Last week we saw a gradual slowdown in disruptions across the US as schools that closed or went virtual over MLK Weekend reopened for in-person learning. We did not see an end-of-week spike similar to what we saw the previous week, even as disruptions remain at levels higher than the Fall. More below.
Burbio’s ESSER III funds tracker now has detailed spending plans from 2,400+ districts that have been allocated over $61 billion in federal grant stimulus funds.
1. The number of schools that went virtual or closed for at least one day last week was 4,473, showing a drop of 38% versus the previous week of 7,164. A few things to note:
Last week was a four day week due to the holiday so the comparison is uneven.
Given that most disruptions are announced the day or evening before they occur, our team may pick up closures 24-48 hours after they have been announced, which can be particularly acute when thousands may occur at once (the Friday before MLK Weekend was such a situation), so we expect last week’s total to rise slightly based on research we will do Monday.
All that said, the trend seems clear that disruptions are slowing down, and we have more below in our disruptions-by-day analysis.
2. Last week’s (four day) average number of schools closed was 2,708. This represents a drop of 26% versus the average of 3,682 for the week of January 10th and a drop of 17% versus the average of 3,264 for the week of January 3rd.
3. Disruptions in the third week of January were concentrated in parts of the Upper Midwest, Plains, and some Western states. During the first half of the month most disruptions occurred in the Northeast and central Midwest:
4. Even as numbers began to decline we did see new disruptions, and here are some examples across multiple states:
Springfield, MO Public Schools, with 55 schools, will be closed for in-person the week of January 24th: “Students will not be in school Monday, Jan. 24. All in-person and live virtual instruction are canceled for students on Monday. This day will be used as a training day for SPS teachers to prepare delivery of virtual instruction to all students beginning on Tuesday, Jan. 25 . . . “
Mobile County Public Schools, AL, with 91 schools, was virtual last week: “This will not be the ‘live’ classroom lessons as we implemented in the fall of 2020. Rather, to allow for flexibility, teachers will upload lessons and assignments to Schoology for students to complete on their own schedules next week or paper assignments will be sent home with elementary students. “
DeKalb County Schools, AL, with 16 schools, transitioned to remote learning January 20th and 21st “due to a staffing shortage on the majority of our campuses.”
Ogden School District, UT, with 22 schools, is virtual January 21st and 24th: “Please know that our intention is to be proactive with this change for the purpose of minimizing the potential need for at-home learning . . . In addition to our own school employees being impacted by illness in their household, our available number of substitute teachers is also limited due to illness. We encourage community members with available time to consider joining our substitute workforce.”
Harrisburg, PA, 12 schools, was remote last week due to Covid 19 rates among staff and students. “Attendance will be verified by participation and presence in the virtual sessions. For more information, please contact your child(ren)’s teacher.”
San Benito CISD, TX (22 schools) closed completely January 20th and 21st “due to the high number of employees absent due to COVID-related issues, low student attendance, and the continuous dwindling inventory of COVID-19 tests . . “
West Washington School District, IN was virtual through Wednesday of last week. “We powered through this week of school, but the number of staff out sick grew exponentially each day. We already know that we will be shorthanded next week. . . .”
5. Contact tracing is being deemphasized or eliminated in many jurisdictions:
This Massachusetts DESE letter is a thorough review of testing results in the state: Among them, the Covid 19 positivity among students is 1/5 the statewide rate and 98.6% of students and staff tested (over 500,000 tests) as close contacts were negative. “We are recommending that school health personnel increase their focus on identifying symptomatic individuals, rather than monitoring in-school close contacts who are unlikely to contract or spread the virus” reads the letter. “Specifically, districts and schools participating in symptomatic and/or pooled testing may choose to continue those testing strategies and discontinue contact tracing and Test and Stay.”
Connecticut is de-emphasizing contact tracing and this FAQ explains, “However, if notified of a COVID-19 case who may have had contact with others in school during their infectious period schools no longer need to retroactively contact trace any possible close contacts that may have occurred during the school day. Schools that choose to discontinue contract tracing are strongly encouraged to . . .(notify) staff and families of positive cases . .”
In Vermont this Department of Education Advisory explains, “Test-to-Stay programs will be replaced by the Test at Home program. In the new program, at-home antigen tests will be provided for students who shared a classroom with an identified COVID-19 case. In-school rapid antigen and PCR / LAMP tests will be available for diagnostic testing . . . Schools should no longer conduct contact tracing.”
Duval County, FL reports on the district ending contact tracing at the instruction of the county Department of Health.
Honoye Central School District, NY gives an update to contact tracing in that state: “New York State has also given local health departments the ability to reduce contact tracing efforts. Ontario County Public Health (OCPH) provided feedback that students who have been quarantined due to an exposure on the bus or during breakfast/lunch have rarely contracted COVID from that exposure . . . In short: Rather than individual contact tracing, in the event that public health determines that there is a potential cluster of positive cases, a subsequent cluster investigation will ensue.”
Hazel Park Schools, MI, responding to County Health Department guidelines, “. . has decided it will no longer conduct contact tracing for positive COVID-19 cases. If there is a posiive case in your student’s classroom, an email will be sent to families . . . Hazel Park Schools will be reporting positive cases to the OCHD. From there, the OCHD will reach out to the positive case to determine close contacts. Given that Hazel Park Schools requires universal masking, offers daily COVID-19 testing, and hosts COVID-19 vaccination clinics regularly, we feel comfortable moving in this direction”
In Michigan, Ludington Area School District thanks the National Guard that helps it administer Covid 19 testing each morning: “They have admirable friendly demeanors and positive interactions with students every day!” In Cedar Springs Public Schools after using their 6 “snow days” the district is extending the school day by 3 minutes for the remainder of the year to be in compliance with Michigan’s required 1,098 hours of instruction per school year.
This note from Collinsville Community Unit School District 10, IL illustrates various adjustments involved in staying open for in-person, among them a shortened school day (30 minutes) for the next two weeks and the suspension of test-to-stay “due to the volume of rapid antigen tests our health staff is administering to symptomatic students.”
McCloud Schools, OK last week announced a return to in-person for all students but high schoolers. “Due to continued staff shortages at McLoud Public Schools, McLoud High School ONLY will remain in distance learning for the remainder of this week. We will use high school teachers who are available to substitute across the district to ensure a certified staff member in every classroom. . . “