Week of 10/26: Community Spread Slows It Down

We think openings are going to slow dramatically for the indefinite future based on mitigation policies in place in the areas where districts haven't opened for in-person learning.

We think openings are going to slow dramatically for the indefinite future based on mitigation policies in place in the areas where districts haven't opened for in-person learning.

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Map

% US K-12 Students attending 'Virtual only" schools = 39.3% (vs 42.6% last week)
% US K-12 Students Attending 'Traditional In-person/Every day" schools = 36,3% (vs 34.7%)
% US K-12 Students Attending "Hybrid" Schools = 24.4% (vs 22.7%)

Note: Our data is presented as "students attending schools that offer this learning plan" - most districts also offer virtual even when providing in person For above, 39.3% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer only virtual plans, 36.3% offering traditional, etc.

Trends and observations:

1) To review, Burbio launched the audit on August 11th showing 52% "virtual only" and it shifted dramatically as the month went on and increased to 62% by Labor Day as large districts such as Hawaii, Dallas, small cities in the Northeast, Boston and parts of the Midwest reversed previously announced in-person plans. In our Labor Day release we noted that many districts had announced plans to shift from virtual to in-person during September, and that trend has taken hold as the virtual-only number is now 39.1%.

Burbio issued a press release this week highlighting the post-Labor Day information regarding in person school trends.

2) Again this week over 3% of US K-12 students moved from attending virtual-only schools to traditional in-person or hybrid plans. Large parts of Harris County, TX (Houston), Marion County IN (Indianapolis) and chunks of Lake County, IL, and Travis TX (the Austin area) brought students back into the classroom. We also saw some school openings in North Carolina and some returns in Washington state, where some districts are planning to introduce younger grades in over the next 2-3 weeks.

3) There has been an almost twenty-five percentage point decrease in students attending virtual-only schools since Labor Day, and there is a growing consensus contained in multiple reports that schools are not sources of Covid spread , risks of opening schools have been overstated, and testing is proving that to be true as the US reopens. Further there is overwhelming consensus that low income students are the most negatively impacted by virtual schooling.

That said, our audits indicate schools opening to in-person learning is going to dramatically slow between now and January in particular due to the use of community-wide Covid thresholds as criteria for being able to have in person learning. Outside of widely reported delays in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, and other large cities in the past week, many smaller districts are pushing back K-12 in-person learning as well. Kalamazoo, MI pushed back in person learning to March, Alliance, County, NC pushed in person back to January, Mundelien, IL indefinitely delayed their start of in-person learning. Fayette County, KY pushed back until January Tucson pushed it's in person reopening back indefinitely . and Binghampton, NY pushed back their reopening a week, in addition to districts in CT and PA.

In short, any district that hasn't already introduced in-person learning is facing serious headwinds due to the use of this criteria for the indefinite future

We reported last week some districts that had temporarily suspended in person learning due to community wide Covid levels. It's a fluid situation that we continue to monitor and it's worth noting the districts often take a week to close beyond the announcement date. We saw it in St. Cloud, MN in last week's report and this week in Barrington IL but did not see a marked increase this week. We'll be trying to put a number on percentage of closures we see in our data set in the coming weeks, but to date it has been tiny.


4) Many of the bigger urban districts that are not going to be introducing general in-person education between now and January (or later) are reporting they will be making efforts to bring varying levels of special needs, at-risk youth and very young children into schools before then.

5) We are observing three issues as it relates to students who "opt-out" of in person learning in places where in-person learning is offered a) The numbers 'opting-out' are not widely reported, but where they are they range from an average of 20 percent or more in non-urban districts. When a quarter ends parents are given a choice to change learning modes and the number of students opting-out decreases b) Districts that have been in session since August are reporting efforts to return virtual students to the classroom; last week we reported Texas.districts doing this and here is a report that York County, SC, began bringing older, academically struggling students into the classroom. . c) Districts that are offering virtual as well as additional teaching models are often struggling to maintain all of them. In this video from Boardman, OH the Superintendent explains the difficulty in juggling both in person learning and virtual learners causes the school to shift to a 4 day in person (previously it was 5 day) one person virtual-only learning day to give the teachers a chance to regroup.

Burbio data has been cited by CNBC in August when it was announced and since in CNBC stories about racial inequality in education and the impact of virtual learning on retail sales. Axios led with the data in a piece on virtual learning glitches; Bloomberg in multiple stories as well as NPR Marketplace, Politico and USA Today. Burbio has also been cited by JohnsHopkins Center for Health Security in a recent newsletter The Information in a piece about Ed Tech as well as CNBC in a piece about working parents and virtual education. an NBC News piece about physical stress of remote learning on children and the USC Center for Health Journalism. NPR highlighted our data in a piece summarizing Fall school openings.

CBS featured Burbio data in an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci and Burbio has been a resource for numerous government organizations, trade associations, think tanks and non-profits.

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