Omicron Upends Return to Schools in U.S.

Not 2020 again? Tell that to parents where COVID cases, test shortages are closing schools.

For some of America’s schools, 2022 sure feels a lot like 2020 as omicron upends return to schools in U.S.

A majority of schools opened in-person Monday for their spring semester start, but a growing number have shifted abruptly to remote learning again amid the omicron-fueled surge in COVID-19 infections and subsequent staffing shortages.

Public and scientific sentiment is on the side of in-person learning, and parent groups nationwide called Monday for schools to stay open. But districts in and around  Detroit, Atlanta, Newark, New Jersey, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as well as individual schools elsewhere, nonetheless reverted to virtual learning for days or weeks, mostly because of staff shortages due to illness or quarantine. 

Plans have flip-flopped quickly. Atlanta Public Schools told parents Friday schools would be open in-person Monday, then changed course Saturday to announce a week of virtual classes until Jan. 10 because of a “rapid rise in cases” in the metro Atlanta area.

“We recognize there may be some bumps in the road, especially this upcoming week when superintendents, who are working really hard across the country, are getting calls saying that some of their schools may have 5 to 10% of their staff not available,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said on Fox News Sunday.

It’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

As of 6 p.m. Monday, 3,229 schools nationwide had closed for the week starting Jan. 2, according to Burbio, which tracks school calendars. After just one school day, that figure is already well above the previous weekly record of school closures this academic year — 2,846 buildings closed the week of Nov. 7. And many districts haven’t officially returned for the second semester yet.

Sara Bode, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and the medical adviser to Columbus Public Schools, said the situation is evolving — and it looks different from community to community.

Source: USA TODAY

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