A Sigh of Relief: Data Shows No Significant Rise in K-12 School COVID Cases
Despite fears that schools would become new sites for outbreaks of COVID-19 the latest numbers show very low rates of cases among both teachers and students.
Confirmed and suspected COVID cases for K-12 staff and students across the country are still well below one percent, according to the latest two weeks of data released Sept. 30th by the Brown University COVID-19 school response dashboard. Nearly 700 schools contributed data to the project.
As noted in The Morning Dispatch, in the first two weeks of September, student confirmed and suspected cases dropped slightly from 0.2 percent to 0.16 percent. Staff confirmed and suspected cases increased slightly from 0.5 percent to about 0.6 percent.
Still, less than half of the nation’s school districts have returned to full, in-person education so many educators are focused on making the most of remote learning even as they prepare to physically reopen their campuses later this year.
It’s the case in Chesapeake, Virginia, where middle and high school buildings are still closed for on-campus instruction (with exceptions for special needs students). Just this week, Chesapeake Public Schools superintendent Jared Cotton announced a phased-in plan for a hybrid model starting Oct. 12th.
For now, Hugo Owens Middle School principal Quentin Hicks is enthusiastic about online “back-to-school.”
“We’ve been in a lot of our classes,” he told CBN News during a tour of the building the second week of school. “We’ve popped in as administrators. We’ve popped into a lot of our Google meets and have seen our students’ faces. They were excited to see us. We were excited to see them.”
Hicks says he’s confident that remote learning can work for now.
“I always tell people that education isn’t limited to a school building and so just because you’re not in our halls and our building doesn’t mean that you’re not being educated right now,” he said.
Unlike the spring, teachers are strictly monitoring attendance and giving grades.
“The expectation is that you’re on time, you’re on target. You’re on task and we all have a mission–and of course, that mission is to be virtually unstoppable,” Hicks explained.
He first learned about online education almost twenty years ago while receiving his M.A. in educational administration from Regent University. Many teaching principles, says Hicks, can still work on a screen.
“Even from a virtual standpoint—when a student gets a concept, then the next student gets it, the next student gets it and then it just pops from the next student to the next student and it’s fun,” said Hicks.
In the classrooms and hallways of Hugo Owens right now, there’s a new rhythm. Teachers are physically present, leading their classes online and collaborating virtually with other Chesapeake middle school teachers on ways to reinvent curriculum for their online instruction.
Plenty of Chromebooks are available for students and packets of art supplies and other educational materials are ready for pick-up at the school.
Still, Hicks is looking forward to in-person education in the near future. “From a social and emotional standpoint, it’s always a good thing to have students in the building,” he says, “You can’t substitute for that.”