Week of 11/23: Virtual Expands

The country saw a large shift to virtual learning this week. Closures are spreading beyond the Midwest and parts of the Rockies to include the Northeast.


The country saw a large shift to virtual learning this week. Closures are spreading beyond the Midwest and parts of the Rockies to include the Northeast.
Burbio School Opening Tracker- Map

% US K-12 Students Attending 'Virtual only" schools = 43.5% (up from 36.9% last week)
% US K-12 Students Attending 'Traditional In-person/Every day" schools = 35.4%
% US K-12 Students Attending "Hybrid" Schools = 21.1%

The above percentages are set to Monday, November 23rd.. We have always set our numbers to the day of our reports due to changes that occur the day before announced plans. Some of the Covid-closures will hit the above figures in later reports as the closures don't begin until later this month. More below.

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 and Sun Belt 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 plans and that trend took hold and the number of students attending virtual-only schools in the US dropped below 40% by early November. However, introduction of in-person learning has slowed dramatically the past three weeks and the virtual number is now rising rapidly due to Covid related closures.

2) We have seen closures in over 30 states in the past three weeks, including the widely reported closures of New York City Public Schools effective on Wednesday, all high schools in Michigan for three weeks beginning Wednesday, and the closure of all schools in Kentucky until January, with some possible exceptions for elementary school students in some low-Covid areas that might open in December.

3) Last week we noted closures in big cities such as Indianapolis, Detroit, Cincinnati, Oklahoma City, Santa Fe and Colorado Springs, which was one of a large number of closures in Colorado due to quarantine rules. All those districts are closed until at least January. Other examples this week include Waterbury, CT which closed schools to in-person learning through January, as did Shawnee MIssion, KS, Montgomery County, PA, a county of over 800,000 went virtual until at least December 6th by order of the county health department. Large swaths of Minnesota closed to in-person learning as did big sections of Missouri.

4) There has been a wave of short term closures in the Northeast across NY, NJ and CT and the Midwest generally through December 4th as districts monitored community spread levels or were forced to close due to hitting those levels. "We had a good run, but things are changing" declares this Ohio announcement.
5) Small pockets of the country had new in-person introductions, including Delaware, Oregon and Washington. Others rolled back, including Lee's Summit, MO who postponed an in-person roll out of grades 4-12 and took K-3, which had been in-person, to virtual as well. Lake Tahoe, CA postponed their imminent in-person launch indefinitely.

6) While higher than the NYC targets, community spread targets are forcing districts in NY state to close. While New York's "yellow zone" allows for schools to stay open with testing, all New Rochelle NY schools plus schools in Erie County, NY that were holding in-person classes went virtual after the designation, and Port Chester schools will not reopen until January as it skidded to a more restrictive tier that requires an even higher level of testing. Schools in Newburgh, NY are going virtual through January. As districts throughout NY start hitting community-spread level thresholds, it doesn't appear any are equipped to handle the testing requirements to stay open.

7) Outside of short term closures, longer term closures in NJ are also increasing. Elmwood Park, NJ is virtual through January as four of their five schools were already virtual due to quarantines. Woodbridge, NJ, in a wrenchingly detailed letter from the Superintendent describes how 12 of their 25 schools were closed due to quarantine and the district will be virtual through January. South River, NJ gives a similar rundown in explaining the decision to go virtual.

Our audit team spotted some additional announcements that could portend trends:

8) Dayton public schools are closing entirely - no virtual learning - from Thanksgiving through January, but extending the school year deeper into June, presumably a period it will be easier to have in-person learning.

9) San Bernadino, CA schools, California's 8th largest district, voted to go virtual for the entire school year. This is the first district we have seen make this move.

10) In Ohio a group of nine school districts are participating in a close-contacts Covid test - according to the description: "The study will be evaluating close contacts of positive cases in a school setting to determine whether or not students should in fact be required to quarantine for 14 days as is currently the practice." For those not familiar, here is an example of CDC guidance for quarantining posted on a local district site.

Burbio data was featured in this November 20th overview of school closures in USA Today plus a recent segment on CNBC. Burbio data has been cited 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 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. CNBC featured Burbio data in a piece about how disruption in K-12 education is affecting women in the workforce. CBS featured Burbio data in an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci and Burbio has been a resource for numerous government organizations, academic researchers, trade associations, think tanks and non-profits.

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