Variant is dashing leaders’ hopes to make 2022 a year of in-person learning

School District of Philadelphia moves 81 schools to virtual learning for the first week of 2022.
By: | January 4, 2022
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More than 80 Philadelphia schools are closed due to omicron as teachers’ unions squared off with administrators in Chicago and New York over in-person learning.

The School District of Philadelphia has moved 81 of its more than 330 schools to virtual learning until at least Jan. 10 due to the impact of COVID on staff and students. “The COVID-19 situation and its impact on our ability to safely staff our schools is fast-moving,” Superintendent William Hite said in a message to the district. “We know that the uncertainties created by this rapidly changing environment are difficult for many families.”

The district is again distributing Chromebooks and is arranging meals for students learning remotely.

Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland has moved more than 20 schools to virtual learning until at least Jan. 10. Other large urban districts, including Atlanta, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Newark in New Jersey, Prince Georges County in Maryland and Yonkers in New York, have gone remote for the first week or two weeks of 2022.

Elsewhere in the Northeast, which seems to be the region hardest hit by closures this week, Phillipsburg School District has shifted to remote instruction through Jan. 14 “due to overwhelming COVID-related staffing shortages,” Superintendent Gregory A. Troxell said. “Skyrocketing cases” are forcing the Haddon Heights School District to move to remote learning until after Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 17.

Also in New Jersey, Pennsauken Public Schools has moved to virtual learning until Jan. 10 and several buildings in Christina Public Schools went remote on Jan. 4. Little Silver Public Schools will operate on half-days of virtual learning until Jan. 10. “This was never our intention, but in light of the number of positive student and staff cases, as well as those who are symptomatic and awaiting test results, it is the most prudent course of action,” Acting Superintendent Eric Platt said.


K-12 closings tracker: Remote learning rings in the new year across the country 


In Connecticut, Ansonia Public Schools has closed completely through Jan. 7 and will not move to virtual instruction.

In Ohio, Columbus City Schools moved 13 schools to virtual learning and reopened three other buildings on Tuesday. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Northridge Local Schools will provide remote instruction until Jan. 10.

New hotspots

Closures are also spreading sharply in the Upper Midwest. In Michigan, the School District of the City of Pontiac has made the “difficult decision” to move to remote learning for two weeks until Jan. 18.  Ann Arbor Public Schools will reopen remotely on Jan. 5 and to in-person learning on Jan. 10. Students in the Lansing School District will receive virtual instruction through Jan. 10. “We are hopeful this short-term pause to face-to-face learning will play a positive role in slowing the spread of this disease,” Pontiac Superintendent Kelley Williams said on Facebook.

In the Chicago area, Niles Township High School District 219 is on remote learning for the next two weeks while Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 has gone virtual through Jan. 10. Both districts cited staffing shortages as a reason for the shift.

Just across the state line in Indiana, the Gary Community School Corporation and School City of Hammond, both urban districts, have gone virtual until Jan. 10.

Greendale Schools in Wisconsin has moved its middle and high schools to virtual learning until Jan. 10 as administrators grapple with staffing availability, Superintendent Kim Amidzich said.

And in the Southeast, the Sylacauga City School District in Alabama has gone remote for the rest of the week. “This decision has not been made lightly and is based on the high positivity rate being reported from the medical community over the holiday weekend,” Superintendent Michele Eller said. “I am well aware as an educator that students learn best when they are face-to-face with their teachers, but we cannot deny the fact that this variant is highly transmissible and fast-moving.”

In neighboring Georgia, Atlanta Public Schools and the Clayton, Dekalb County, Fulton and Rockdale County districts will be remote until Jan. 10.

Teachers union turmoil

Teachers in a handful of large districts are pushing back against administrators’ decisions to start 2022 in person. Members of the Chicago Teachers Union are threatening to walk off the job Wednesday over Chicago Public Schools’ safety precautions, which they feel are putting teachers at risk, WBEZ.org reports.

Chicago teachers want the option to work remotely unless the district fortifies its COVID-prevention protocols, according to WBEZ.com.

A group of New York City teachers has sued to force the district to move to remote learning for the first two weeks, the New York Post reported. The teachers want the district to implement universal testing and require all students and staff to submit a negative PCR test before classrooms reopens, according to the Post.