closures, pivot to virtual montage as Omicron overwhelms schools | Education News

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Classes were canceled for day four in Chicago on Monday as negotiations continued between union leaders and city officials over how to safely deliver in-person learning in the nation’s third largest school district amid an increase in coronavirus infections.

“For the sake of fairness and consideration for parents who must prepare, classes will be canceled again on Monday,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted on Sunday evening. “Although we negotiated hard throughout the day, there hasn’t been enough progress for us to predict a return to class tomorrow.”

The Chicago Teachers Union’s latest proposal includes a district-wide return to distance learning until at least January 18 and a COVID-19 screening program that tests 10% of students and staff each week at each school and allows students to withdraw. the randomized test – instead of participating. He is also pushing for a policy that would return individual schools to distance learning when 25% or more of staff are absent due to COVID-19 infections, when 30% or more of children in an elementary school test positive and when 25% or more of high school students test positive.

But Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez insisted they wouldn’t bless a district-wide virtual learning hub, which research shows has resulted in a significant school loss and triggered a severe adolescent mental health crisis.

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“We didn’t just sit back and let COVID rage through our schools,” Lightfoot said earlier Sunday in an interview on “Meet the Press”. “When it was necessary to close a classroom or to close a school, to switch to distance learning, we did it. “

Negotiations continued on Monday, the two sides pledged to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, schools across the country are facing increasing barriers to staying in person due to the highly transmissible variant of omicron causing an increase in infections and leaving schools understaffed, especially in school systems across the country. major cities of the country.

School closures hit their highest total for the school year last week, according to the school monitoring site Burbio. As of December 31, the site had tracked 1,591 schools that had announced closings or virtual education for the first week of January – last week – but by the end of the week, it had identified 5,409.

More than 90 Philadelphia schools are going virtual, as is the entire Jefferson County, Kentucky’s largest school district serving 100,000 students. Students in Baltimore County, Maryland, complete independent schoolwork Monday and Tuesday as educators at 178 schools in the district prepare for distance school if the district decides to change its learning model.
Schools are still virtual in Detroit, where the city’s positivity rate hovers around 40%. Students there are tentatively scheduled to return to in-person learning on January 18.

In an interesting new strategy being rolled out this week by some schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or vaccinated students with symptoms of the coronavirus are urged to stay home this week for distance learning, while that vaccinated children without symptoms are referred to school.

Meanwhile, children in Los Angeles returned to school on Monday amid the highest infection rate on record for staff and students – 13.5%, or 10 times what it was before the winter vacation. Students and staff are required to test before returning to class.

“We try to do as much as possible to ensure that we maintain the highest safety standards in our schools,” Acting Superintendent Megan Reilly said. told reporters. “We keep our schools safer than the general public. Personally, I want everyone to go back to school.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and School Chancellor David Banks have been using the same strategy, keeping schools open and running in person since the students returned last week – even as staff shortages increase and the rate in student attendance fell to 44.5% on Friday.

In an effort to reduce the impact of staff shortages, last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines on how students, teachers, and school staff should quarantine and isolate s ‘they have tested positive or have been exposed to the coronavirus – shortening its recommendation from 10 days to five days.

The change reflects the quarantine and isolation guidelines the center has updated for healthcare workers and the general public and comes as more school districts also adopt the CDC’s test to stay policy – a separate set of recommendations that allow staff and students who have been exposed to the coronavirus but are asymptomatic to continue attending school as long as they are negative at least twice the following week.

“I know many teachers and parents are concerned about the omicron variant,” CDC director Rochelle Walenksy said on Friday during a press call. “Coming back after the holidays, many schools have reverted to virtual learning due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in their communities, largely due to the omicron variant. “

“Our updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine and our previous publications and the ongoing evaluation of testing protocols for staying in schools provide the tools to reopen these schools for in-person learning and keep them open for. the rest of the school year, “she said.

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