Closure numbers went up slightly this week as we started to see staffing issues and "mental health" virtual periods enter the mix. Districts across the country are making vaccines available to 5-11 year olds, and mask mandates continue to gradually be removed. More below.
1. School closures showed a slight increase as we have identified 675 districts (versus 636 last week) across 3,224 (from 2,462) schools cumulatively impacted so far this Fall. The school count rose because of district-wide closures related to mental health, in particular some large districts in the Mid-Atlantic (more below). A "closure event" is either an entire district closing all its schools (that would be one closure event) or an individual school closing within a district:
2. We have identified a trend of schools closing for mental-health breaks that emerged in the past ten days. While still small, it is a growing number of districts across multiple states. Among the examples:
- Wake County, NC school district, with just under 200 schools, are closed on Nov 12th for a "day of reflection and preparation."
- Cumberland County, NC school district is taking November 12th off for what the Superintendent calls "Wellness Friday" in the district announcement.
- Affton, MO reports that "To better support the mental wellbeing of our employees and students, Affton School District will be forgiving three (3) days during the 2021-22 school year."
- Rittnour, MO closed on November 1st for a "staff self-care day" and Battle Creek, MI closed on October 22nd to allow staff and students time to "relax and reflect."
- Southfield, MI will be remote every Friday through February 4th to better manage labor shortages and Covid 19 mitigation strategies.
- Richmond, VA closed several days this past week to "help with employees mental health," according to media reports.
- Suffolk, VA will be conducting half-day Wednesdays for the balance of the year to "allow for teacher planning time . .. and prevent further burnout."
- Virginia Beach, VA schools added 7 half-day Wednesdays in the next three month to "curb teacher burnout."
- Alexandria, VA schools will be closed Thanksgiving week after "careful consideration of the high level of stress our students, family and staff have expressed."
- Grand Island, NE schools will close for two additional days Thanksgiving week "to alleviate stress on staff and faculty members."
- Guilford County, NC schools will be remote the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving break, citing mental stress, among other factors.
- Hampton, VA schools will be closed two additional days Thanksgiving week to "recharge and reset."
- Hanover, VA took November 12th from an early release day to a "student holiday" to give teachers extra time to plan.
- Howard County, MD added a three-hour early dismissal every month from December to May to "address increased staff workload and employee well-being."
3. Districts across the country are making vaccines available to 5-11 year olds as state Departments of Health spearhead this initiative. Among the examples in what is a nationwide effort:
- In Vermont Washington Central is planning on hosting a vaccination site, as is Harwood Unified, Lamoille North, and Addison Central. Massachusetts Department of Education sent a letter to districts preparing for vaccine roll-out and districts such as Lawrence and Worcester alerted parents to the initiative. Connecticut is rolling out clinics and Hartford, New Canaan, and Fairfield are offering vaccines. In Maine Bangor and Saco are examples of districts supporting the roll-out. In Rhode Island Exeter-West Greenwich and Cranston are rolling out the vaccine.
- New York City is offering $100 incentives for 5-11 year olds to get vaccinated.
- Across the US other examples of 5-11 vaccination sites include districts in Michigan, Arizona, Oklahoma, Alaska, West Virginia, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Maryland, California, Georgia, and Washington.
4. In other news from around the US:
- The number of Top 200 districts with mask mandates dropped from 135 to 129, from a high of 150 on October 1st. In the Top 500 the number dropped from 347 to 341, from a high of 389 on October 15th. Districts in Florida removing mandates for all students include Duval, Hernando, and Monroe, plus Miami-Dade removed the mandate for high school students.
- Connecticut's new "Screen and Stay" initiative allows unvaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts to stay in school with no reference to required testing in the governor's announcement.
- Sacramento, LA, and San Diego joined Oakland in California as districts directing unvaccinated students to learn only virtually later this year.
- The Oklahoma City Board of Education voted unanimously to terminate six teachers who refuse to wear masks. Oklahoma has a state-level mandate ban that has faced legal challenges.
- New Mexico announced a roll-out of test-to-stay.
- We see districts closing schools so staff can obtain booster shots, including Cabell, WV and East Lansing, MI.