K-12 School Reopening Trends

September 27, 2021

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

Where We Are Now

This week we look at school closures (the up-to-date map can be found at the top of our School Opening Tracker page in addition to the visual below). We also saw material changes to quarantine policies this week that will have the effect of reducing the number of students learning from home.

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 2,200 in-person school closures (up from just over 2,000 last week) across 539 districts (from 469) in 43 states (from 39). Below is our current map:

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.  

  • Over the last two weeks 74% of closures have involved schools going virtual and 25% closing entirely. The average school closure for the last two weeks was 5.9 days.
  • As we have noted previously, we pick up closures on a trailing basis so the figures in this closures-by-week chart will increase retroactively. That said, it seems clear that recent closures peaked the Week of 8/29:
  • One thing we noted last year was regional differences in school openings as the year progressed. This year is a very different dynamic with US K-12 schools returning universally in-person and iterating with regulations and testing policies in an effort to keep schools open. That said, we thought it would be interesting to review last year's average in-person indexes over the course of the year as there was some pronounced seasonality. We have left areas of the country that were predominantly virtual (West Coast, Mid-Atlantic) out as the in-person indexes were very low out until February and they don't illustrate much:

Notes: Northeast includes NY, NJ, PA, DE, ME, VT, RI, CT, MA, NH

Midwest & Mid-South: IN, KY, MI, MN, WI, IL, TN, WI, WV

South: AL, AR, FL, GA, MS , SC, TX, LA

Plains and Rockies: AZ, IA, MO, OK, NE, CO, WY, SD, ND, ID, UT

  •  In past weeks we have noted two ways districts and states have modified their approaches after school started: the introduction of masks in previously mask-optional districts and the introduction of virtual academies. This week we note widespread adjustments to quarantine regulations, in addition to ongoing changes to learning options for students in quarantine.

  • New York City schools announced that "beginning on Monday, September 27, we will no longer close an entire classroom when there is a positive case. Vaccinated and unvaccinated students who are wearing face coverings and have maintained at least three feet of distance from a student who tests positive will not be considered close contacts and will not have to quarantine." This move will dramatically decrease quarantine levels in NYC schools.
  • The Florida Department of Health issued a new rule eliminating the requirement for asymptomatic students to quarantine after exposure to Covid 19.
  • Montgomery County, MD schools issued new guidance indicating close contacts will not have to quarantine unless they test positive for Covid 19. Previous guidance had called for quarantining of all close contacts in addition to precautionary quarantines for students exposed to anyone with "any single symptom" of Covid 19. That guidance, which was stricter than that of the state of Maryland, had been put in place by the County health department and has since been modified.
  • Philadelphia's Health Department relaxed guidance for closing schools and is allowing "test to stay" for close contacts where testing is available. Previous guidance had called for schools to close with six cases in a school and the new regulations calls for consideration of grade level closures with 6 cases per grade being the level at which closures-by-grade are considered.
  • Anchorage, AK School District eliminated the need for asymptomatic close contacts to quarantine after a review of case data year to date.
  • A group of districts in Warren County, OH is piloting a program to reduce quarantine for asymptomatic students based on masking and testing.
  • The Lathrop, MO School Board voted to relax quarantine guidelines. From the start of the year 23 student and staff Covid 19 cases had resulted in 215 quarantines.
  • In this note the Northwest Hendricks School Corporation, IN superintendent announces a mask mandate, citing 68 Covid 19 cases year to date versus only 5 last year. As part of their new plan, the district adjusted quarantine regulations and will only require symptomatic close contacts to quarantine.
  • Portland, ME is introducing pooled testing after having a "bumpier ride" to the start of the school year with school closures and quarantines.
  • Utah launched a state wide "test to stay" dashboard documenting schools that are required to test all students. As of this writing three schools are in the "red" category.
  • Both Vermont and North Carolina introduced new quarantine guidelines this week as well. 
  • In virtual learning, districts are focusing on students in quarantine:

  • School District 60 in Waukegan, IL announced live-streaming virtual options for students in quarantine. District 300, IL also references synchronous (live, real time) instruction in their plan for quarantined students.
  • New Rochelle, NY introduced synchronous virtual learning this past week for students in quarantine.
  • Londonderry, NH schools are struggling to accommodate students in quarantine. "Last school year, we were able to commit a number of staff members to remote instruction as a result of the significant number of families electing to learn in that environment. This year, with full in-school learning, we do not have the ability to redeploy staff in that manner . . . ." begins the note, which outlines other tools the district is using.
  • Local media reports from across the country give further evidence of the level of iteration going on. Alamance County, NC and New Haven, CT districts are considering changes to quarantine learning, and Anne Arundel County, MD has announced a revised program launching October 4th. Santa Fe, NM introduced tutoring for quarantining students. 

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