12/23: Latest Updates

We continue to see an increase in school closures due to Covid 19, in particular in pockets of the Northeast and Mid Atlantic where states such as New Jersey and Maryland are seeing case counts 50% higher than any previous daily totals. We introduce a new map this week tracking only recent disruptions, and identify a few topline trends in preparation for the new year. The visuals below are also on our School Opening Tracker page and will be updated periodically over the next week.

Given the upcoming holiday weekend, when new information on K-12 schools will be minimal, we are sending our update of this week's activities a bit early.  We will not be issuing an email this coming Sunday.   As always, feel free to share.  
We continue to see an increase in school closures due to Covid 19, in particular in pockets of the Northeast and Mid Atlantic where states such as New Jersey and Maryland are seeing case counts 50% higher than any previous daily totals.   We introduce a new map this week tracking only recent disruptions, and identify a few topline trends in preparation for the new year.   The visuals below are also on our School Opening Tracker page and will be updated periodically over the next week.   

1.  Below are the most up to date school closure figures by week.  A few points worth noting:
  • Average number of days disrupted  for the weeks of 12/12 (3.4 days) and 12/19 (2.0) was much lower than the average-days-disrupted figure for the week of August 29th (6.7).  That said, average days disrupted for the week of 1/2 currently sits at 4.7, indicating post-January disruptions may look more like the late summer. 
  • Disruptions in August and September tended to be school specific and not district-wide.   For example, the 792 schools disrupted the week of August 29th occurred across 170 districts.  The 1,006 schools currently identified as disrupted the week of 12/20 came across only 93 districts. 
School Closures by Start Week 12-23-1
2. Given the regional nature of current Covid 19 increases we wanted to present our Disruption Map with only closures that have occurred or been announced from December 13th through January 13th.   The size of the circles represent the length of closures.  This is also on our School Opening Tracker page and will be updated as we discover announcements: 
Closure Map 12-23-21
3. Here are some snapshots of recent disruptions from the last few days: 
  • Paterson, NJ school district will be remote the first two weeks of January.  The Superintendent writes:   “A surge of new (Covid 19)  cases has occurred in northeastern New Jersey, and it is expected that the trend will continue through the holiday break  .  .  . That is why I told the Paterson Health Officer of my concerns and asked for his support of my recommendation to begin remote learning throughout the district starting January 4th until January 18th.”
  • Mount Vernon, NY school district will also be virtual the first two weeks in January due to rising Covid 19 cases. "We expect all students and staff to be tested before returning on January 18th, 2022, and we expect to implement weekly testing thereafter. The test is a saliva-based PCR specimen. We are not using the nasal swab testing method. To that end, staff and students may pick up a COVID test kit at their school on Monday, January 3rd, 2022, or Tuesday, January 4th, 2022 . . ." explains the note. 
  • Washington, DC schools will close January 3rd and 4th so families can pick up self-test kits.  
  • Hackensack, NJ schools closed December 23rd.  "Due to the rising COVID-19 case totals  . . .and our inability to contact trace all close contacts in a timely manner, remote learning is the safest option for all students and teachers tomorrow, December 23, 2021 . . .  As such, tomorrow will be an asynchronous day for all students and staff," explains the announcement. 
  • Capitol School District, DE closed secondary schools this week "out of an abundance of caution." 
  • Taos, NM schools will be remote for a week after winter break.   “We’re doing it to be preventative with everything that's happening around the nation and New Mexico,” said Taos Municipal Schools Superintendent Dr. Lillian Torrez in the local media report. 
  • Block Island School, RI continued distance learning this past week.   "Even though students were learning from home last week, we continued to test students, staff, and adult members of the school community. ..  The results of all of the testing at school last week during distance learning was that we did not have any additional positive cases.  However, the greater community is seeing increased adult cases   . . . ."
  • Winoosky Schools, VT  wrote earlier this week, "Due to multiple cases of COVID in our learning community which has created an extensive list of possible close contacts, there will be no school on Monday for students in Kindergarten through 5th grade"
  • Chester County, SC schools announced they would be virtual January 5th through 7th. Last year, CCSD saw a significant spike in new COVID-19 cases immediately following Winter Break. Similarly, the greater Chester County area experienced an increase with almost 300 new cases in that week alone. With more students in the classrooms this school year, the District anticipates another spike in cases . .." says the announcement. 
  • Ballston Spa High School, NY closed on Thursday, December 23rd.  "Due to a significant increase in cases of Covid 19 and exclusions among the high school student population Ballston High School will be on emergency closure December 23rd," notes the pop-up on their website as of this writing. 
  • Stamford, CT schools closed December 23rd due to a bus driver shortage. 

4.  In last week's blog we noted the trend of students being sent home with test kits for use over break and we have seen more of that in the past few days.   In some other notes we saw in relation to the January return: 
  • In this two minute video the Cleveland superintendent indicates he will alert parents as to plans for January early next week.  "For now, I am requesting that every parent and family have a plan in place in the event that your child's classroom, or school, or even the entire district, would need to implement our remote learning plan."
  • Queen Anne's County, MD Superintendent writes, "  At this time, I am not considering a full district shutdown. As we return from winter break, we will continue to monitor rates daily. In the event that a school is seeing a spike in cases traced to school transmission, I will consider shifting that school to a virtual platform for a 2-week time frame in an effort to mitigate the spread."   
  • Also in Maryland, Anne Arundel County Schools reports a commitment to keeping schools open, and reports they will "halt the quarantining of asymptomatic close contacts of those who are positive for COVID-19 . ..  (and) cease contact tracing in our schools with the onset of the Christmas/Winter break on December 23, 2021."
  • This Chalkbeat report out of Philadelphia reports local educators calling for remote instruction or an improvement of health protocols.
  • The Governor of California and Maryland State Department of Education both issued statements committing to keeping schools open. 

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