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Testing coordinators are working to prepare for spring testing (or at least they were). The holiday break has resulted in a surge in positive COVID cases nationwide. As a result, school closings are accelerating across the U.S. due to teachers and drive staffing shortages. NATP will continue to monitor these nationwide trends, which will inevitably strain our educational system and in turn affect our spring testing plans.

Here is a glimpse of what we are seeing immediately post-holiday:

Where we are at

  • Nationally, the number of in-person closings has tripled since Dec. 19th
  • The speed of this Covid-19 surge led large districts like AtlantaDetroit, and Prince George’s County in Maryland to adopt remote instruction. 
  • At least 3,229 schools were closed in the first week of January, the highest for the year.

Trying to stay open

  • Districts are trying to open, but staffing shortages are expected.
  • State and city officials are reluctant to repeat last year, but they are community cases are high.
  • “We don’t think closing schools and sending kids home for virtual learning is the way to go.”
  • For now, “the safest place for our children is in a school building.”

Gone virtual

  • In New Jersey, 32% of schools had switched to virtual learning as of Jan. 4.
  • In metro Atlanta, the city’s school district along with those in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Rockdale counties all started the new year virtually due to infections among students and staff.

Delayed start

  • Two other large suburban Atlanta districts planned to resume classes later this week.
  • Cobb County schools will open Wednesday
  • Gwinnett County schools — the largest district in Georgia — will resume classes Thursday.
  • Public schools in Washington, D.C., are scheduled to reopen on Thursday.
  • Baltimore students and staff also are returning to public schools this week, but the district extended winter break through Wednesday to allow for testing.

Rough return

  • Students in Boston, meanwhile, returned to class Tuesday with more than 1,000 teachers and staff out with Covid.
  • Chicago Public Schools announced classes will be canceled on Wednesday if the teachers’ union votes to work remotely against the district’s wishes.
  • In New York City schools, the largest district in the country, a third of the system’s 1 million students didn’t show up on the first day back.

Staff shortages

  • NY City Department of Education officials are still tabulating staff absence totals.
    • Unions had asked for remote instruction and added testing ahead of classes, while warning of staff shortages due to teachers testing positive for Covid.
    • NYC hasn’t shifted to virtual or mandated proof of negative tests, might reconsider. 

Testing implications

  • These staff shortages have resulted in some districts calling on substitutes and parents to help with the shortage, bringing the quality of student instruction into question.
  • Others have called on current staff to take on additional responsibilities to help fill the gaps.
  • This may require adjustments to testing plans including:
    • change in testing room assignments – parents assigned to non-testing rooms
    • consolidating testing rooms due to limited staff
    • change in lunch plans due to limited cafeteria staff
    • more training for substitutes, etc.

Related articles:

  • U.S. Schools Close in Droves as Omicron Drives Staff Shortages
  • Colorado schools are calling in parents to serve as substitute teachers as the labor shortage rocks public schools
  • A substitute shortage in Aurora, Colorado means staff hired for intervention work are filling in for teachers instead. It’s one example of how hiring challenges are short-circuiting academic catch-up efforts. “We’re just kind of putting Band-Aids on things this year,” one specialist said.
  • Amid substitute shortages, school specialists are filling in while juggling their own work
  • In Newark, teachers say shortages are contributing to staff burnout and causing class sizes to balloon.
  • Cardona urges schools to use COVID relief money to hire staff, raise pay
  • Chicago are spending millions to hire more full-time substitutes.

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