Schools in at least 5 states have shut down as delta infects more students

NEA, the nation's largest teachers union, backs vaccine mandates for its members
By: | August 17, 2021
Schools in the South and Midwest are beginning to shut down due to spikes in COVID cases among students and staff.Schools in the South and Midwest are beginning to shut down due to spikes in COVID cases among students and staff.

COVID clusters fueled by the delta variant have forced schools and districts in the South to go to online learning just weeks after reopening in person.

The biggest impacts so far have been felt in Georgia and Mississippi.

The Randolph County School System in Georgia has gone virtual until at least Aug. 23 after several students tested positive for COVID, Superintendent Tangela Madge announced on the district’s website.

“Parents, it is imperative that you assist us during this most difficult time,” Madge wrote in another post. “No matter how much we ensure that our campuses are safe, what students do outside the school environment makes the most impact. How we control the spread INSIDE the district depends on how well parents, students, and community members control the spread OUTSIDE the district.”

The Macon County School System, a three-building district in Georgia, will be fully virtual from Aug. 16 to Aug. 27. The district has also reinstated a mask mandate for all students and staff.

Talbot County Schools, another small district, has also gone virtual after a student tested positive for COVID on Aug. 4, according to its website. Students there are expected to return to in-person learning on Aug. 16.

The Crisp County School System has placed its high school on virtual learning through Aug. 23 due to “a spike in cases,” the district announced on Facebook.


More from DA: California now requires that teachers all get vaccinated or face weekly testing


Elementary schools in a much bigger suburban Atlanta district have also shut down due to COVID. Clayton County Public Schools pivoted an elementary school to virtual learning “as a precaution” until Aug. 30, the district announced on Twitter.

Another elementary school in the district has switched to virtual until at least the end of this week.

At least two other small Georgia districts have gone virtual so far this month, according to AL.com.

Support for teacher vaccine mandates

The day after California became the first state in the nation to require teachers and all other school staff to get vaccinated or face weekly testing, the nation’s largest teachers union weighed in with its support.

With 90% of its members reporting they’ve been vaccinated, NEA President Becky Pringle said teachers should have a voice in how mandates are implemented. For example, districts should offer paid leave to allow educators to get vaccinated and sure there are convenient vaccination sites.

Administrators and staff must also work together to maintain other COVID precautions, including testing, tracing, masking, distancing, hand washing, ventilation, cleaning, and disinfection, Pringle said.

“No one wants to be back in the classroom with their students more than educators, and student safety is our number one priority,” Pringle said.“As we enter a new school year amidst a rapidly spreading Delta variant and lagging public vaccination rates, it is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe.”

More shifts back online

In Indiana, “the high rate of positive cases and the extremely high rate of student in quarantine” has forced Scott County School District 1 to shift to virtual learning until at least Aug. 23, the district announced on its Facebook page.

“As always, the health and safety of our students is our number one priority. We will continue to monitor the positivity rate in our county and will react accordingly,” the district said.

About 5,000 students, educators and school staff have been quarantined since the first day of school in Mississippi, where many districts made masks optional, U.S. News & World Report reported.

Lamar County School District in Mississippi has shifted at least six schools to virtual learning, WTVJ.com reported.

And in Arizona, the Ash Fork School District shut down earlier in August due to “many staff members across the District being affected by COVID,” according to an announcement by Superintendent Seth Staples on YouTube.

A private school near Baton Rouge, Louisiana—Ascension Catholic School—moved online after more than a dozen students contracted COVID, WBRZ.com reported.