Week of 5/3: Remaining Obstacles

The continued drop in virtual this week was driven by grades 6-12 as the "Always Virtual" areas with long phase-ins offered in-person to more of these students. This week we review the regions of the country that have not yet offered traditional in-person this year and summarize the obstacles and unknowns around a nationwide return to traditional in-person next Fall.


The continued drop in virtual this week was driven by grades 6-12 as the "Always Virtual" areas with long phase-ins offered in-person to more of these students. This week we review the regions of the country that have not yet offered traditional in-person this year and summarize the obstacles and unknowns around a nationwide return to traditional in-person next Fall.

 

 

% US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 3.3% (from 5.6 % last week)
% US K-12 students attending "traditional" in-person/every day" schools = 67.1% (from 65.3%)
% US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 29.6% (from 29.1%)

The above percentages are set to Sunday, May 2nd. 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, 3.3% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer virtual-only plans, 67.1% offering traditional, etc.

 

1) In state level news, the Massachusetts Education Commissioner ordered all high schools to offer full time in person by May 17th, supplementing similar orders for grades K-5 and 6-8 already in effect. The Connecticut Department of Education issued new guidance indicating there will be no mandate for districts to offer virtual options to students next year. Virginia passed a bill requiring districts to offer full time in-person instruction in the Fall of 2021. Maryland's State Board of Education passed a non-binding resolution saying school districts should provide full time in-person next year. In Tennessee the State Board of Education ruled that school districts cannot offer in-person and virtual simultaneously next year, meaning virtual students must attend dedicated virtual academies.

 

2) We are seeing a continued wide mix of virtual offerings for next year.
Over the next few weeks we will be creating a more formal framework to think about this landscape and combining with prospective participation rates to better evaluate the impact on the educational landscape in 2021/22.

 

3) Districts nationwide have been announcing commitments to every-day in person for next Fall, and the percentage of students attending 'virtual-only' schools continues to diminish as traditional rises. Against that backdrop it is worth noting some of the softness underneath those numbers and a few issues our auditors have identified as it relates to the Fall and implementation of traditional in-person.
  • Many districts couldn't open for traditional in-person even with the new three foot CDC guidance. In addition to classrooms, the issue of six foot spacing while eating, as well as busing logistics, are major issues. It raises the question of how they reopen in the Fall for traditional in-person if they can't do so now.
  • The percentage of students opting-out of in-person learning ranges from between 10-30% outside of urban areas to well over 50% in most cities. Many of these districts, including some large cities, currently offer traditional in-person, but they haven't had to manage space as efficiently as they will need to if 90%+ of their student bodies return. It would seem that the current guidance may become an issue in some of these areas at that time.
  • Similarly, as we have noted in previous weeks, a number of the districts that have transitioned to either hybrid or traditional learning since January have done so with rump schedules, some of which seem expressly designed to avoid eating in the building, but all of which would need to expand to create a typical school day. This chart from the state of Maryland does a great job of illustrating just how varied offerings are in a more recently opened state.
  • The Fall 2021 school year starts in less than four months in much of the US. As noted above, many urban districts have over 50% of students declining the opportunity to be in-person. Above we note the spacing challenges that might exist if students make a complete return. The opposite of that "high-return" scenario is the percent of students choosing to learn remotely remains high. Most of these cities have not outlined how the virtual and in-person learning experiences will coexist in such a scenario, and this remains a considerable logistical question heading into next academic year.
4) This week we highlight the "hybrid + virtual" student percentages by state. These districts represent well over 10MM K-12 public school students and they haven't operated in a traditional every day in-person in over a year. It offers a highlight of the areas that will confront the largest transitions heading into the Fall 2021, including some of the issues we highlight above.



5) This week the shift to traditional in K-5 was bigger than the drop in virtual. By this point K-5 virtual districts that are still remote are generally virtual for the year, so K-5 figures are driven by hybrid conversions to traditional. Conversely the hybrid figures in 6-8 and 9-12 both increased as the Always Virtual regions brought students into the classroom in that format. Next week we will highlight districts that will be keeping 7-12 virtual for the entire year.



K-5 Students:

2.2% attending virtual-only schools (from 2.7% last week)
24.1% attending schools offering hybrid (from 25.1%)
73.7% attending schools offering traditional (from 72.2%)

Grades 6-8 Students

4.0% attending virtual-only schools (from 7.6% last week)
31.6% attending schools offering hybrid (from 30.4%)
64.4% attending schools offering traditional (from 62%)

High School Students

4.3% attending virtual-only schools (from 8.2% last week)
36.3 % attending schools offering hybrid (from 34%)
59.4% attending schools offering traditional (from 57.8%)

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