Over 80 school districts and charter networks have either closed or delayed classes in person for at least one school in over a dozen states. Others sent whole grades home or asked half of their students to return home on hybrid schedules.
The setbacks in rural areas that were among those who returned first dampen the hopes of a widespread, sustained return to school after two years of disruption by the pandemic.
Georgia's superintendents claim that the virus was spreading to schools in Georgia before students were sent home.
Eddie Morris, the superintendent of the 1,050-student Johnson County District in Georgia, stated that "we just couldn't handle it with that many staff out, having classes to cover, and the spread so quick." The district switched to online instruction last week, with 40% of its students being in isolation or quarantine.
According to Georgia state health data, more than one in 100 school-aged children tested positive for COVID-19 within the last two weeks. This is according Friday's public release. Children aged 5-17 years are more likely than adults to be positive for COVID-19.
Some schools across the country are beginning the school year later than they planned. After several employees received positive training, a Western Oregon district delayed the start of classes for a week.
Before the latest virus resurgence, hopes were high that schools nationwide could approach normalcy, moving beyond the stops and starts of remote learning that interfered with some parents' jobs and impaired many students' academic performance.
Many epidemiologists believe in person school is possible. This is despite the fact that students have suffered emotional, academic and social damage since the pandemic infected American schools in March 2020.
Experts say that in some cases the reversals are due to a careless attitude by districts who acted as though the pandemic was over.
It's not over, people need to realize that. "It's a real issue, a real health problem," Dr. Tina Tan of Northwestern University, who is the American Academy of Pediatrics Section for Infectious Diseases Chair, said. You must do all you can to stop the spread of COVID within the school.
Tan and others believe that this means more than just masks in schools. It also includes a push for vaccinations, social distancing and ventilation, as well as multiple layers of protection.
Dairean Dowling Aguirre's 8 year-old son was just two weeks into his school year when he, along with other third-graders, were sent home last Wednesday in Cottonwood.
He took online classes last year, and was thrilled when his parents allowed him to attend school in person. Dowling-Aguirre stated that she became more anxious as the number of infections rose. She said that masks were not required in her son’s class and that less than 20% of students wore them.
She received a call from her principal stating that her son had been exposed. Her son would need to be home for at least one week. Her mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and her parents watched her son after school.
She said, "It's certainly a big concern about how it will go from hereon in and how school's going it handle it."
More than 68,000 Georgia students have been affected by the shutdowns, which has affected 4% of Georgia's public schools. Superintendents claim they have seen more cases and quarantines this year than last year when rural districts offered in-person classes to most students.