This week we highlight districts starting the school year earliest of those that were hybrid or virtual at the end of the 2020/21 school year. The...
Week of 8/2: Testing School Openings
Just over 10 percent of US K-12 students start school this week, with the majority of students in Hawaii, Mississippi, Arizona and Georgia starting, plus about half of Tennessee students. The updated CDC guidance is generating considerable activity around mask policies. The stated reasons for the guidance change, specifically both the spread of the Delta variant and it's effect on vaccinated individuals, has potential implications for how schools operate as the year proceeds.
- The New York State Commissioner of Education wrote a letter to all Superintendents and Principals in the state addressing the lack of reopening guidance from Governor Cuomo. "The urgency and frustration you are feeling as September approaches is palpable and is shared by the Department," she writes.
- Detroit announced an agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The agreement calls for mandatory weekly testing for non-vaccinated staff, provides "hazard pay" bonuses to staff, and provides for a district operated virtual school.
- New York City mandated all city workers, including teachers, either be vaccinated for Covid 19 or be tested weekly. Yonkers, NY did the same.
- Maine announced plans to publicly disclose vaccination rates among teachers and students.
- Round Rock ISD, TX citing rising Covid 19 cases and the fact students under 12 aren't eligible for a vaccine, announced a virtual academy for grades K-6, as did Austin, TX school district.
- Jefferson County, KY schools have applied to the state to create a K-5 virtual academy.
- Stockton, CA, where school starts Monday, announced their virtual plan earlier this week.
- This Baltimore Sun piece reports 1.5% of Maryland K-12 public school students will be taking classes online to start the year. Maryland was one of the most virtual states in the US during the 2020/21 academic year.
- Los Angeles Unified School District, CA has announced their Covid 19 testing plan. "All students and employees, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, returning for in-person instruction must participate in baseline and ongoing weekly COVID testing. This is in accordance with the most recent guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Baseline testing begins on Monday, August 2," reads the note.
- This is an informative read from District 300 in Illinois on testing and quarantining. From January to May the district reports there were 254 positive tests for Covid 19, 2,155 students experienced a quarantine (@ 20% of all students) and just over 24,000 lost in-person instructional days. In the note the Superintendent lays out how she is thinking about the upcoming year.
- Reports out of Atlanta indicate a charter school that opened Tuesday quarantined over 100 students by Thursday based on positive tests of two students and a staff member. In Arizona, Ash Fork School District, a small district, cancelled classes after 18 students and staff tested positive for Covid 19. "(The Superintendent is) not sure if the increase in cases is due to the district's COVID-19 testing resources, which are improved from last school year. .. " reads the piece.
- This is another representative summary, out of a district in Troy, IL, on the mixture of factors at play over the next few weeks. 80% of staff and half eligible students are vaccinated, 80% of parents want masks optional, and 16% of K-6 parents want their children in a classroom where masks are required. The district is putting a weekly testing plan in place and students who do not participate will have stricter quarantine rules.
- Oregon Governor Kate Brown directed state health and education departments to "create a rule to require masks indoors for K-12 schools statewide for the 2021-22 school year" and the state Department of Education is moving forward with the rule. Oregon goes dark blue on the Mask Policy Tracker.
- The Governor of Nevada issued an emergency order mandating masks indoors for all individuals in counties covering over 95% of the state's population. Nevada also goes dark blue on the map.
- News reports out of Arkansas indicate the governor is calling a special session of the legislature to lift the state's ban on mask mandates for schools and allow district flexibility. The state stays dark green for now.
- In Florida Governor DeSantis signed this executive order on Friday banning mask mandates in public schools and we move that state to dark green. Broward County, FL schools had voted to impose a mask mandate earlier in the week.
- From other states with school mask mandate bans in place, Texas Governor Abbott issued new orders further banning mask mandates. Iowa Governor Reynolds issued a statement opposing the CDC recommendation, and Oklahoma's governor indicated he will not pursue allowing districts to mandate masks. In Arizona, Governor Ducey said he will not change the state's mask policy, although Phoenix Union High School District announced a mask mandate on Friday, and classes in that district start Monday. South Carolina Governor McMaster reiterated the state's mask policy. In Utah the Governor says nothing will change on masks, but that broader school reopening guidance is due from the state soon.