Over 450,000 students began remote learning in the first week of January after returning from the holiday break, the New York Times reported on Monday.
Districts in cities including Newark, N.J., Atlanta, Ga., and Cleveland, Ohio, decided to begin school remotely amid a nationwide uptick in Covid cases spurred by the Omicron variant. Newark schools will be closed until January 14.
“The lives of all of our students mean more to me than anything else, especially since three of them are actually mine,” Newark School Board president Dawn Haynes said in a statement. “We will do everything to protect our children in this fight against this horrible virus and we will get back to in-person instruction as soon as possible.”
The school district of New Rochelle, N.Y., announced a week of remote learning at the start of January to wait for an expected shipment of rapid Covid tests. The district is attempting to implement a test-to-stay program, in which students exposed to someone with Covid can return to in-person learning so long as they take regular Covid tests.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether teachers would refuse to come to work on Wednesday. The union is demanding that every student in the district—over 340,600 as of last school year—be tested for Covid.
Teachers in New York City have also called for greater Covid testing efforts, with almost all city schools opened for in-person learning. Despite the district-wide reopening, however, roughly a third of students didn’t return to class, according to the Times.
Teachers’ calls for increased testing of students in Chicago as well as in New York City come amid a nationwide surge in demand for Covid tests that began before Christmas, leading to long lines at testing sites in major cities. President Biden admitted last month that his administration was caught off guard by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and subsequent demand for tests.
The 2020-2021 school year saw struggling attempts to reopen districts after months of remote learning, often with opposition from teachers’ unions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for schools to remain open in July 2021, and most districts managed to keep up in-person learning throughout the fall.