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(NEW YORK) – In a mishmash of face-to-face, remote and delayed re-openings, millions of students across the country are set to return to school after several weeks of winter vacation.
School districts in every state are using a variety of approaches and precautions to determine how best to protect children and staff amid the latest and largest outbreak of COVID-19 on record.
The return to school comes as the hospital admission rate among children has reached its peak in the pandemic. Pediatric case rates are also approaching record highs.
During an appearance on ABC News‘ This week Dr Anthony Fauci told George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that even with the surge, he was still in favor of keeping children in school as much as possible.
“I beg parents to seriously consider vaccinating their children, wearing masks in school settings, getting tests to stay when children are infected,” Fauci said. “I think all of these things put together, it’s safe enough to get these kids back to school, outweighed by the deleterious effects of keeping them out.”
Many districts in major cities across the country are moving forward with plans to reopen, with some requiring face masks or tests on students and staff before return as an added precaution. However, dozens of other districts – including Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan – are remotely starting the spring term.
Citing a rapid rise in infections locally, Atlanta public schools will open virtually Tuesday for all students and staff. The city plans to reopen in-person education on Jan. 10, according to public guidelines from the school district.
All staff are required to report to work on Monday, January 3 for mandatory COVID-19 surveillance tests.
Boston students will return to class on Tuesday as the district rolls out its share of state-provided rapid COVID-19 tests.
Over the weekend, members of the Massachusetts National Guard began providing 227,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to school districts across the state for use by teachers and staff.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced Monday that so far 155 teachers and school staff have reported positive COVID-19 tests.
In Chicago, students returned to class on Monday, according to public guidelines from the school district.
Testing is only required for unvaccinated students who have traveled to an “orange” state, according to the city’s travel guidelines, which now include all states except Montana.
Unvaccinated students who are close contacts of a known case of COVID-19 should stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days. Vaccinated students who are in close contact can attend school as long as they are free of symptoms of COVID-19.
The district also distributed 150,000 take-home test kits to schools to support return.
Citing a “significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the community,” the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will switch to distance learning for the week of January 3.
After a professional day for the staff, students will log in and follow their class schedules from Tuesday to Friday.
The spring semester in Detroit won’t start until later this week at the earliest.
Employees will be required to take a COVID-19 test on Monday and Tuesday in the district, according to public guidelines from the school district. All students are also encouraged to take a test in the district this week.
The district said it couldn’t start the semester online because not all of its students had laptops.
School officials said they plan to announce their plans for Thursday and Friday Wednesday afternoon or evening.
Staff at all Los Angeles County schools are required to wear upgraded masks – a surgical mask or higher-level PPE, according to the latest district guidelines. It is “strongly recommended” that students wear properly fitted masks.
The district also strongly recommends that all eligible staff and students receive a booster injection.
COVID-19 testing is required for all close contacts who are allowed to stay in school immediately after exposure, regardless of vaccination or booster status.
All staff will be required to wear face masks inside any Miami-Dade County public school facility. Students are not required to wear face coverings, but masks are “strongly encouraged”.
Improved disinfection and cleaning protocols for classrooms and common areas, which were implemented at the start of the pandemic, will continue, according to the district.
New York City
Starting Monday, schools in New York City will distribute take-home COVID-19 tests to any student or staff member who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been potentially exposed in a classroom where a positive case was identified.
“The number of transmissions is low; your children are in a safe space to learn and continue to thrive. We have lost almost two years of educationâ¦ we cannot do it again,” said the mayor of New York, Eric Adams, in Stephanopoulos. This week.
Unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 who have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case will no longer need to be quarantined, as long as they are free of symptoms and do not have a positive COVID-19 test.
After an exhibition, all students and adults will receive a take-home rapid test kit and take two tests over five days. For 3-K and Pre-K students, the quarantine policy will remain the same, meaning that students who were in the vicinity of a positive case will still need to be quarantined for 10 days.
Newark Public Schools began the semester Monday with distance education that will continue through January 14. The school plans to return to teaching in person on January 18.
In-person school in Seattle is scheduled to resume on Tuesday. COVID-19 tests are available Monday for students and staff.
Last month, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that DC Public Schools would require all students and staff to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result before returning to school on Thursday.
Schools were closed Monday due to inclement weather in the district.
The district will provide rapid and free antigen testing on Tuesday and Wednesday. DCPS families will need to upload their child’s negative test results.
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