Are Schools Returning to Virtual or Resuming in-Person Amid Surge in Omicron?

Are Schools Returning to Virtual or Resuming in-Person Amid Surge in Omicron?

COVID-19 has been a major challenge for schools. From shutting down in March 2020 to reopening and trying to stay open, the task has been varied and, in some cases, monumental.

Parents of K-12 students are staring down “a return to the drudgery of school through a screen, child care crises, and restless young bodies, penned inside for winter,” The New York Times reports.

This year is the third school year since the pandemic began and has presented its promises and challenges, from vaccines being available to millions of students to new “test-to-stay” protocols and more transmissible variants. 

As the omicron variant surges nationwide, schools reflect the high rates of community transmission — forcing officials to reassess their protocols and double down efforts to keep classrooms open and safe in the new year.

Dekalb County recently announced that the mask policy for DeKalb County Schools would remain in place when the new semester starts on January 4. According to the district website, officials are set to resume in-person instruction on that day but will continue to monitor the situation. The district will resume its COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics in the New Year.

On Monday, Waco, Texas officials announced that the school district will continue its mask mandate in 2022 while expanding COVID-19 testing.

“All of our students and faculty are wearing masks in the classroom and all of our building facilities. Also, we have ongoing vaccination clinics that will resume when school starts again,” said Alice Jauregui, Executive Director of Communications for the Wako Independent School District.

“We do feel that we do have a strong plan in place and will continue to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe,” Jauregui said in a statement.

On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to the school superintendents urging them to continue enforcing mask mandates upon return and test staff and students regularly.

It appears most schools are staying the course and planning to resume in-person school rather than a switch to virtual, continuing to utilize safety measures like mask mandates to keep schools open. However, some have closed: The Pontiac School District on Thursday announced that students would begin the year in virtual school until January 18.

Two schools in South Jersey also announced that they’d be fully remote to start the year. Camden City School District is postponing its in-person return for two weeks, and Pennsauken Public Schools will be virtual for the first week of January.

A handful of other districts, including Cheltenham, have warned parents that a pause on in-person learning is a possibility and that they plan to consult with medical experts and decide by the end of the week. 

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, more than a dozen public school superintendents in Montgomery County are scheduled to meet Thursday virtually with county health officials to review infection data and assess their plans.

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