot exposure versus 10 days.
  • In New Jersey, a state currently in the top ten in percentage of virtual-only K-12 students, Governor Murphy of New Jersey answered a press conference question by saying K-12 schools in the state won't be allowed to offer virtual learning options next year.
  • Based on projected openings the next two weeks we will see inflection points in several states that currently have in-person indexes below 50. Oregon is responding to Governor Brown's order to get K-5 back by March 29th and middle and high schools state during April. Massachusetts is projecting 90% of their K-5 students will be offered traditional in-person instruction by April 5th and our audit shows that occurring. New Mexico's figures will also start moving quickly on April 5th based on directives from the New Mexico Department of Education.
  • One of the defining characteristics of the past year is the continual movement that has occurred in K-12 education at the national level. Below is a chart of weekly trends going back to Labor Day. Most of the fluctuations between November 1st and early February occurred in the Midwest and the Northeast.
  • The breakouts below provide more detail on why the national numbers show traditional growing and both virtual and hybrid dropping - which is a first in our Tracker. In both K-5 and 6-8 hybrid and virtual both dropped. For high school students, virtual is dropping rapidly (by 4 percentage points, the biggest of the three groups) while both hybrid and traditional formats grew.

K-5 Students:

13.3%% attending virtual-only schools (from 13.7% last week)
24.5 % attending schools offering hybrid (from 25.5%)
62.2% attending schools offering traditional (from 60.8%)

Grades 6-8 Students

17.7% attending virtual-only schools (from 19.5% last week)
34.8% attending schools offering hybrid (from 35.4%)
47.5% attending schools offering traditional (from 45.1%)

High School Students

19.2 % attending virtual-only schools (from 23.2% last week)
36.9 % attending schools offering hybrid (from 35%)
43.9 % attending schools offering traditional (from 41.8%)

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