The Crucial Beginnings of the 2021-22 School Year

Children with face mask back to school in classroom after covid-19 lockdown - Teacher helping kid to use computer doing hybrid education class after school reopening

Most schools have just begun their year in America. Some have been in session for a few weeks and the number of COVID infections have been significant. With the highly contagious delta variant our schools seem to be in a very different situation than last year. Thousands of students are being infected and we are learning just what this may mean in this school year as we attempt to manage this next phase of the pandemic. It appears that COVID may just be endemic to our society as a health problem that we will be contending with for a very long time. 

Lauren Camera has written an article in U.S. News & World Report about the ramifications and an apparent looming crisis in our schools where students are being infected. The next few days, weeks and months are going to be significant as we see the impact of COVID in students as we re-enter this school year. Here are some excerpts from this informative article:

More than 1,400 schools across 278 districts in 35 states that began the academic year in person have closed, according to Burbio, an organization that’s tracking how schools respond to the ongoing pandemic. The figures are up from 698 schools across 158 districts in 25 states.

While the spike in the school closure count is startling many education officials whose well-laid back-to-school plans have been foisted by the highly contagious delta variant and is creating major challenges for parents, they make up just a fraction of the 98,000 public schools across the country.

In more than half of the closures, the schools pivoted to virtual instruction, but roughly 40% of schools that closed for a period of time did so without any remote learning plan in place, according to Burbio. A little less than 5% of schools delayed school start – some due to logistical issues like hiring enough bus drivers – and about 3% moved to a hybrid format, where students receive both in-person and virtual instruction…

Education, Pandemic And Health Concept. African american male student raising hand for answer, wearing protective medical mask for protection from virus disease at high school lesson. New Normal

For all the criticism heaped upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government’s top public health officials have been clear about how school leaders can return students to classrooms safely – by deploying a series of risk-mitigation strategies, one layered upon the other.

The more coronavirus safety measures a school implements, the safer it is, with the gold standard being high vaccination rates among educators, staff and eligible students. And over the course of three relief packages, the federal government has directed $190 billion to K-12 schools so that, among other things, every child could return to a classroom this school year.

This article describes so much of what is happening in our country in these early weeks of the school year. Only time will tell if we will continue with these types of trends in varied parts of the country. The risk-mitigation strategies that are layered may be our best set of options to limit the impact of COVID. Our country is at a bit of a crossroads with this pandemic and we must rise to meet the challenges for the health and safety of our students! It seems to be a journey where we will discover even more of what we need to do in our schools. 

Gerry Vassar


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