K-12 School Reopening Trends

September 13, 2021

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

Where We Are Now

Through last Friday 98% of US K-12 students are back in school with New York City schools opening Monday. 

School closures continue to increase (the up-to-date map can be found at the top of our School Opening Tracker page in addition to the visual below).

Burbio School Opening Tracker-- With School Disruption Map Added

Burbio's School Mask Policy Tracker

Trends and Observations

  • An update on school closure trends:

  • To date we have identified just under 1,700 in-person school closures (up from just under 1,400 last week) across 386 districts (from 278) in 38 states (from 35).  
  • In 55% of the disruptions, schools have gone to virtual instruction (from 52%), in 39% schools have closed entirely for a period (from 40%), just under 4% have delayed school start and just over 2% have moved to a hybrid format. 
  • Average school closure is 8.1 days (versus 8.7 days from last week) at the district level. When "weighted" by number of schools, the average school closure is 7.2 days (from 7.3) . This indicates that when districts close more schools at once (which tend to be bigger districts) they are closing in-person for shorter periods of time than districts that are closing a smaller number of schools.

Note:  Our school closure figures on the disruption map do not include closures related to Hurricane Ida, which affected Louisiana and New Jersey in particular. They reflect Covid 19 related closures only.  

  • While closures are often district-wide, they are more often a subset of the schools in a district. The chart below shows the percentage of closures by elementary, middle, and high schools being closed when schools are closed individually, compared to the percentage of those schools in the entire K-12 universe.    So far high school and middle schools are being shut for in-person at a higher percentage than they represent of the total universe. 
  • Most of the closures we pick up are on a "trailing" basis, further compounded this week by Labor Day week being a bit shorter.   With that, here is an overview of closures we have picked up so far based on when the closure started.
  • The timing of closures in relation to the first day of school remains similar to last week, with the bulk of closures still occurring between three and four weeks after a district opens. 
  • In the last few weeks we have seen a steady increase in mask mandates in the Top 200 districts as shown below:
  • States and districts are grappling with the role of virtual education on different fronts:

  •  In trends from around the US:

  • This media piece out of Mississippi describes how Mississippi K-12 schools have detected more cases of Covid 19 from the first month of school than they did for all of the 2020/21 academic year.  This piece out of Galveston, TX describes local districts with case totals that have exceeded what they saw for the entire first semester a year ago.  
  • Ohio has a state dashboard that among other things shows mask mandates by district.   In total, 383 districts representing 40.5% of K-12 students are mask optional and 183 districts representing 45% of students require masks, with the balance having a mix. 
  • Kentucky's state legislature overrode the Governor's veto to eliminate the state's mask mandate, flipping the state to light green on our Mask Policy Tracker.  The piece also notes that 23% of Kentucky's school districts have experienced some level of in-person closure this year.    In Oklahoma a court ruling that allows districts to require masks also allows students to opt out for any reason, essentially restricting any districts' ability to mandate masks and we will keep that state dark green.   We are keeping Texas and Florida orange on our map given the continued legal challenges and high number of districts mandating masks.
  • In a widely reported story, LA Unified is requiring eligible students by vaccinated by January.
  • Stories around busing stresses come up repeatedly. In Baltimore the district is paying certain parents to drive their children to school. In Hawaii the district is offering mileage reimbursements. Buffalo is postponing after-school programs until October due to a shortage. In West Virginia, this media report about an event that lets resident test drive buses begins with "Have you ever thought of becoming a bus driver? Well you may be in luck!"

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