Schools have, once again, reopened, amidst the threat of the Delta variant of COVID-19. Delta variant, according to WHO, is one of the highly transmissible variants of coronavirus and is one of the main reasons why hospitalizations are increasing in the United States.
As positive cases of COVID-19 dwindled in the last months of spring and early summer, schools planned to go back to the traditional in-person classroom learning. But with the appearance of the Delta variant, the plan to reopen schools to face-to-face learning became highly risky.
In Mississippi, officials last month reported that more than 20,000 students were in quarantine from exposure to the coronavirus after the first week of school.
Because of the increasing numbers of infections to students and staff, 29 schools were forced to “go virtual for a short time in order to interrupt transmission,” the state’s epidemiologist said.
Additionally, the Connally Independent School District in Texas, which opened to students Aug. 18, had to close its in-person classes Tuesday after two teachers died last week of Covid. There are also 5 schools in the Waco District that had to switch back to remote learning but are scheduled to reopen in-person learning after Labor Day.
“If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it is the ability to change directions quickly,” Connally Elementary School Principal Eric Cantu wrote in a note to parents on the district’s website. “Going from Face to Face learning to remote learning is an example of this.”
School districts are facing a dilemma on how to continue operation for the school year as the number of parents who want their children to go to school for in-person learning drops.
Presently, only 43 percent of public school parents and guardians said they wanted their children in a classroom full time this year after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 27 updated its health guidance to include the threat of the delta variant. This was down from 58 percent of parents who were in favor of face-to-face learning before July 27.
Read More: WHO Monitors New COVID-19 Variant Called “mu”.
Coincidentally, the hiring of teachers and sub-teachers has become scarce because of the threat of the Delta variant.
According to a report in Sun-Gazette, with vaccinations spreading, officials hoped that as fears of viral infections waned, more people would be eager to take jobs. Schools and child care centers would reopen, enabling more parents, particularly women, to start looking for work. And with a $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement set to expire next week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell and others speculated that more of the unemployed would be looking for work.
However, the surge of cases with the spread of the Delta variant puts these expectations in question.
In Florida, thousands of students and teachers have been in quarantine since early August. Teachers who are able to work “puts lessons and instructional material online for kids in quarantine and sending out electronic devices or providing physical copies of work based on student need,” Jennifer Sparano, the district’s Covid coordinator, said.
She said work is done independently, with check-ins from teachers, but the district is looking into hiring teachers and support staff to be available online during the day to give children live access to a teacher if their own ones are not available because they are teaching in a classroom.
This is the same situation in Nashville. According to Sean Braisted, the district’s executive officer of communications and community engagement, “in Metro Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee, from Aug. 9 to Aug. 15, there was 95 staff who were isolated or quarantined, with 52 confirmed cases and 980 students were isolated or quarantined, with 207 confirmed cases. From Aug. 16 to Aug. 22, there was 143 staff isolated or quarantined, with 67 confirmed cases and 2,879 students isolated or quarantined, with 395 confirmed cases.”
These quarantined students “can access their course information and assignments online and the district offers remote learning assistance to students,” he said in an email. “Parents must also verify a student participated in all instructional activities,” he added.