K-12 School Reopening Trends

November 16, 2020

Dennis Roche

Where We Are Now

SUPPLEMENT - EVENING OF 11/18

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Map

  • % US K-12 Students Attending 'Virtual only" schools = 40.3% (up from 36.9% Sunday's report, and this is as of Tuesday night + NYC) 
  • % US K-12 Students Attending 'Traditional In-person/Every day" schools = 36.4%
  • % US K-12 Students Attending "Hybrid" Schools = 23.3%  
  • Kentucky has announced closures of all schools beginning next week.
  • Smaller districts who have flexibility to stay open from the state, but choosing to close,  are closing for 2-3 weeks. We have caught quite a bit of those in the last 48 hours.
  • The major reasons for closures are Covid quarantine rules in the schools . Two representative notes below.   
  • NY actually closed for reasons that are a bit different than the many other districts we see - NYC has a low community threshold and little quarantining going on. Kentucky and Michigan (in our Sunday note) are blanket state lockdowns. 
  • The 40.3% number is going to rise quite a bit in the next two weeks; as we noted below our number goes up when a district actually goes virtual and districts such as Kentucky, Cincinnati and Indianapolis aren't going virtual until Monday.  
  • Most closures are still in the Midwest and the Rockies but it's creeping East. Montgomery County, PA, a county of over 800,000 until at least December 6th. It's very dynamic.  

Example district closures below. 
https://core-docs.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/asset/uploaded_file/1011585/Parent_Letter_11.17.2020.pdf

https://www.nrschools.org/protected/ArticleView.aspx?iid=630GP0B&dasi=4GPY0

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Map

  • % US K-12 Students Attending 'Virtual only" schools = 36.9%
  • % US K-12 Students Attending 'Traditional In-person/Every day" schools = 37.4%
  • % US K-12 Students Attending "Hybrid" Schools = 25.7 %

Note: 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, 36.9% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer only virtual plans, 37.4% offering traditional, etc.

Notes for this Week's Report:

  • As of this writing (Sunday, 11/15 at mid-day), NYC schools are still open. If they are shut down, the number of US K-12 students attending "virtual only" schools will increase by roughly 2% in the above numbers and the number of students attending "hybrid" schools will decrease by that amount.
  • The above percentages are set to Monday, November 16th. We have always set our numbers to the day of our reports due to changes that occur the day before announced plans. Many of the Covid-closures will hit the above figures in later reports as the closures don't begin until later this month. More below.

Trends and Observations

  • To review, Burbio launched the audit on August 11th showing 52% "virtual only" and it shifted dramatically as the month went on and increased to 62% by Labor Day as large districts such as Hawaii, Dallas, small cities in the Northeast, Boston and parts of the Midwest and Sun Belt reversed previously announced in-person plans. In our Labor Day release we noted that many districts had announced plans to shift from virtual to in-person plans and that trend took hold and the number of students attending virtual-only schools in the US has dropped below 40%. However, introduction of in-person learning has slowed dramatically the past three weeks and we are now looking at closures in large districts that will increase the "virtual-only" number in the coming weeks.
  • A number of large districts concentrated across the middle part of the US closed to in-person learning this week. Immediate changes include Detroit Public Schools, which ended in person instruction effective 11/13, as did Des Moines, IA, and Oklahoma City, OK . Toledo, OH, had K-5 in hybrid and moved to all virtual as of 11/13. Many districts across Colorado are moving to virtual immediately with a common refrain in that state being contact tracing backlogs and quarantining rules that prevent in-person instruction. Some districts in Maryland that had only just begun introducing younger students into the classroom went back to completely virtual as well.
  • Several other large districts will be shifting to virtual over the next two weeks. Santa Fe, NM schools will be virtual-only as of 11/20, as will Aurora, CO. Marion County, IN (Indianapolis + others) is moving to virtual beginning November 23rd. as is Cincinnati, OH. and Rio Rancho, NM. Anoka-Hennepin, MN schools are moving K-5 to virtual on 11/30 after having moved the older students back to virtual earlier in the month, and St Cloud, MN schools are moving to virtual 11/30 as well. Colorado Springs, CO is moving to virtual on 11/30, as is Boise, ID. Late Sunday afternoon Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered Michigan high schools to go remote by Wednesday, November 18th for three weeks.
  • Some districts, including some larger ones, are still moving ahead with in-person plans previously set in motion. Honolulu, HI, Wake County, NC, sections of Delaware, VA, and MD, and small parts of the Midwest all opened for in-person this week.
  •  A few weeks ago we noted the issue of "Community Spread" thresholds to close schools in juxtaposition to growing consensus that schools are not a source of spread of Covid. A further issue we noted last week is rules around quarantining that were affecting schools ability to operate, and this week we saw that issue become much more prevalent. Whether Covid is spreading in the schools becomes a moot point if community spread results in exposure to infected individuals on site, and then results in a number of quarantined staffers that make operating schools in person untenable. It is a rapidly evolving situation that is difficult to measure but, in addition to the districts in Colorado who mentioned it this week in their announcements, we are seeing individual schools across our 'open' districts close with even one staff member or students who has had Covid. Different states have different guidance on this issue, and differing levels of Covid, making the entire issue very fluid but it seems to be of increasing importance.

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This recent piece in USA Today gives a great overview of state of school openings and features a citing from Burbio. Burbio data has been cited by CNBC in August when it was announced and since in CNBC stories about racial inequality in education and the impact of virtual learning on retail sales. Axios led with the data in a piece on virtual learning glitches; Bloomberg in multiple stories as well as NPR Marketplace, Politico and USA Today. Burbio has also been cited by JohnsHopkins Center for Health Security in a recent newsletter The Information in a piece about Ed Tech as well as CNBC in a piece about working parents and virtual education. an NBC News piece about physical stress of remote learning on children and the USC Center for Health Journalism. NPR highlighted our data in a piece summarizing Fall school openings. and Axios featured Burbio in a piece about the instability of school openings. CNBC featured Burbio data in a piece about how disruption in K-12 education is affecting women in the workforce.


CBS featured Burbio data in an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci and Burbio has been a resource for numerous government organizations, academic researchers, trade associations, think tanks and non-profits.

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