Students across the U.S. are planning school walkouts in protest of in-person learning as COVID-19 cases spike amid the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
There are nearly 3,500 schools actively disrupted as of Friday, according to Burbio’s K-12 School Opening Tracker, which tracks school closures for 1,200 districts, including the 200 largest school districts in the nation.
On Tuesday, New York City students staged a walkout in protest of in-person learning over what they said were concerns about testing and safety mitigation measures. NYC Mayor Eric Adams said school was the “safest place” for children during a Friday news conference.
The Biden administration on Friday threatened to cut Arizona’s coronavirus relief funding because of Governor Doug Ducey’s policies to continue in-person learning in the state.
According to the letter from the U.S. Treasury Department, Ducey’s programs, which award funds to parents who are seeking to remove their children from schools that shut down or implement a mask mandate, are not a permitted use of the money.
It’s 2022 but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s still 2020—especially if you have children enrolled in K-12 district schooling. Some parents are grappling this week with a return to, or threat of, remote learning first introduced nearly two years ago.
Fear of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus is leading school officials across the country to once again shutter schools. In Cleveland, for example, this first week of school for the new year is entirely remote for public school students. Several districts throughout Ohio are following suit, while others are re-imposing 2020 virus-related restrictions or extending the holiday break into this week.
Newark, New Jersey public schools announced they will be fully remote for the next two weeks, as did other districts throughout the state. Public schools in Atlanta will also be closed this week, reverting back to remote learning.
A former Planned Parenthood president and public health professional argued in a Thursday op-ed for The Washington Post that the rise in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant is not a reason to keep schools closed.
Dr. Leana Wen argued “both sides [of the school reopening debate] are wrong,” in her op-ed. “let’s agree that schools are essential and then work to reduce risk to get students back to in-person learning,” Wen wrote.
Wen called it “astounding” that governors in states like Texas, Georgia and Iowa are fighting against school mask mandates and that Florida’s surgeon general is discouraging testing in schools, attributing ” “low vaccine uptake among children” to “rampant right-wing disinformation.”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Tuesday pledged to continue in-person learning for students across the state, even if it requires unconventional methods.
Ducey created the Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program, which will provide financial assistance to families who may face unexpected barriers due to school closures.