1. In the last few weeks we have noticed a slight uptick in schools going virtual or taking a day off due to illnesses. Since November 4th we have identified 292 schools from 36 districts across eight states that have been closed for in-person learning for at least one day. As a percentage of the overall K-12 school population the figure is quite small, and the bulk of districts currently impacted are in Kentucky. Below is a chart with the distribution:
District announcements give an indication of the issues and vary in details. Here are six examples, with three from Kentucky where the situation is concentrated:
- Barlow County Schools, KY announced, "All Ballard County schools will be closed Thursday and Friday due to the high rate of influenza cases among students and staff . . . Our district student attendance rate has dropped below 70 percent, and we are using all of the substitute staff we have on our rolls to try and keep classrooms, facilities, and buses operational . . . We can't really use our non-traditional instruction (NTI) days, either. We have teachers too sick to teach, and students too sick to learn. NTI days require a certain level of participation to count, and we don’t believe we could meet that threshold."
- Paris City Schools, KY tweeted, "Our attendance has been declining since Monday . . . We are concerned we are continuing to put others at risk while at school and compromising many students' educational experiences . . . there will be no school November 4th . . . this will NOT be a(n) NTI day . . . "
- Many announcements were simple, such as this one from Powell County Schools, KY on November 1st, "The Powell County Schools will be closed due to illness through the evening of November 8th. We will resume school after Election Day- the morning of November 9th. The schools will be posting adjustments in schedules such as fall festivals, pictures, and other events . . ."
- From Lynchburg Clay Local School District, OH, "We have been tracking the number of flu cases in our district this week, mainly at the elementary. Monday and Tuesday over 90 students were absent and several staff are battling the flu. Transportation has also been affected by sickness this week . . . The Lynchburg-Clay Elementary School will be closed on Thursday and Friday. These will be considered calamity days for the elementary . . . the Lynchburg-Clay HS and MS will shift to remote learning for Thursday and Friday . . ."
- Marshall County Schools, AL reports, "With an increase in staff and student Flu numbers, MCS will transition to remote learning beginning 11/7 through 11/10. Due to staff shortages, we are unable to operate. Weekends + Veterans' Day holiday on 11/11 will give a 9-day window to mitigate the spread of the flu virus."
- From Jackson County Schools, NC, "As a result of illness and staffing concerns, JCPS will be closed for students on Monday, November 7th. It will be an optional workday for staff . . . . schools will be extensively cleaned while students and staff who are ill will have a long weekend to recover . . . The lost instructional day is covered by our built-in dates in the JCPS calendar. We will not make up this day . . ."
2. This week we look at two states that recently announced 2022/23 enrollments, Utah and Georgia. Utah's enrollment has increased 0.1% in 2022/23 versus 2021/22, after having increased 1.3% from 2020/21 to 2021/22. Below shows the breakdown by NCES Locale Codes for Utah. Red is the change that occurred between 2020/21 and 2021/22, and yellow is the more recent change from 2021/22 to 2022/23. Note in Utah that City and Suburb schools declined this year while Town and Rural increased:
In Georgia K-12 enrollment increased by 0.6% this year versus last, the same as the previous year increase. Below are locale breakdowns, with red being the 2020/21 to 2021/22 comparisons and yellow being the 2021/22 to 2022/23 comparisons. All of the locale's increased in Georgia with City districts reversing a decline from the previous year:
|3. In news from around the country:
- In an enrollment announcement reflecting post-Covid 19 trends, Moore County Schools, NC announced an all-time high in enrollment of 12,963. "The district saw a significant slump in numbers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (down to 12,300). But over the last two years enrollment has rebounded . . . driven in part by the district’s new virtual academy and part-time program for homeschooled children . . . the virtual academy enrolls just over 300 students this year . . . Now that the school board has approved the establishment of the Connect Virtual Academy as a standalone school, its new principal . . . is working to recruit local students who previously attended one of the two statewide virtual charter schools . . . "
- In a district correspondence that doubles as a marketing campaign, Royce City ISD, TX tweets out positive trends, "8,500 students and growing . . . expecting 1,000 new students yearly . . . named a best community for music education . . . A-rated district . . . Property Tax Rate Lowered by 22 cents since 2018 . . ."
- We do see school merger and closure announcements as a result of declining enrollments in some districts. San Angelo ISD, TX announced their "Sustainability Plan" that involves reducing from 17 elementary schools to 15, outlines cost savings, facility upgrades, new programs, and a series of town halls. On a smaller scale, Minnesota Internship Center, a small charter high school district, will be closing one of their buildings November 14th and students will move to a nearby school building.
- An issue we see referenced frequently is vaping detection and prevention and here are two examples. Altus Public Schools, OK reports "an increase in discipline referrals related to the use of tobacco and THC" and have hired an additional school resource officer, an additional school nurse, installed vape detectors, and created training for staff in response. Clovis Municipal Schools, NM announced "in a limited roll-out at two secondary campuses last week, Clovis Municipal Schools activated sensors designed to detect vape use, and identified nearly 300 occurrences of vaping in a five-day period . . . the sheer quantity of detection alerts is incomprehensible, particularly when the system is not yet operating at full capability . . ."
- Staffing issues remain top of mind at many districts. Topeka Public Schools, KS is hiring additional staff "to prepare for the winter flu season." Chimacum School District, WA is "gearing up for staff, student, and family illnesses this winter . . . We are forecasting possible staffing shortages . . . We are working to mitigate staffing challenges by recruiting new substitutes in all areas . . ." Galesburg CUSD 205, IL describes their approach of assigning long-term substitutes, for use in any position, to better integrate into that school's community. In Boles ISD, TX they celebrate retention stipends given out by the "Central Office Elves" with smiling staff holding up their bonus checks.