Week of 6/28: Indexing Versus Year Ago

This week we look at early indications of district spending plans based on the recent stimulus, as well as some major retailers and how their locations differ when compared to regional learning patterns from last Back to School season.

This week we look at early indications of district spending plans based on the recent stimulus, as well as some major retailers and how their locations differ when compared to regional learning patterns from last Back to School season.



School Year 2020/21: End of Year Final


% US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 2.1%
% US K-12 students attending "traditional" in-person/every day" schools = 69.7%
% US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 28.2%

The above percentages are set to Sunday, June 27th. 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 2.1% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer virtual-only plans, 69.7% offering traditional, etc.


We have no updates this week on our School Mask Policy Tracker.


As school districts begin heading into 2021/22, there are some terms that are worth highlighting as they are going to appear regularly related to the Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund (ESSER), which provided funding to K-12 schools as part of the recent Federal stimulus plan. This FAQ offers some detail on the mechanics, and the acronyms. The most important terms are State Educational Associations (SEAs) and Local Educational Associations (LEAs, or School Districts). At least 90% of all funding is required to be passed through SEAs to LEAs and we expect this funding to be highlighted in initiative announcements for next year.


1) News from this week includes:
  • Tuscon, AZ is launching a virtual academy in August 2021 that allows students to participate in school-based extracurriculars and flexibility to move back into the classroom if desired.
  • In announcing its in-person return plan, Princeton, NJ outlines Plans A, B and C, all of which foresee some level of virtual learning. According to the document, "Plan C assumes that the pandemic has once again surged out of control for what may be a longer period of time, necessitating a complete shutdown of our district for more than two weeks. The Plan addresses the needs for remote schooling that may extend beyond two weeks."
  • Leander ISD, TX, is launching a virtual academy next year with a minimum semester-long commitment. This comes even as the Texas Legislature failed to pass dedicated funding for virtual learning. Leander can fund the program for just this coming year and will be using ESSER funding to do so.
  • Scranton, PA is adding a K-6 cyber academy to its existing 7-12 model. Elsewhere in PA, Erie, PA is adding a K-5 cyber school.
  • Hawaii announced plans for in-person in the Fall with only limited distance learning options. The reopening letter reports that during the recent academic year "no transmission of (Covid 19) has occurred at a Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) facility."
  • In Maine the Rethinking Remote Education Ventures program offers grants to districts piloting virtual programs. Brewer School Department, in Brewer, ME is applying and reports having a good chance at getting it, even as the district is committed to in-person learning next year.
  • The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill allowing parents to choose to hold their child back a year. The Governor is non-committal about signing.
2) As part of the funding and disbursement process for ESSER funds, districts are required to post plans in advance of the fiscal year and many are also soliciting feedback. This is both a fast-moving and fluid process as plans provide various levels of details about next year and we will continue to monitor. Some examples include:
  • This post from Lockport, NY provides relative clarity around the funding levels and priorities for the district's $10.9MM in spending, almost all of which is on staff, including $1.4MM for staff to support mental health and $2.25 MM for academic intervention staff for K-8.
  • At the bottom of this document from Stamford, CT, the district reports a plan to spend $21MM out of the district's $32MM funding on air quality and the balance on staffing.
  • Texarkana, AR is still at the survey stage of their process as is Jefferson County, KY. schools, Wilson County, TN schools and Richardson, TX schools.
  • In Branchburg, NJ they stay very high level: "As you will see, it is a broad overview of our plan for a safe return to school in September. Although not specifically outlined in this document, the Board of Education, the Administrative Team, and I will be allocating the funding primarily to support smaller class sizes by hiring additional teachers, addressing the social/emotional learning needs of our staff, and ensuring the safety and cleanliness of our school environment," reports the Superintendent.
  • This plan for Lake Ridge New Tech Schools, IN details roughly $14MM in spending across three allocations from the Federal government.
3) In last week's digest we illustrated the seven week spread of school opening dates, as well as the variation within states, and in our May 17th update we took a snapshot of local differences in start dates and learning plans versus year ago and how they might affect retailers and back to school suppliers. This week we look at aggregate comparisons based on regional learning plans. The charts below compare retailer locations by average in-person indexes for the Fall of last year.


First we take a look at major grocery chains. The return of the lunchroom means, among other things, more "lunch box" food purchased by parents. As a percentage of their locations, Albertson's is indexing against a much higher 'virtual' area from a year ago than other chains.

Next we look at Walmart, Target and Best Buy. Walmart is indexing against parts of the country that had highest in-person indexes last Fall among this group.

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