Schools across the country are facing the possibility of closures with days to go before winter break as coronavirus cases rise sharply in many places.
While no district in the country has fully closed schools to the extent that occurred during the majority of the 2020-2021 school year, a substantial uptick in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the omicron variant have led numerous municipalities to implement stricter restrictions.
In Detroit, the school district has been closing schools to in-person instruction one day a week for the month of December, and in Washington, D.C., school district officials announced that one school would be closed for the rest of the calendar year.
In Maryland’s Prince George’s County, a suburb of Washington, two middle schools and a charter school will only offer online instruction through Jan. 3.
DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO GO ONLINE ON FRIDAYS, CITING COVID-19 CASES
The school districts have mainly cited a rise in coronavirus cases among students and staff, but the regions in which the schools reside have also seen substantial increases in community transmission.
In Washington, D.C., the school that closed its doors, Whittier Elementary School, had 14 positive cases among students, sending scores of close contacts into mandatory quarantines.
Erika Sanzi, the director of outreach for Parents Defending Education, a parent activist group, blamed teachers unions for the growing school closure trend.
"The union coordination around school closures is indisputable, and we shouldn't be surprised — their mission is to get the most time off for adults, regardless of the catastrophic impact on students," Sanzi said. "There are large districts that think it is acceptable to provide nothing to students 21 months into this pandemic."
"Parents can no longer rely on schools being open or offering a shred of instruction — it is time to offer them their tax dollars so that they may find a school that means it when they say they will be open for business five days a week," she added.
The closure trend has also made its way into higher education, where several universities, including Cornell University and Princeton University, which have made vaccinations mandatory for students, already closed their classroom doors, shifting all exams to online formats.
On the West Coast, Stanford University became the latest to announce it would be moving online in January. In-person classes will resume on Jan. 18, after two weeks of remote instruction. California recently announced that a statewide mask mandate would be reinstated.
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Meanwhile, Georgetown University in Washington announced that dining areas would just have a grab-and-go menu and students would be expected to eat in their dorms, but exams would still be administered in person.