Dozens of schools start 2022 with doors closed due to surging infections

Many more districts were closed Monday and Tuesday to allow students and staff to get COVID tests.
By: | January 3, 2022
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Students and teachers in dozens of districts, many in the Northeast, will spend days to weeks on remote learning to start 2022 due to the latest COVID wave. And additional districts were closed Monday and Tuesday to allow students and staff to get COVID tests before returning to their classrooms.

Though New York City schools began the year in person, two large districts on the city’s northern border, in Mount Vernon and Yonkers, have gone remote in efforts to stem the spread of COVID.

Mount Vernon City School District, which borders New York City, has made one of the longest planned shifts to virtual learning, keeping students home until at least Jan. 18, 2022. Administrators say the closure could last longer and thay they will implement weekly COVID testing when schools reopen. “I have been very reluctant to close schools, but given the current trends in COVID cases it would be risky not to do so,” Superintendent Kenneth R. Hamilton said in a message to the district.

Neighboring Yonkers Public Schools will be remote for the first week of 2022, with students expected to return in person on Jan. 10. The City School District of New Rochelle, another urban district just north of New York City, has also shifted to virtual learning until Jan. 10 due to sharp and rapid increases in COVID infection rates, Superintendent Jonathan Raymond said in a message to the district.

“The rates of infection and transmission have surpassed levels seen at the height of the pandemic last year,” Raymond said, adding that the district will launch a test-to-stay program when in-person classes resume.

Several of the largest districts in New Jersey will be remote for the first two weeks of the year, including the Camden City School DistrictElizabeth Public SchoolsNewark Public Schools, New Brunswick Public SchoolsPaterson Public Schools and Trenton Public Schools.

Elsewhere in the region, districts in Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania also began 2022 with periods of online learning. In Connecticut, districts in Stonington and Stratford are going remote Monday and Tuesday while Cambridge Public Schools in Massachusetts will remain remote until Jan. 5 as the district conducts COVID testing. In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Public Schools put 12 buildings on remote learning Monday due to staffing shortages.

Students in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland will continue remote learning through Jan. 14.

‘Adaptive pause” taken across the country

Students and staff in Atlanta Public Schools and several large neighboring districts will spend the first week of the year teaching and learning virtually.

The Clayton, Dekalb County, Fulton and Rockdale County districts will be remote until Jan. 10.

“Our local community spread is extremely significant,” Rockdale Superintendent Terry Oatts said. “The rationale for this decision is to allow for access to testing considering what likely will have been congregant holiday gatherings and travel associated with New Year celebrations.”

In Ohio, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will provide remote instruction until Jan. 10. “I would again urge those of you who are eligible to be vaccinated to take advantage of those opportunities as an additional way of protecting your health and the health of those around you,” Chief Executive Officer Eric S. Gordon said.

The East St. Louis School District in Illinois is closed to in-person learning until Jan. 18, after Martin Luther King Day. In announcing the adaptive pause, Superintendent Arthur R. Culver encouraged students and families to get booster shots or initial vaccinations.

Students in Milwaukee Public Schools will spend at least the first week of 2022 on remote learning. Superintendent Keith P. Posley said he hopes students can return to classrooms on Jan. 10. And at least two districts in Texas, Driscoll and Kingsville ISDs, will be remote for the first week of 2022. In neighboring New Mexico, Taos Municipal Schools will spend the first school week of 2022 on remote learning, and bring students back on Jan. 14.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District delayed reopening schools for a few days, until at least Jan. 6, due to the city’s all-time high rate of infection of 36%, Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti said.

All staff will be required to take a COVID test through the district before classes restart and administrators are encouraging all students to also get tested. Students who do not consent to the district’s testing program by Jan. 31 will be enrolled in a virtual school, Vitti said.

Also in Michigan, Flint Community Schools is closed an extra two days to start the new year and will then be on remote instruction from Jan. 5-7.  Ann Arbor Public Schools will reopen remotely on Jan. 5 and to in-person learning on Jan. 10.

Mixed bag of mask moves

Masks mandates returned with the new year in dozens of districts as administrators grappled with potential COVID outbreaks after the holidays. However, many administrators have chosen to keep masks optional despite the intensifying omicron surge.

In Ohio, for example, Steubenville City Schools, Edison Local School District and Harrison Hills School District are requiring masks for the first two weeks of the year while Indian Creek School District is only recommended, WTOV.com reported.

In Wyoming, the Teton County School District dropped its mask mandate on Jan. 1.