Through 9/3 roughly 90% of US K-12 public school students have started school. This week over half the students in New Jersey, Oregon and Minnesota...
Week of 8/9: "Test to Stay"
Through Friday August 6th, roughly 11 percent of US K-12 students had started school; many districts started Wednesday and Thursday. Arizona, Mississippi, Hawaii and Georgia had over 80% of their K-12 students start school this past week, Tennessee was at about 50% and Indiana, New Mexico, and Alabama at just over 30%.
- In Carter County, KY and Madison County, KY, districts postponed the start of school. Carter pushed their start to August 16th and Martin to August 18th.
- A number of schools in Clayton County, GA started virtually with North Clayton High School now starting August 9th.
- Lamar County, MS closed three schools amid Covid 19 outbreaks.
- In Granite City, IL the district has changed start and end times of school due to bus driver staff shortages.
- Gwinnett County, GA schools post Covid 19 cases weekly, and they reported 114 confirmed cases on August 5th, growing to 253 on the 6th. Cobb County, GA is coincidentally also reporting 253 active cases for the school year that started this past week.
- In Utah, where district level mask mandates are banned, the Department of Health issued quarantine guidelines that say a student can continue to attend school if exposed to someone with Covid 19 if they were both wearing a mask, the close contact had recently had Covid 19, or the close contact was wearing an N-95. Otherwise the exposed individual quarantines and can test out after 7 days.
- The Texas Education Association issued health guidelines last week. The document does not require contact tracing by local districts, but also notes " If school systems are made aware that a student is a close contact, the school system should notify the student’s parents. Parents of students who are determined to be close contacts of an individual with COVID-19 may opt to keep their students at home during the recommended stay-at-home period."
- In Illinois the state announced a testing plan with alternatives for quarantining. If close contacts are masked (now required in Illinois) they can take part in a "Test to Stay" protocol and be tested on days 1, 3, 5 and 7. Separately, the document notes " IDPH encourages all schools to implement weekly testing of their unvaccinated students and staff. Schools that implement weekly testing will be prioritized for Test-to-Stay and outbreak testing when required."
- Marion, AR School District reports over 900 students in quarantine. Earlier in the week when the figures were slightly lower the Superintendent was quoted in this story as saying “And I was told just a few minutes ago, the numbers continue to rise rapidly . . . If our students had been under the same mask mandate that we administered last year, instead of 730 people quarantined we would have had 42.”
- This district summary out of Utah outlines that Davis School District "will follow 'test-to-stay' protocols, holding a coronavirus testing event if 2% of students and staff for a school of more than 1,500 people, or 30 students and staff for a school of 1,500 or less, test positive for the disease."
- East St Louis, IL School District will be testing students weekly through December 2021.
- "Due to rapidly changing conditions related to Covid 19" Frisco ISD, TX is offering a temporary K-6 online option for the first nine weeks of school and will be "reevaluated as necessary until a vaccine is widely available for children under 12."
- Birmingham, AL school district announced a virtual academy for grade 3-12.
- The Denton ISD, TX K-8 virtual academy had 220 students enroll at the April deadline and is now reporting a waitlist of 130 students amid rising Covid 19 rates in the community.
- Off results from a parent survey, Central Bucks, PA is offering a virtual option at each elementary school with now-familiar references to retiring the program when a vaccine is available for this age group.
- In Mobile, AL with the school year about to start the district added a K-6 option to their existing 7-12 academy.
- Ankeny, IA introduced a virtual option for students with a documented health conditions within the household.
- In New York recently issued state guidance leaves districts plenty of flexibility (more below) and districts are preparing virtual options. Guilderland School District is considering a virtual program with a regional consortium, as is Niskayuna Central School District and Cleveland Hill.
- Louisiana reinstated a mask mandate that includes K-12 schools.
- On Wednesday Illinois issued a state wide mask mandate for public and private schools.
- On Thursday the New York State Health Commissioner issued a notably brief statement on school opening guidelines: "With the end of the state disaster emergency on June 25, 2021, school districts are reestablished as the controlling entity for schools. Schools and school districts should develop plans to open in-person in the fall as safely as possible, and I recommend following guidance from the CDC and local health departments." By allowing flexibility New York becomes light green on our School Mask Policy Tracker.
- In Virginia on Thursday the Governor indicated that a law passed on July 1st that directs school districts to follow CDC guidelines for in-person learning effectively acts as an in-school mask mandate due to recently updated guidance from the CDC recommending masks in schools. This seemingly reverses a policy from just over two weeks ago that allowed for flexibility. We are monitoring this situation and may change Virginia to dark blue from its current green in the coming days.
- In an equally fluid situation, in Arkansas a bill supported by the Governor to allow districts flexibility on masks (that would have overturned a recently passed law banning mask mandates) failed in committee. But on Friday a judge temporarily blocked the state from enforcing a ban on masks in schools. We are monitoring this situation as well. Arkansas remains dark green for the moment.
- On Friday, NJ Governor Murphy reversed course from a few weeks ago and imposed a mask mandate on K-12 schools, turning the state dark blue.
- The recent fluctuations in mask mandates are reversing policies only just put in place. In our dataset we count over 20 districts in New Jersey and Illinois that had removed mask mandates only recently. In Florida, where Governor DeSantis imposed a mandate ban July 30th, Broward County school district has kept its ban in place and has a board meeting this week to discuss. Alachua County, FL voted to require masks for the first two weeks of school and other districts are appealing to Governor DeSantis to allow masks to be required. DeSantis's order comes with financial penalties for districts that fail to comply.
- Where there is flexibility, urban districts continue to prefer mask mandates. Recent examples include New Orleans, Anchorage, AK, and Boise, ID.