School districts Monday and over the weekend continued to announce shifts to remote learning that will stretch into January as cases among students and staff have accelerated alongside a growing surge of cases in the broader community.
Positive COVID-19 cases among students and school staff increased more than 75 percent since Dec. 1 across three dozen Capital Region districts, according to state data reported by the districts and last updated Dec. 11.
Nearly every district has reported at least one case this year and more than a dozen have reported more cases since Dec. 1 than all of the weeks of the school year prior. By the time districts reported new cases Monday, the three dozen districts combined will have accounted for over 700 positive cases, according to the state data.
The new cases and the staffing fallout from the quarantine orders that follow have disrupted in-person instruction in dozens of districts around the region, leaving all or some of the students in at least a dozen area districts to learn remotely until next month.
Some smaller districts appeared to have moved entirely online more quickly than larger districts, with smaller staffs more exposed to the problems caused by mass quarantine orders. (Staff members in smaller districts fill more individual roles and are required to interact across more grade levels.)
Sharon Springs, Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville, Stillwater, Schoharie, and Mayfield school districts in recent days moved all or a significant number of students to virtual instruction until the holiday break, which starts Dec. 24. Broadalbin-Perth, Johnstown and Northville had all announced similar plans in the past 10 days. Northville plans to keeps its buildings closed to students until at least Jan. 15.
Districts cited new cases and staffing shortages caused by quarantines as driving the decisions to close buildings to in-person instruction. Other districts that have yet to announce closures through the break have had to shift entire grades or buildings to virtual learning for some period of time, shifting students to learn at home on a night’s notice.
“All students, whether they have been attending school in our hybrid model or remote, should plan to follow their current schedule at home using their Chromebooks, as teachers will be teaching remotely,” OESJ Superintendent Adam Heroth wrote in a message to families Sunday.
Meanwhile, case numbers in districts without closures are continuing to accelerate, mirroring the infection rates in the broader community. The first 10 days of December across the three dozen districts accounted for nearly 43 percent of all cases since Sept. 8. North Colonie and Shenendehowa school districts both reported around 75 total cases this year as of Friday, according to the data, both adding around 25 new cases since Dec. 1.