Closure announcements continued to rise as we identified more schools that were closed during Thanksgiving Week, as well as a growing number of districts that have announced changes of schedules in the coming weeks. We also break out some additional detail on closures where mental health is the stated reason. More below.
1. School closures continued to increase as we have identified 916 districts (versus 858 last week, an increase of 58) across 9,313 schools (from 8,692 last week, an increase of 621) cumulatively impacted so far this Fall. Below is the week by week total year to date, including announced closures through mid-December:
2. Year to date we have identified 3,393 schools disrupted due to mental health concerns. We identify "mental health" as the reason for an in-person closure when it is expressly cited by a school district in its announcement, often with associated terms such as "teacher burnout" and "due to stress on our students." Mental health closures continue to be concentrated in certain states. Below is the cumulative total of schools that have been affected by mental health closures in states where they have been reported:
3. Below is a chart with the percentage of schools in each state that have been affected by at least one day of disruption so far this school year for any reason:
4. The recent spike in closures were around Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, but we have begun to see planned December closures. Recent examples:
- Richmond, VA schools will close on December 20th and 21st "to give our students, staff, and families a full two weeks of Winter Break to rest and recharge – physically, mentally, and emotionally," according the Superintendent. "Please know that I do not take this action lightly. But I believe we face an emotional and mental health emergency right now that requires us to think differently about this year."
- Worcester County, MD schools will be virtual from December 20th through 22nd and are also adding additional early dismissal days. "This change is just one component of a comprehensive effort on our part to address the well-being of our students and staff as the trauma of this pandemic lingers to nearly two years now," reads the transcript of the robocall to parents.
5. In other notes from the short week.
- With vaccination deadlines for students in the state approaching, Alpine, CA school district announced the Alpine Choice Academy for unvaccinated students. "We realize that there are students in our community whose parents will choose not to have their children vaccinated," reads the note. "This unique program is the first of its kind designed to provide in-person learning to students who would not be able to attend school on campus if not vaccinated."
- Many districts are offering Covid 19 testing to students before, during and upon return from break. Examples include Dorchester. SC, Seminole, OK, and Eagle Mountain Saginaw ISD, TX In school districts across Illinois we saw testing options for November 23rd and this social media post gives some examples. In related news, Hillsboro ISD, TX required students who leave the country for Thanksgiving to quarantine upon return. Central Square, NY school district has arranged for Sunday testing options for students.
- Oregon is planning to roll out test-to-stay by November 30th for all students with a twice-weekly testing requirement.
- With widespread staffing shortages, retention bonuses are a tool school districts are using. Examples include Rock Hill, SC, which is offering teachers and staff retention bonuses of $2,000 while part time employees will receive $500 to $1,000. Other examples include Rowan-Salisbury, NC school district, which authorized a one-time $2,000 bonus to all staff on December 21st pending an ESSER budget amendment approval. Wayne County, NC schools are spreading bonuses of $1,000 each across both semesters and Alexander County, NC schools are bonusing staff between $500 and $1,000 this Fall. Springfield, MO schools will be giving bonuses of between $500 and $1,000 to staff at the end of the calendar year.