Week of 12/21: Back over 50% Virtual

Virtual-only learning rose above 50 percent again this week as schools went virtual this past week in advance of the holiday.

Note: Given the holiday break our next weekly update will be January 4th/5th, and reflect the virtual/in-person status of schools as of the week of January 4th.


Virtual-only learning rose above 50 percent again this week as schools went virtual this past week in advance of the holiday.

Burbio School Opening Tracker- Map

% US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 50.8% (from 48.3% last week)
% US K-12 students attending "traditional" In-person/every day" schools = 32.8%
% US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 16.4%

The above percentages are set to Sunday December 20th. We set our numbers to the day of our reports due to changes that occur the day before announced plans. 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, 50.8% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer virtual-only plans, 32.8% offering traditional, etc.

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. Post-Labor Day, large Sun Belt cities such as Houston, Dallas and Miami returned in person, plus communities across the Northeast and the Midwest, and by early November less than 40% of US K-12 students were attending virtual-only schools. In the last three weeks, Covid-19 related closures of mid-size city districts such as Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Oklahoma City, widespread closures across states such as Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan and Minnesota, and the (now partial) closure of the NYC schools to in person drove the the virtual-only figure back up to 50.8%.


2) Many districts have just announced delays to in-person learning after the holiday. In Rhode Island, the entire state's schools will now return in-person no earlier than January 7th (a Thursday) and no later than January 15th, after starting virtual. Black Oak Mine, CA, a rare CA district that offers in-person instruction, will open virtual and return in-person on January 11th. Maricopa County, AZ will start virtual and be in-person January 18th as will Edwardsville School District, IL, plus Merrillville, IN. Schools in Reynoldsburg, OH are virtual through at least January 19th and Fairborn, OH through at least January 22nd.


3) Smaller and mid-size city districts that have never been in person continue to push back their timelines. Paterson, NJ is virtual through at least March 1st, as is Long Beach, CA. Tulsa, OK plans to have students back in school by February 1st. Cleveland is virtual until at least January 22nd and indicates it will announce a new timeline early in the new year. In the same ballpark Dayton, OH, which was in hybrid briefly in November and then closed schools entirely and chose to extend the year deeper into the Spring, is staying virtual until late February.


4) In state level activity this week Iowa, Governor Reynolds has indicated she will push a law requiring 100 percent, traditional instruction. In California, Assembly leaders introduced legislation requiring schools to offer in person instruction and union leaders mobilized against it. In Minnesota Governor Walz allowed elementary schools to open for in-person on January 18th without regard to county level Covid 19 levels, assuming they put certain procedures in place. In Washington Governor Inslee announced revised guidelines making it easier for districts to introduce in-person learning.


5) Ongoing news around vaccine distribution for teachers is appearing. The Florida Education Association wrote a letter to the Governor asking for vaccine prioritization. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education sent a letter to federal and state officials that "K-12 staff. . . be among those who receive priority after health care providers" This school Superintendent in Kentucky reports the Governor is recommending teachers be included in the second wave of vaccinations. In California a panel recommended teachers, first responders and grocery workers receive the vaccine after health care workers and residents of long term care facilities.


6) Schools in Kansas and Louisiana adopted the new CDC quarantine guidelines, reflecting an accelerating trend across the US.


7) School year shuffling in the Midwest continues to increase class time later in the year. Lakeview OH extended the holiday break - no classes at all - and eliminated their March school break, with the idea that there would be in-person schooling in March. Fayette County, KY extended winter break as well and will tack on three days to the end of the school year for similar reasons.


8) In large city district news, the District of Columbia announced an agreement with teachers to return students to the classroom. It might be termed "the beginning of the beginning" as the 49 point Memorandum of Agreement gives an indication of how much work is still to be done before the planned return in February. In San Francisco the district postponed a recently announced plan return some students to classrooms by January 25th. The press release from the district provides an explanation of the labor issues that are being addressed.


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. 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 Politico has featured Burbio data in a variety of pieces on national K-12 trends. Burbio data has been a resource for numerous government organizations, academic researchers, trade associations, think tanks and non-profits.

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