Omicron, winter storms hit US, school districts closed or delayed across many states

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A wave of school closures and delays is rolling through the country as administrators wrestle with rising coronavirus cases, frustrated union workers and a winter storm in the northeast.

Schools in and around major cities – Detroit, Dallas and Washington, D.C., – have reportedly closed due to the virus, which has disrupted school reopenings for more than a year after the pandemic started. According to a local outlet, at least 92 schools will host remote learning in Philadelphia through Friday.

Long COVID testing lines at Rivergreen Park in Everett, Massachusetts, on Dec. 28, 2021.

Long COVID testing lines at Rivergreen Park in Everett, Massachusetts, on Dec. 28, 2021. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

According to Burbio’s school tracker data, U.S. schools have seen a dramatic spike in the number of school disruptions related to the pandemic. A large portion of those includes the 653 schools impacted by organized labor in Chicago. 

As Fox News previously noted, multiple districts have encountered union requests for remote work due to the surge in coronavirus cases. Staffing shortages like those in Pittsburgh also prompted disruptions. According to Action News 4, at least 13 schools have closed in Pittsburgh due to staffing shortages related to COVID-19 and other absences.

TEACHERS UNIONS ACROSS COUNTRY CITE COVID SURGE TO DEMAND HALT TO IN-PERSON LEARNING

Although New York City has faced pressure from organized labor, Mayor Eric Adams has insisted on keeping schools open amid the pandemic – a major pledge in the speech he gave after being sworn into office.  However, a long list of New York and New Jersey schools was closed or delayed Wednesday amid icy weather.

The methods for combating COVID-19 have varied. For example, D.C. has gone further than others by requiring both students and staff to produce negative test results. The Washington Post reported that as of Wednesday night, around 38,300 of the school district’s 50,000 students had returned their results.

In California, San Francisco East Bay Area schools announced they would close for two days, Friday and Monday, due to the “strain” of omicron. The closures come after Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged at the end of December that schools would remain open with additional testing procedures put in place.

Burbio defines disruption as “a school moving away from regular in-person instruction” but doesn’t include closures due to weather. As of Wednesday evening, the site recorded more than 3,500 disruptions for Jan. 5. Many of the disruptions appeared to be clustered in the Northeast, although Georgia’s DeKalb County said it would hold virtual instruction Jan. 5-7. 

Like DeKalb, many counties have closed or decided to conduct remote instruction for days at a time. Detroit Public Schools, for example, recently told parents that students would receive remote instruction between Jan. 6 and Jan. 14.

Winter weather did, however, prompt a slew of school closures and delays. Minneapolis Public Schools has canceled all after-school activities amid expected sub-zero temperatures.

The National Weather Service has issued Winter Storm Warnings, Winter Storm Watches and Winter Weather Advisories across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, are among the cities under a Winter Storm Warning. The entire New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington metro areas are under Winter Weather Advisories. Snow has been expected to quickly spread north and eastward through the day Thursday across Tennessee, Kentucky, the Ohio Valley and the central and southern Appalachians.

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While some schools have maintained remote learning, others are closing altogether. For example, Fairfax County Public Schools said Wednesday that it would close on Jan. 6 without virtual learning. On Thursday, at least 10 schools or districts around Washington, D.C., saw closures or delayed openings. Certain schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut similarly saw closures this week.

FOX Weather’s Brian Donegan contributed to this report.

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