Late this week there was an acceleration of disruptions across the country beyond the Northeast and Midwest regions that had seen the bulk of issues over the previous three weeks. The number of schools disrupted during the week reached a new high as did the number of schools closed Friday as districts used the three-day weekend to extend their break and relieve staffing issues.
1. The number of schools that went virtual or closed for at least one day last week rose to 6,273 versus 5,513 the previous week:
2. A large increase in disruptions occurred Friday as districts used the three-day weekend to create a longer break to address staffing issues. Of note:
3. The map of January disruptions gives an indication of activity spreading across parts of the country over the last few days.
4. Below are some of the examples of closures from across the US:
- Minneapolis, MN school district (96 schools) will be virtual the next two weeks "in response to a significant reduction in staff available to work in person due to COVID 19," reads the announcement. "MPS families are encouraged to keep students home for online learning during this time if they are able . . . As often as possible, teachers will actively engage online with students during scheduled student contact time. For families who cannot keep students at home, schools will be open for online learning .. . "
- Granite School District, UT, (92 schools) will be virtual next week: "We fully recognize that distance learning is not ideal. . . However, in the last two weeks we have had more than 2,200 teacher substitute requests as well as a surge in student absenteeism. In three recent Test to Stay events at our schools, about 1 in 5 students tested positive at those locations . . "
- Salt Lake City School District, UT (42 schools) will be remote three days this coming week. "This week, four of our schools . . . . . reached enough positive COVID cases to trigger the Test to Stay protocol. With the temporary suspension yesterday of the Test to Stay program due to lack of health department resources, we are looking at other ways to keep our school communities safe."
- Multiple middle and high schools went virtual Thursday and Friday in Indianapolis, IN: "Transitioning to remote learning also gives time for affected staff and students to meet the 5-day isolation and quarantine period before returning back to school . . "
- Los Alamos Public Schools, NM (8 schools) will be remote next week. "Through our contact tracing, we have seen indications of spread of COVID in our schools," reports the district.
- Districts across Texas closed for in-person (no virtual) due to staffing issues. Mesquite ISD (48 schools), one of the larger affected districts, is closing next Tuesday and Wednesday. Among many smaller districts impacted, Avalon ISD closed Thursday and Friday, Campbell ISD is closing through January 24th, Blooming Grove ISD closed Thursday and Friday as did Boyd ISD and Kemp ISD, Malakoff ISD, Pilot Point ISD, and Mexia ISD.
- Dothan City Schools, (AL) (16 schools) went remote Wednesday through Friday of this past week "The Dothan City Schools received information from our schools on their staffing and substitute shortage . . . based on an increased number of confirmed cases and exposure of COVID-19 . . . . the safest path forward is to temporarily close our buildings."
- Gresham-Barlow School District, OR, (22 schools) closed on Friday: "Unfortunately, based on current numbers and forecasts, it’s anticipated that we will have a high number of staff absent on Friday, January 14, 2022, which will create a significant staffing challenge . . . "
5. In other news from around the US:
- The new CDC guidance recommending reduced quarantine time to five days in certain situations continues to be widely adopted. Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado, and Oregon are among many states adopting the new regulations for K-12 schools.
- This school district in York, ME explains changes in the state that eliminate contact tracing. "The COVID-19 Omicron variant is far more contagious than prior COVID-19 variants, has a shorter incubation period, and tends to spread in the early part of an infection. Omicron is spreading more quickly than contacts can be traced. Contract tracing for this variant is ineffective. . . ."
- Virginia Governor Youngkin signed an executive order allowing parents to opt-out of school mask mandates. Last summer Virginia passed legislation requiring in-person schooling that requires districts to do so in "a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies . . . . .that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" which currently recommends mask use. setting up potential legal challenges in the immediate term.
- Lamoille North, VT Superintendent explains to parents who are asking why the school district isn't considering remote: "The Vermont Agency of Education (VTAOE) has been very clear about the very few conditions under which schools can close . . . .Statute requires us to be in school for a certain number of days each year. And, to date, the VTAOE has been very clear that school-wide remote learning is not an option this year . . ."
- This letter from a new Superintendent in Ludington Area School District, MI, gives an interesting update on new communication protocols: "Since the beginning of the school year, the district has sent out notifications on Sunday nights to state whether the COVID positivity rate for Mason County was over 10% to determine the need to continue wearing masks. Moving forward, the district will presume that the positivity rate is over 10% and will only send out a message on Sunday night if the rate drops below 10%. The district believes sending out weekly messages at this point is not necessary."