Schools are shutting down in droves to block COVID over Thanksgiving break

"I, unfortunately, do not have good news," one superintendent told his Ohio community
By: | November 19, 2021

Aside from a wave of Thanksgiving closures, nothing better illustrates the dilemma schools face this fall than the see-sawing mask mandate at Bowling Green City Schools in Ohio.

And nothing may better illustrate the effectiveness of masks at preventing transmission in classrooms.

The district made masks optional on Oct. 28 only to reinstate its mandate this week as administrators grappled with a 161% increase in community cases since the beginning of the month.

“I, unfortunately, do not have good news,” Superintendent Francis Scruci wrote in a message to the community. “Our numbers are concerning and with the holidays around the corner and people moving indoors, we need to do all we can to slow the increases.”

The number of cases within Bowling Green City Schools stood at 12 On Nov. 4, a week after masks became optional. By Nov. 15, the district had 35 cases with more suspected cases awaiting test results, Scruci said.

In the Northeast, Massachusetts set a single-week record for in-school COVID transmission, with  3,257 new cases among students and 558 among staff, The Boston Globe reported Thursday.

As the nations braces for another COVID surge, many districts are now extending Thanksgiving break to an entire week as a virus buffer that will hopefully allow students to return for in-person instruction after the holiday.

In Minnesota, Shakopee Public Schools will close Monday and Tuesday after just this month experiencing its three highest weekly case rates since the pandemic began.

“The continuing increases in COVID-19 cases … have forced us to move three classrooms from in-person to distance learning. There are a handful of other classrooms in the district that are getting close to the threshold for being moved from in-person to distance learning,” the district said on its website Thursday.

Dansville Central School District in New York has shifted to remote learning through Nov. 30 as COVID rates have hit their highest levels in its Finger Lakes region since the pandemic began. The district has also experienced staff shortages that are causing vacancies on a daily basis.

“Last year there was a spike in positivity rates after the Thanksgiving holiday when active cases were much lower,” Superintendent Paul J. Alioto said in a message to the district. “We can expect the same to occur this year while positivity is much higher.”

 Los Lunas Schools in New Mexico is not closing but will conduct remote instruction on Nov. 22 and 23 due to health and safety concerns, the district announced on its website.

In Louisiana, students in Lafayette, Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Landry, Acadia, and Vermilion parishes are getting the entire week off, KLFY.com reported.

And in Michigan, one of the states hardest hit the fall, Hamilton Community is shutting down for the holiday after sharp increases in cases and quarantines. Administrators reported that 20% of students were absent this week.

“This will provide our students, staff and families a nine-day break which will provide an opportunity to clean our school buildings and a break for students and staff to get healthy,” the district said on its website.

Several other Michigan districts, including Grand Haven, Muskegon and Ypsilanti, have extended Thanksgiving break, MLive.com reported.

Ypsilanti Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross said the district extended the break to block transmission and alleviate some of the stress COVID’s disruptions have caused among staff, students and their families.

“As we consider the physical and mental health and safety of all of our students and staff, we believe this pause is necessary at this critical time, which will allow us to come back from Thanksgiving break strong,” Zachery-Ross said in a letter to the community.