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 start school, and large chunks of Virginia, Maryland, and the state of New York. New York City schools begin 9/13.
School closures continue to increase (the up-to-date map can be found at the top of our School Opening Tracker
page in addition to the visual below) and this week we share updates on trends.
1. An update on school closure trends:
- To date we have identified over 1,400 in-person school closures (up from 698 last week) across 278 districts (from 158) in 35 states (from 25).
- In 52% of the disruptions schools have gone to virtual instruction, in just over 40% schools have closed entirely for a period, just under 5% have delayed school start and just under 3% have moved to a hybrid format.
- Average school closure is 8.7 days (versus 9.7 days from last week) at the district level. When "weighted" by number of schools, the average school closure is 7.3 days. This indicates that when districts close more schools at once (which tend to be bigger districts) they are closing in-person for shorter periods of time than districts that are closing a smaller number of schools.
2. Most of the closures we pick up are on a "trailing" basis meaning there is a lag of 1-3 days after the closure has begun before they are in our system. A "closure" can be for an entire district with multiple schools or just an individual school. With that, here is a week by week overview of closures we have picked up so far based on when the closure started.
3. The following chart shows the number of days from the first day of the school year to when a school or district closed for in-person learning. The chart shows the majority of schools are closing in the third and fourth weeks of school. The importance of this trend will fade as we get further into the school year but it is worth noting at this point in time.
4. Local district reporting shows the increase in case rates this year versus year ago, and also the perspective on the percentage of affected students and staff:
- The Perrysburg, OH Superintendent notes that the district in its second week has the same cumulative number of K-6 Covid 19 cases as they had through week 12 of a year ago. The River Valley School District, MI note indicates more Covid cases from August 30th through September 3rd than in all September 2020.
- In August, Prince William County, VA schools reported cases equal to February, and have already reported more cases in September than in September 2020.
- In media reports covering the closure (no virtual) of Amherst County, VA schools the district reports 198 active Covid 19 cases, after having only 100 all of last year. The Superintendent is reported as saying, "Last week we had to close our secondary school facilities because a person who had tested positive for COVID-19 entered a building without notifying staff and is the source of many positive cases that has led to an outbreak."
- You can toggle the dates to show August 2020 to date on this very informative dashboard from Conroe ISD, TX schools, and note an all time high of cases by a factor of 3-4 times versus any time last year. The district experienced 88% student attendance on Friday September 3rd, versus 98% at the same time the previous year.
- Perspective is also being provided by looking at the total percent of students and staff diagnosed, which can mean more than absolute numbers. In this dashboard out of Edwardsville, IL it's noted that 0.35% of students have been identified as positive for Covid 19. In Oconee County, GA schools they report 0.6% positive case rate among students and staff, and on this page on Friday afternoon it read 99.40% of staff and students are not actively diagnosed with Covid 19 on September 3rd at 4 pm. This media report out of Arizona describes a higher rate of transmission this year at Mesa Schools; the Mesa district dashboard shows 292 cases out of 64,890 students and staff as of Friday (0.45%).
5. We caught some interesting policy signals around virtual and quarantining rules both in the Northeast and nationally:
- In New York City's safety plan one case of Covid 19 in an elementary school class will result in the entire classroom going into quarantine and learning virtually. For middle and high schools, unvaccinated students will be required to quarantine and will learn asynchronously with the opportunity to test out of quarantine. There is no mention of exceptions for close contacts wearing masks.
- Montgomery County, MD's quarantine guidelines read as follows, "Unvaccinated students who have been in close contact with an individual who is displaying any single symptom of COVID-19 will be sent home." If the individual tests positive, all students quarantine for ten days. There is no mention of exceptions for masks. In late August, in the district's reopening plan the last bullet notes, "MCPS will not close school buildings and move to fully virtual instruction for all students unless state government officials order the school system to do so," and notes hybrid is their back-up plan.
- In Connecticut, this report out of Litchfield summarizes: "Remote Learning: Clarification: We (received) confirmation from the Connecticut State Department of Education that a district may go to remote synchronous instruction if a classroom or a school is closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Some good news."
- In Bellefonte, PA this Superintendent letter reflects the emotions of last week's mask mandate by that state. On virtual it notes, "Some parents have asked if they can transfer their children to (virtual learning) temporarily during the mask order time frame or beyond. The answer is yes. . ." East Stroudsberg, PA is offering to let parents switch as a result of the mandate, and this survey from Central Green, PA, asks, "With masks now being required by the Governor, will you be sending your child to school for in-person learning for 5 days per week?"
- In Albemarle County, VA the virtual academy is at capacity with 400 students and a waitlist has been established.
- This note from Princeton, NJ schools gives a good overview of New Jersey's approach to virtual and quarantines: " . . the only option for remote learning is when a student is either in isolation due to a positive COVID diagnosis, or if they have been identified as a close contact . . . the district will provide remote instruction starting 24 hours after the quarantine or isolation period begins."
In other parts of the country: