Concerns are growing about the impact the virus could have over the next several weeks as US students return to school.
In Atlanta, at least five metro-area school districts will begin with remote learning this week, as students prepare to return from the holiday break amid rising cases in the region. And in Washington, DC, public schools will be closed until Thursday as a winter storm thwarted plans for students and staff to pick up Covid-19 tests on Monday.
Other school officials are also changing their Covid-19 policies due to the explosion of the Omicron variant. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is requiring all adults entering its buildings and buses to wear masks upon return and has strongly encouraged students to wear masks as well.
Dr. Stanley Spinner, chief medical officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics, told CNN’s Pamela Brown, “When our largest school system gets back, I think we are going to see our numbers increasing even more unfortunately as a result of that,”
While there may be “bumps in the road” as schools attempt to reopen in the new year amid a record surge in Covid-19 cases, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said students have suffered enough and need to be back in class.
“Our expectation is for schools to be open full-time for students for in person learning,” Cardona said on Fox News Sunday, noting the science has improved nearly two years into the pandemic and vaccines are available for school-aged children. “There’s a level of urgency that we shouldn’t lose around making sure that our children learn in person.”
As schools restart under competing pressures, many teachers are asking officials to utilize distance learning while the latest wave is at its peak. In Massachusetts, teachers called for state officials to close schools during the worst of the surge, but were rebuffed by the education commissioner and Gov. Charlie Baker.
“There are a lot of tools and capabilities available to keep kids and adults safe in school, and we should do everything in our power to make sure that kids stay in school,” Baker said, while also highlighting the state’s test and stay program.
The picture was similar in New York City, where Mayor Eric Adams felt schools must remain open and rejected a request from the teachers union to begin the month with remote learning until the current wave of the virus subsides.
Read more about how schools are preparing for the new semester here.