4 states have suffered bulk of COVID closures so far this school year

The four states, all in the South, have each had at least 250 schools close temporarily since August
By: | October 1, 2021

The bulk of the school COVID closures this summer and fall occurred in just four states, including some in which governors have battled superintendents over mask mandates, the CDC reports.

Tennessee led the nation with nearly 400 school closures as of Sept. 17, according to new CDC data covering 73% of school districts. Georgia, Kentucky and Texas were next on the list, all with between 250 and 300 closures since early August.

No other states had recorded more than 100 school closures, though Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia each saw more than 50.

Most of this school year’s closures have been temporary, with administrators reopening classrooms after quarantines and as community case rates began to drop.

School closings tracker: Where districts are shutting down again due to COVID-19 outbreaks

Most (96%) public and private schools have stayed open for full in-person learning but about 1,800 schools have shut down due to COVID outbreaks, “affecting the education and well-being of 933,000 students,” the CDC says. Only a small number of districts, in a handful of states, are offering remote instruction, the data also shows.

The CDC continues to recommend universal masking in schools.

Texas showdown

The U.S. Department of Justice this week waded into the battle over mask mandates in Texas. The agency is backing families of children with disabilities in their lawsuit to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates, The New York Times reported.

“Some parents of children at heightened COVID-19 risk will likely keep their children at home—even though the children could safely attend school if mask protocols could be put in place,” the department said in the statement filed with the court.

“Other parents of children at heightened COVID-19 risk—such as parents who cannot be at home during the day—may have no choice but to send their children to school each day, knowing that their children’s health, and even their lives, may be at risk because those in close contact with their children may not be wearing masks and there is nothing the school can do about it.”

Quarantine questions

Some states, meanwhile, are shifting their quarantine policies as COVID conditions evolve. The Louisiana Department of Education now allows the district a “parent choice option” about keeping students home.

In districts that adopt the policy, parents can decide whether to quarantine students who are considered close contacts for a COVID exposure. Parents will be offered a free COVID test for the student. Florida has enacted a similar policy.

“We can no longer ignore the unintended academic consequences of our students unnecessarily missing school,” State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said in a statement. “This new, common-sense option empowers parents and local communities with the authority to make health-related decisions for their students.”

Louisiana’s parent choice option does not change the requirement to isolate any student who develops symptoms or tests positive.