School is off to a rocky start, as some school districts that opened in person are already reverting to virtual learning due to COVID outbreaks.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, especially among the unvaccinated, some school districts are sending students home after only a few days in the classroom.
In Georgia, most public schools returned to class the week of August 2 or August 9. Since then, four districts in the state scrapped in-person learning and switched to remote learning.
“The difference now in this outbreak that we see (versus) the outbreak that happened last school year is that this seems to be more centered on kids, rather than adults, so that scares me to death,” Talbot County Superintendent Jack Catrett told WTVM-TV. In addition to Talbot County, the other Georgia districts that went remote are Macon County, Taliaferro and Glascock.
In Mississippi, six districts in Lamar County near Hattiesburg started back in late July and reverted to virtual learning a week later, due to hundreds of students and staff testing positive for Covid, according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.
Steven Hampton, superintendent of the Lamar County School District, said in a statement to TODAY, "We are following the Mississippi Department of Health guidelines on quarantining schools due to the number of outbreaks we had in each school." The schools will re-open in person again, he said, once the quarantine period is complete.
Also in Mississippi, the Pearl River County School District in Carriere, about an hour northeast of New Orleans, suspended in-person school and returned to virtual learning after a COVID outbreak. The high school opened on August 5 with no mask mandate, and by the second week of school had quarantined 394 members of its roughly 1,000-member student body, reported the Mississippi Free Press.
The four Georgia districts that reverted to virtual learning combine to serve less than one percent of Georgia’s 1.7 million students, according to The Associated Press. But this small sample is a troubling one for parents, teachers and students across the country who are looking forward to the start of in-person school.
Some local districts and states have contingency plans in place to switch from in-person to remote learning if needed. Every school district is handling schooling during the pandemic differently.
In Texas, Frisco Independent School District initially planned for in-person school starting August 12. But last week, it offered a temporary virtual option for students grade six and under. In New Jersey, River Vale Public schools are giving students the option of starting in-person or remotely. In Arkansas, the state has instructed schools to begin in-person, and they must develop contingency plans specific to their school and student needs.
Bixby Public Schools in Oklahoma begins August 20 at a “level 0,” signifying clearance for normal school activities. Levels one (green) and two (yellow) incrementally increase safety measures. At level three (red), schools go fully remote.
Dallas Intermediate School District, the second largest in Texas, started in-person last week but is considering virtual options. The district recently announced it would require face masks on school property.
"I'm willing to take a look and see what we can do because things have changed, the narrative has changed in the last six weeks," district superintendent Michael Hinojosa told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth last week. "I might have to have the option in my back pocket because I don't want kids to not be in school somewhere."