Week of 11/2: Openings Wind Down

Last week we forecast that in person openings were going to slow considerably and we saw that this week. We also see our first indications that district closures may result in a slight increase in virtual learning between now and January.

Last week we forecast that in person openings were going to slow considerably and we saw that this week. We also see our first indications that district closures may result in a slight increase in virtual learning between now and January.

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Map

% US K-12 Students attending 'Virtual only" schools = 37.2%
% US K-12 Students Attending 'Traditional In-person/Every day" schools = 37,7%
% US K-12 Students Attending "Hybrid" Schools = 25.2 %

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, 37.2% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer only virtual plans, 37.7% 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 37.2%.

2) This week saw a continuation of the transition to in-person for a number of districts, but the move away from virtual is slowing dramatically and most of the districts introducing in-person had started the process earlier in the month. Oakland County, MI (Detroit suburbs), Polk County, IA, Chester County, PA (far Philly suburbs), and St, Louis County, MO all added in person learning. Wake County, NC, and Loudoun County, VA added some in person learning for the first time.

3) The overall theme of the week was continued delays for the remaining districts trying to open, and a landscape of increasing volatility for schools that are open due to rising Covid rates and the use of community spread criteria for keeping schools open. For pushed back plans, last week we noted the introduction of in person learning delayed in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, plus smaller towns in multiple states. This week Pittsburgh delayed general in-person learning until January and voted to focus on bringing in vulnerable students; New Haven, CT, delayed in-person learning due to rising Covid cases; San Diego, CA formally moved their next target date for in-person learning to January, Nashville paused it's phased in-person learning for older students Reading PA is postponing in person learning indefinitely. as did Upper Darby, PA. St Paul, MN voted to postpone in person learning due to Covid despite the arrival this week of air filters that were going to allow hybrid learning to begin.

In a situation representative of the stresses we see in the system, Alamance, County, a small county in NC, voted to defer in person learning to January, and then the following Monday amended the vote to allow for pre-K in person learning only.

4) For schools that are currently open, to date we had seen scattered individual school closures due to Covid outbreaks but nothing district wide. The landscape is changing even as the discussion of closing schools to community covid rates conflicts with the general consensus that schools themselves are not proving to be a source of Covid spread. For closures, Santa Marina County, TX, closed all schools this past week due to Covid, as did schools in Duval County, FL, although in Duval's case Governor DeSantis has spoken out against school closures due to community Covid outbreaks. District 300 in McHenry, IL, reverted to virtual after only 6 days of K-3 in person learning; 200 people were quarantined and positivity rates in the zip code are over 12%.

We are seeing an increasing discussion of whether community spread is the right way to measure whether schools should stay open given that the "spread" in question seems to be universally occurring outside schools. Delaware made some slight adjustments to it's criteria to make it easier for schools to be open. Norwich, CT is choosing to open in hybrid in consultation with local health officials. Schaumberg, IL, which opened hybrid on 10/19, is remaining open as the 13 staff and 5 students who have tested positive were not linked to each other or the school and Mayfield City Schools in Ohio are remaining open even as their region moves to a higher Covid "level" as cases are not occurring in the schools. This district in Hamilton, County, OH, is staying open even as their region's "color" level elevates and the announcement is worth quoting: "Please know that as a school district, our operations plan is not tied to the state-wide Health Advisory System. We will continue to monitor data throughout our school district and the zip codes we serve when making decisions regarding our operations. At this time, we have no intention of altering the education models we have in place."

In summary, for districts that are opening, we are monitoring how many close due to Covid and have not seen a material amount of closures to move our indexes. That could change in the coming weeks.

5) It was reported this week that New York City Public Schools had barely 25% of their students attending the in-person hybrid model. The City is offering parents only one more chance to elect for in-person learning in an effort to achieve more stability and certainty. Outside of the few urban districts that are open Burbio sees "opt out of in-person" rates in the twenty percent range, and sometimes a bit higher, and getting lower as the new quarter begins. We will have more visibility into this as more quarters end in the coming weeks.

This recent piece in USA Today gives a great overview of state of school openings and features a citing from Burbio. 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. and Axios featured Burbio in a piece about the instability of 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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