Week of 1/31: Re-Mapping Mask Mandates

Disruptions continued their decline from last week. This week we introduce a revised Mask Policy Tracker that details the Top 500 districts across the US and their mask policies.

Disruptions continued their decline from last week.   This week we introduce a revised Mask Policy Tracker that details the Top 500 districts across the US and their mask policies.  More below. 

1. This week the number of schools that experienced at least one day of disruption dropped to 2,103, a drop of 58% versus the previous week's total of 5,018, still higher than most of the Fall but a large drop from earlier in the month: 
Weekly Disruptions 1-29-22
2. For each day last week the number of schools disrupted was lower than any day in the first three weeks of January.   Average disruptions per day for the weeks of January are as follows:
  • Week of January 3rd: 3,404
  • Week of January 10th: 3,892
  • Week of January 17th: 3,024
  • Week of January 24: 1,072
Similar to previous weeks, disruptions are highest on Mondays and Fridays, and we expect to pick up some disruptions from last Friday in our research this coming week due to announcements late Thursday.  That said, average disruptions per day dropped by 64.5 percent from the week of January 17th to the week of January 24th:
Daily Disruptions 1-29-22
3.  This week we are introducing a new visual on the Mask Policy Tracker that details mask policies for the Top 500 US school districts (using NCES school enrollment figures) as well as a chart with recent trends.  Given that many states allow districts flexibility in requiring masks, and in other states there is ongoing litigation between districts and states, we believe the best way to profile the issue is to detail what districts are actually enforcing.   A few notes:
  • Districts are classified based on what is being enforced at the district level.  In many jurisdictions there is legal action in motion and the district's regulation of masks differs from executive-level orders. 
  • Some districts have metrics, such as community Covid 19 rates, or student vaccination rates, that determine mask policies.  Our classification of those districts reflects their current mask policies in place.  
  •  "Partial" mandates fall into a number of sub-categories ranging from staff mask requirements while students are not required to wear masks, masks within certain distances, and masks for certain groups of students. 
Mask Map 1-29-22

4.  As disruptions reach a lower baseline, the map showing disruptions since January 1st shows the breadth of recent disruptions:

Map Disruptions 1-29-22


5.  While "last-second" shifts to virtual or short-term closures have been the overwhelming category of disruptions since the New Year, we continue to see districts make medium and longer term adjustments to schedules in response to Covid 19: 
  • Based on disruption activity we saw around Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Break, and MLK Day Weekend, we note the following adjustment by Urbana School District 116, IL around Presidents Day weekend that "In anticipation of sub shortages and an increase in COVID cases, the District is proactively planning ahead for an E-Learning Day on Tuesday, February 22.  This will be an asynchronous workday for students . .  ."
  • Middle and high schools in Millville, NJ will have an early dismissal through February 25th in order to fully staff classrooms. 
  • Bristol, TN school district will be closed three consecutive Mondays "in response to challenges we are facing due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in our school district."
  • Henrico, VA school district, "recognizing that this is not an 'ordinary' school year, and that students and staff are experiencing additional stress and anxiety because of the pandemic," has mixed in multiple days off over the course of the Spring to the normal school calendar. 
  • Lincoln, NE public schools created "Temporary District-wide COVID Response Fridays" and closed for three consecutive Fridays across January and February. 
  • Unitah School District, UT  "is suspending Friday in-person learning for the next 6 Fridays, beginning on Friday, Jan. 21. Students will attend classes online on Fridays during this time. This will provide teachers with more time to plan for and respond to the large number of students who are absent and learning online."
   6.  In other news from around the US: 
  • In New Orleans, the deadline for the vaccine requirement for all students 5 and over is this week. 
  • Detroit's announcement about the district's return to in-person January 31st offers a view into the logistics the district is managing:   "Although the city’s infection rate has improved it is still in the mid-30s . . ..   Online learning attendance has improved (near 75% now) but still needs to be higher. Please ensure that your students and children are logging into each of their classes daily. Please be reminded that students must have a consent to COVID test on file by January 31st or they will be transferred to the district’s virtual school.   . . "
  • Masconomet, MA school district, with an 80%+ vaccination rate, received a waiver from the state to allow vaccinated students to go without masks.  "The next step . . . . would be to seek a waiver from the Boxford Board of Public Health from its Emergency Order Requiring Face Coverings, " writes the Superintendent. "Because of the current surge in COVID cases, and given the other associated challenges , , , , I have not approached the Boxford Board of Public Health regarding this waiver, nor do (I)  anticipate doing so in the near future."
  • Substitute teacher shortages, and associated recruitment and incentive offerings, are a nationwide phenomenon at this time.   This week we noted "Subs for Subs" run by Regional Office 21 in Illinois featuring assistance for a short term substitute license and application process, training, complimentary fingerprinting and a submarine sandwich for attendees. 
  • Clark County School District, NV, in response to ongoing bus driver shortages, announced new start and end times for schools during the 2022/23 academic year to better accommodate staffing.

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