Week of 7/26: Staggered Start

The first K-12 schools opened this week and rising Covid 19 rates haven't affected announced start plans. We continue to note trends in testing and quarantine policies as well a growth in virtual academies.

The first K-12 schools opened this week and rising Covid 19 rates haven't affected announced start plans. We continue to note trends in testing and quarantine policies as well a growth in virtual academies. More below.




1) In news from around the US.
  • Chandler Unified, AZ a Top 200 School District, returned to school this past week as a handful of schools across the country started traditional learning, including Chula Vista Elementary and Sweetwater High School Districts in Chula Vista, CA. A similar number will begin this week.
  • The following week of August 2nd marks when well over 10% of the US K-12 school population starts school, including several large districts that were heavily virtual last year, and will mark the big indicator on how the year will begin.
  • San Bernardino, CA, virtual throughout 2020/21, is prepping for their return the week of August 2nd and their Facebook page outlines the precautions. 'Students will be asked to wash and/or sanitize their hands multiple times each day. . .. all students will enter through a designated location where a touchless thermometer will scan their temperature and also check for a properly worn face covering. . . riders grades 1st through 12th will fill (buses) back to the front .. . all drinking fountains (have been replaced) with water filling stations. . ." are among the approaches being taken.
  • In a pre-Covid 19 era schools would often have a half-day schedule to start the year. These days that staggered start is hybrid. Lauderdale, MS schools alternate days with last names A-K and L-Z to start. New Albany, OH schools, where one-third of students opted for virtual last year, will do the same. Blount County, TN schools will be hybrid for the first week before a traditional start.
  • Hawaii announced virtual learning options across the state.
  • Tennessee announced the approval of 29 new virtual schools which takes the number of virtual schools in the state to 57.
  • Reports out of Minnesota indicate the state has approved more online programs than in the previous 25 years combined, and the state loosened requirements in the immediate term to allow districts to offer online programs this year while they go through the application process.
  • In Baltimore three percent of students have opted for virtual learning.
2) We expect to see the mechanics of testing and quarantining to rise in importance once school begins.
  • In Arizona the state sent letters to two school districts informing them their policy of having unvaccinated students quarantine for 14 days upon Covid 19 exposure is against Arizona law. The policy exempts vaccinated individuals. "The policy will lead to entire classrooms of students under 12 being kept at home for nearly two weeks at a time . . . with no way to make up for that lost learning time," reads the note.
  • In Indianapolis unvaccinated students will quarantine for 14 days if exposed to Covid 19. "Students who must quarantine due to COVID-19 will receive classwork from their individual teachers via Schoology. While in quarantine, students are expected to complete classwork via their school-issued device" reads the guidance.
  • Southside ISD, TX has a 14 day quarantine policy if a student is exposed to a student within 6 feet.
  • Delaware announced a testing partnership for the new school year. "This testing service is meant to be a routine process that is aimed at testing asymptomatic staff and students," reads the press release.
3) We continue to update our Mask Policy Tracker. It is worth noting that states that have recently allowed for local flexibility in school mask policy have strong wording in their state regulations recommending masks for unvaccinated individuals.
  • In both Virginia and North Carolina the state issued updated guidance recommending masks for unvaccinated students but allowing districts to make their own decisions. In North Carolina Rowan Salisbury School District dropped its mask mandate as did Randolph County and Union County districts.
  • In New Mexico the state is still finalizing opening guidelines, including masks. In West Virginia the Governor doesn't support a mask mandate, but full guidance isn't due until August.
  • In our June 21st report we linked to several stories out of Vermont saying the state had banned in-school mask mandates and noted we could find no evidence in state guidance of such a ban. This week we turn Vermont to "light green" - local flexibility, - based on an email from the Vermont Agency of Education saying there is no ban and further guidance is forthcoming.
  • While Connecticut has not updated mask guidance Litchfield Public Schools "remains voluntary" with regard to face coverings. "As we wait on state guidance it is important to remember that guidance is not an executive order, or law, and subject to change, or interpretation," writes the Superintendent.
  • We expect almost all large city districts to require masks for all students and staff to start the year and among the many to announce that this week were Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC Atlanta, Chicago, Newark. Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Notably Columbus, OH now requires masks, reversing a policy announced five weeks ago with the district citing new guidance from the American Association of Pediatrics.

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