Surging delta is now making new school year look just like last year

Students are now staying home, at least temporarily, in a growing number of states
By: | August 16, 2021

Hopes for a return to normal in-person instruction are being dashed as the delta variant forces dozens of districts to shift back online or close altogether.

Last week, Georgia and Mississippi saw the most closures but disruptions over student and staff infections and quarantines are now spreading across the country.

Bloomburg ISD in Texas has completely shut down this week because of high numbers of infected staff and will not even offer remote instruction. The district will use a state-provided COVID allocation so the missed days won’t have to be made up.

In San Antonio, North East ISD Superintendent Sean Maika said schools there could close if case numbers continue to rise. At one district school, where masks have even been optional, there have been 18 cases with 12 occurring through in-school transmission so far this school year. The school saw only 11 cases during 2020-21.

In a Facebook video, he urged families to take all precautions as a legal battle has erupted between Gov. Greg Abbott and several big school district over mask mandates.

“I strongly recommend we all wear face masks to reduce transmission on campus,” Maika said. “If spread continues, we may be forced to close schools.”

In neighboring New Mexico, two high schools have closed due to COVID outbreaks. Goddard High School in Roswell Independent Schools will conduct online learning until Aug. 23 due to a “fourth rapid response” at the building.

More from DA: Schools in at least 5 states have shut down as delta infects more students

And Carlsbad Municipal Schools has returned its high school and middle to remote learning after several new COVID cases in the past two weeks, Superintendent Gerry C. Washburn wrote in a letter to the community.

“We are trying to disrupt families and routines as little as possible and keep students in an in-person learning environment,” Washburn wrote. “We can navigate this if we work together to keep cases down.”

More closures in the deep South

In Georgia, Ware County Public Schools has shut down completely for the next two weeks, and will not offer virtual instruction due to “a sharp increase in the number of active positive COVID cases reported among students and staff members as well as the number of individuals who are currently quarantined,” the district said on its website. Classes there won’t resume until at least Sept. 7.

Burke County Public Schools, which reported 40 new student cases of COVID, has also shut down for the next two weeks.

Ben Hill County Schools will be virtual this week due to “a large increase in the number of students that are either positive or being quarantined for COVID-19 at all schools,” Superintendent J. Shawn Haralson said in a letter to the community.

“We understand that many will have ongoing concerns about how these virtual learning days will impact their families; please know that we will not have answers to all of them,” Haralson said. “Our plans will evolve daily as we continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19.”