First found in South Africa, a new Covid-19 variant Omicron, now touching every corner of American lives. Again, schools and businesses across the U.S. are making some operational changes due to this Omicron wave. Schools across the country are closing days ahead of winter break.
Omicron Surge Forced Students To Transition To Remote Learning
As per Burbio’s report, the number of school disruptions has increased due to both increasing Covid-19 cases because of new variant Omicron as well as challenges arising from educator and staff shortages.
Monica Goldson, CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, made an announcement for a return to virtual learning this week as increasing positivity rates have significantly caused anxiety among many school communities. One of the reasons for staff shortages in schools is because of being at risk of one’s health and the well-being of the school community, educators, administrators, and other school staff must have to deliver in-person instructions and other activities.
At the start of the school year 2021-2022, schools were struggling to reopen over the concern of the delta variant. While no school district has completely closed as that occurred during the 2020-2021 school year, many school districts declared remote learning until Jan 14.
According to Burbio’s statistics, 646 schools endured disruptions which are nearly double the number since the previous week. Out of these schools, around 400 schools are already returning to virtual learning starting from Jan 2.
Some of the school districts started closing schools to in-person instruction one day a week for the month of December, while some districts announced that schools would be closed for the rest of the calendar year.
Whitter Elementary School, in Washington, D.C., has closed its doors due to 14 positive cases among students, sending close contact into mandatory quarantine.
After becoming eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine last month, about 20% of 5-11 years old children have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. As the vaccination rate among children is very low, the schools are now the most vulnerable spaces to get infected which is contradictory to the evidence that shows schools remain one of the safest spaces for children concerning the risk of transmission.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reported around 164,000 coronavirus cases in children in the first week of December, which was the highest number.
The Biden administration introduced a new strategy, ‘Test-To-Stay,’ to keep children in school, which allows children who are exposed to the coronavirus to stay in school if they test negative at least twice during the week after exposure. This is a promising strategy that can minimize quarantines and keep students safe in classrooms. This new strategy would replace the current CDC guidelines under which, children exposed to the coronavirus must quarantine for up to 10 days. This policy made it difficult for students to regain academic, social, and emotional losses.
The Biden administration also advised school officials to use federal coronavirus-relief funds to address teacher and staff shortages that threaten schools’ reopening.
Cornell University and Princeton University also started following this closure trend, by making vaccinations mandatory for students and shifting all exams to online formats.
As per NWEA research, these school closures are affecting America’s kids’ grades on the report card, which shows, higher achievers made gains with the consistent projected growth, whereas lower achievers were falling short of growth projections. Math and reading scores declined extremely for 9-13 years old children.
If virtual learning continues to rise, eliminating these gaps will be a difficult task. In all situations wearing your masks consistently and correctly is important.