In order for schools to remain open and safe, President Biden said last Thursday, they must demand a universal mask, vaccinations for teachers and staff, and regular testing for unvaccinated people. So far, America’s largest districts have managed to disguise themselves, but only a minority are implementing the others.
Of 100 major districts, including the largest urban districts in each state, nine in 10 require students to wear masks, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. Only a quarter require teachers to be vaccinated. Fifteen regularly test the students. And student quarantine policies are generally much less stringent than they were last spring.
New York City Public Schools, which start Monday, are an anomaly on several measures, including the lack of a remote option and a stricter approach with quarantines.
So far this school year, none of the 100 districts have stopped offering full-time in-person school due to Covid-19. But many plans were hastily revised as school approached and the Delta variant spread.
The biggest change has been to provide a remote option for families who are not ready to go back to school. Ninety-four of the 100 major districts now have this option – all except New York; Newark; El Paso; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Dayton, Ohio; and Manchester, NH In more than half of them, it is accessible to all students.
Another change was in the mask rules. Eighty-nine of the 100 major districts now require masks, up from half in mid-August.
Twenty-seven of the districts require staff to be vaccinated, up from four in mid-August. Only one, Los Angeles, has required vaccines for eligible students since last week. Fifteen regularly test students, compared to seven in mid-August.
Quarantine policies are perhaps the biggest change from last year. Now, in many cases, students who share a classroom with an infected person will not have to stay home to self-quarantine – and their families will not be notified that a classmate has been infected. .