School Year Delays, Virtual Learning Instituted Amid COVID-19 Spike
SAN ANTONIO — COVID-19 infection rates continue to complicate the school year as some districts have either delayed their start dates or shifted to virtual learning in response to the growing spike in cases.
As many schools nationwide have either moved to online teaching or pushed back the start of the semester, more continue to ponder taking similar actions as infections wreak havoc on staff, faculty and student bodies alike. Although virtual learning environments grew cumbersome as the pandemic waged on during the past two school years, most districts remain committed to making these changes much briefer this time around.
Public schools in Chicago, Illinois, canceled Wednesday classes after the Chicago Teachers Union voted in favor of moving to remote learning due to the rising number of COVID-19 infections, the union announced on Tuesday. At least two other school districts in the Chicago area, Niles Township High School District 219 and Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210, have also temporarily shifted to virtual learning environments.
Driscoll and Kingsville Independent School Districts in southern Texas both announced they would delay the start of the school year until Jan. 10 in order to hinder the spread of COVID-19. Freer Independent School District in Freer, Texas, announced on Wednesday that it would close for the remainder of the week due to a shortage of staff.
“In the last couple of days, we have been collecting information about the health status as it relates to COVID-19 from our students and staff,” Freer ISD officials said in a written statement announcing the cancellation. “As of right now we know that approximately 12% of our staff is positive for COVID-19. We are testing the rest of the staff today. Consequently, we have determined it is in the best interest for the safety of our students and staff that Freer ISD will be closed on Thursday and Friday. In addition, all activities have been canceled for those two days as well.”
Five schools in Elgin, Illinois, closed on Tuesday citing staffing shortages, although the rest of the schools in that district remain open until further notice. Other schools in the state, such as the Edwardsville Community District 7 Schools and the East St. Louis School District, have decided to institute virtual learning only temporarily as they contend with the effects of the influx of new cases.
Eleven schools in the Montgomery County Public Schools district of Rockville, Maryland, have taken a similar course of action by beginning a transition to virtual learning for students in response to the latest coronavirus spike. Baltimore County Public Schools has instituted virtual learning in more than 20 schools until at least Jan. 10, while Prince George’s County Public Schools will be teaching its students remotely through Jan. 14.
School officials in Lancaster County located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, closed on Monday to evaluate its staffing volume and to compose lesson plans for substitute teachers, although in-person classes resumed on Tuesday. The School District of Philadelphia, the eighth largest school district in the country, now has 81 of its 323 schools teaching students virtually until at least Jan. 10.
Some school districts planned ahead of time to push back the start date of their spring semesters rather than begin full-time remote schooling. Yonkers Public Schools in New York City will be remote for only the first week of the school year and the City School District of New Rochelle has chosen to do the same.
“We arrived at this decision after careful deliberation over the last few days, given local conditions,” New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Jonathan Raymond said in a written statement announcing the delay to in-person learning. “Our decision is designed to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. COVID-19 infection rates continue to sharply and rapidly increase, and the speed of transmission of highly contagious COVID variants represents another alarming component of this significant public-health crisis. The rates of infection and transmission have surpassed levels seen at the height of the pandemic last year.”
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