The new school year is beginning to look like the old one.
With the delta variant of COVID-19 still raging, school districts across the country are facing outbreaks in their communities, and many are closing their physical classrooms just days or weeks into the school year.
District Administration, a trade publication for K-12 school districts, has compiled an extensive tracker of closures across more than a dozen states, from Alabama to California. The outlet notes that Southern states have so far seen the worst of it.
The closures come as debates over mask mandates and other COVID safety measures are causing fierce community divisions, with school meetings erupting in brawls and Republican governors instituting statewide bans on face-covering requirements. All this as some states flirt with record high COVID-19 infections and hospitalization rates.
In a demonstration of how easily the delta variant can spread in a school setting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week published the results of an outbreak in Marin County, California, that took place earlier this year after an unvaccinated teacher exposed a group of elementary school students. Most of those who were infected reported symptoms but, importantly, no one was hospitalized.
President Biden has said that schools “can and must” remain open this fall, echoing officials around the world who point out the growing societal costs of endless school disruptions. In a statement on Monday, WHO and UNICEF officials urged schools in Europe and Central Asia to stay open as millions of children return to classrooms in those regions. They also said schools should adopt additional measures—including prioritizing teachers in vaccine rollout plans—to minimize the spread of COVID in classrooms.
You can check out the full list of school closings by DA here.