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Colleges aren’t the only schools that have had to close their doors soon after reopening.

And in some cases, school officials blame the change in their plans on families in their communities, where graduation and late summer parties have resulted in spikes in positive COVID-19 cases.

This is what happened in the Carle Place school district in Long Island, New York, where Superintendent Christine A. Finn announced that the school would begin with distance learning last Wednesday rather than in person.

“We have no choice but to put the safety of our staff and students first,” he said in a letter linking many of the new positive COVID-19 cases in the community to attending parties where some positive outcomes had close contact. with students.

“Since we’re learning the hard way, the actions of the few can impact the many,” he said.

Diana Mejia, left, and Anna Sofiya Iskra, both aged 8, join their mothers, Olga Mejia, second right, and Olena Iskra, far right, in a rally on August 23 after the school district of Mequon-Thiensville in Wisconsin decided to keep schools closed in the fall. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Carle Place is not alone. Suburban school districts in Milwaukee and Georgia have also seen an increase in COVID-19 cases among students, causing some to cancel or delay opening plans with some students in class.

Holidays are just one of the reasons for the shift, with everything from staff shortages to wider outbreaks in the community forcing some districts to move to a completely remote beginning.

According to Burbio, a company that aggregates more than 80,000 school calendars nationwide, more than 60 percent of public school districts are scheduled to start the year online only. It has risen since the beginning of August, when 52% of those districts were planning a remote start, the company said.

A USA TODAY analysis of the 15 largest suburban districts also found that nine of those school districts planned to reopen remotely, with some reversing their plans until July or early August. Some of them plan to gradually reopen their buildings throughout September and October.

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national group representing school boards.

“Many factors are beyond our control,” he said.

This includes the often conflicting advice from local health departments.

For example, Wilson is a board member of Worthington Schools, north of Columbus, Ohio. His district and Columbus schools report to a health department, but other schools in the same county report to a different health department. One department recommended that it be safe for schools to hold sports; the other says it’s not safe, Wilson said.

“We thought we could take a cue from our local health department, and that would provide stability,” he said. “But the Department of Public Health changes its recommendations, often when there has been no change in trends for positive (COVID-19) tests.”

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Worthington’s school board previously voted to go all distance for the first nine weeks of school, starting August 31, due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. Then the district received a huge pushback from parents who wanted to return to work, Wilson said. The board recently voted to remain remote for a shorter period, until September 28, when it will switch to a hybrid teaching format.

“Not everyone was happy with this compromise,” he added.


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Outside Milwaukee, the upscale Mequon-Thiensville school district changed its early school schedules at least three times this summer.

First he planned the learning in person, then the district asked the parents to declare if they wanted their child to learn in person or remotely, and finally announced that it would begin practically on September 1st.

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To blame: the spike in infections in the suburb, attributable to a series of large graduation parties in the community during the summer.

Mequon-Thiensville Superintendent Matthew Joynt encouraged families to take responsibility for helping slow the spread of the virus so schools could reopen.

The local health department had recommended that postal codes contain fewer than 350 cases per 100,000 people on average for a two-week period before classrooms opened.

Once the infection rate decreased, Mequon-Thiensville went back to starting in person for those who wanted it on September 8. About 75 percent of students plan to come to school in person each day, while the other 25 percent learn from home, according to the district.

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