K-12 School Reopening Trends

May 24, 2021

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

Where We Are Now

Transitions slowed to a crawl this week but we did see some interesting policy movement at the state and local level with regard to re-openings. We also introduce a national map of school mask policies. More below.

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Now Including State Averages

  • % US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 2.4% (from 2.6 % last week)
  • % US K-12 students attending "traditional" in-person/every day" schools = 69.2% (from 68.6%)
  • % US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 28.4% (from 28.8%)

    The above percentages are set to Sunday, May 23rd. 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 2.4% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer virtual-only plans, 69.2% offering traditional, etc.

Trends and Observations

  • A number of initiatives this week worth noting:

  • Philadelphia announced a plan to return to traditional in-person learning next Fall with a number of additional initiatives funded by the recent Covid 19 relief bill. "The full return of in-person learning for all students five days per week will remain dependent on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) officially relaxing all (emphasis ours) social distancing requirements in schools," reports the release. The city also plans to offer students a virtual option. At the bottom of this survey it is noted that hybrid learning is not an option and here is a link to the reopening survey.
  • Washington announced traditional in person learning next Fall and will also offer virtual options. Washington's updated health guidelines note ". .. physical distancing is recommended and schools must have a plan that factors in physical distancing (3 feet physical distancing in classrooms and 6 feet elsewhere), to the greatest extent possible. Physical distancing recommendations should not (emphasis ours) prevent a school from offering full-time, in person learning to all students/families in the Fall."
  • Hawaii, a state that has been heavily virtual and hybrid all year, announced a return to traditional in-person in the Fall.
  • In New Jersey, Governor Murphy took virtual learning off the table as an option for K-12 next year. NJ has consistently been among the ten states with the highest percentage of virtual learners this year.
  • The Illinois Department of Education announced a return to in-person learning for the Fall with very limited circumstances for offering virtual - students not eligible for a vaccine that need to quarantine - that raises some logistical questions about how that would be handled.
  • Duval County, FL's covid mitigation survey asked parents about what precautions they would like to see next year as did Anchorage, AK reflecting many we see across the country.
  • This announcement from Maine outlines the use of pooled testing to obviate the need for 3 foot distancing, as well as loosening of quarantine regulations.
  • In Horry County, SC where students were recently allowed to opt out of wearing masks in school, 23% did so - 10,360 students in all, with over half that total in elementary school. As part of the move, students were also given the option to learn from home for the rest of the year and 584 students took that option, over 80% of whom are high schoolers.
  • Below is a state by state breakdown of current school mask mandates into the following categories. The full map with detail can be found here including a breakdown of the percent of students affected nationally by various orders.

  • Dark blue - Mast requirement for schools currently in place.
  • Light blue - No mask mandate for schools, but only applies to vaccinated staff and students, and districts have flexibility to maintain mask requirements.
  • Light green - No mask mandate for schools regardless of age or vaccination status, and districts have flexibility to maintain mask requirements.
  • Dark green - Mask mandates are banned; schools cannot require masks.

It is important to note this situation is fluid and the map is being continually updated. Among many examples from around the country:

  • This week Texas Governor Abbott issued an executive order forbidding schools to require masks. Iowa's Governor Reynolds signed a bill that did the same. Arkansas's law banning mask-requirements for schools will take effect over the summer. We reported on South Carolina's Executive Order allowing mask opt-outs last week. On Wednesday Utah's legislature passed a bill banning mask mandates in K-12 schools.
  • Mississippi and Louisiana extended school mask mandates through the end of the school when they ended state wide mask mandates earlier this year and haven't formally declared what happens after the school year ends. That said Mississippi's Governor has announced he doesn't anticipate masks next Fall and we would anticipate the same in Louisiana. This situation also appears to apply to Kentucky, where Governor Beshear predicted that masks would not be required next Fall in schools. For now, all of these states are colored blue - masks required - on our map.
  • On Friday Wyoming updated guidance: "Beginning June 1, 2021, statewide public health orders will no longer be in effect. Moving forward, unless circumstances warrant additional statewide or local orders, specific protocols for the safe operation of K-12 schools during the pandemic will be determined at the school district level" moving that state to the light green category.
  • In Ohio, Governor Dewine is allowing flexibility after June 2nd. “We would like for (schools) to finish up, but June 2 is the day when you get up and the health orders are off, and so if a school wants to make a decision that late in the year to switch over and not have mandatory masks, they can do that,” he said. Even so, North Union Local Schools voted to move this week. "School board members unanimously voted to change the district’s mask policy earlier this week after a number of parents voiced support," reports the story. "Union County Health Commissioner Dr. Jason Orcena said he was disappointed in the district’s decision. He said he was consulting with the Ohio Department of Health and county prosecutor about any potential enforcement actions."
  • Illinois' original announcement lifting mask mandates appeared to leave confusion around schools but the following Monday made clear that masks are still required in Illinois school settings.

In some states, there is local discretion but statewide guidance to continue with mask mandates:

We expect this situation to continue changing and will update the map accordingly. Again, the link to the full map is here.

  • What's left this year is a tiny amount of shifting in the upper grades, as evidenced in this week's numbers.

K-5 Students:

1.9% attending virtual-only schools (from 1.9% last week)
22.6% attending schools offering hybrid (from 22.8%)
75.5% attending schools offering traditional (from 75.3%)

Grades 6-8 Students

2.6% attending virtual-only schools (from 2.6% last week)
31% attending schools offering hybrid (from 31.4%)
66 4% attending schools offering traditional (from 66%)

High School Students

3.1% attending virtual-only schools (from 3.3% last week)
35.1 % attending schools offering hybrid (from 36.1%)
61.8% attending schools offering traditional (from 60.6%)

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