Schools Closing Again Across Country as Thousands Switch to Remote Learning

Soaring Omicron infections have upended the return to schools in a growing number of districts across the country, with some postponing the end of the holiday break and others switching to remote learning.

Most of the country's largest school districts have pledged to reopen schools as normal this week, including New York City.

But students at thousands of K-12 schools across the country saw their return after the winter break disrupted due to the concerns about a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

On Wednesday, leaders of Chicago Public Schools canceled classes after the teachers' union voted to switch to remote learning. Chicago had rejected a return to virtual learning, and students returned to class on Monday. The union, however, argued that the district's safety protocols were inadequate and voted for remote instruction until COVID cases fall or an agreement is reached with the district, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, a growing number of school districts have delayed the end of the holiday break or shifted to remote instruction.

Atlanta Public Schools, one of Georgia's largest school districts, announced over the weekend that classes would operate virtually for the first week in January.

The move, just days after the district had said classes would be held in person after winter break, came "after further review of district and community COVID-19 data," the district said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Schools in the nearby Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Rockdale counties also opted to have students learn virtually after Christmas due to surging coronavirus cases.

In Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Schools announced on Sunday night that schools would transition to virtual learning beginning Tuesday due to "an influx of reported positive COVID-19 cases among district staff." The district said it was aiming to resume in-person classes on January 10, but "will continue to assess the situation."

Elsewhere in Wisconsin, the Madison school district announced that the start of classes after the holiday break would be delayed until Thursday and that lessons would be held online.

Learning on Laptops

Citing the city's record high infection rate, the superintendent of the the Detroit school district in Michigan canceled school Monday through Wednesday this week. Students will resume classes from Thursday at home with laptops, at least through January 14.

"We are committed to returning to in-person learning as soon as city infection rates decrease to safer levels," the district said.

Students in Pontiac, Michigan, will be learning remotely until January 18. Ann Arbor Public Schools said classes would be virtual between Wednesday and Friday due to "an extraordinary increase in COVID cases.|

In Ohio, Cleveland's public schools will have classes remotely this week. In Toledo, the end of the holiday break was postponed to January 10.

Students in the Newark Public School District will be learning remotely for at least two weeks.

"This is not the news I want to be sharing with students and their families at this time because we need to continue in-person instruction, but the health and safety of students and staff remains the top priority," District Superintendent Roger León said last week.

A sign on the fence outside school
A sign on the fence outside of Lowell elementary school asks students, staff and visitors to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID on January 5, 2022, in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images