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In January, students were still missing school as Omicron cases increased. And Heats Up: The Battle for Admissions to Elite Public High Schools.

In the United States, classrooms are mostly open for in-person learning this year. But that doesn’t mean school is normal.

Learning continues to be disrupted, a new Times survey has found: In January, children across the country missed, on average, more than four days of in-person school, and a quarter of them missed a week or more.

Some data organizations had collected information on the number of districts and schools open but had not captured the extent of the disruption for individual students.

The Times, along with polling firm Dynata, asked 148,400 parents nationwide how many days their school-aged children were home in January, when disruptions were at their peak due to the Omicron surge, winter weather and other reasons.

What we found: School closures have not been limited to blue cities where Covid precautions are more common. Instead, they happened everywhere.

A district in Tennessee closed for two days in January when 95 staff members were out with Covid. In a district in Utah, students study independently from home on some Fridays to help teachers with “burnout and burnout.” Atlanta schools remained closed after winter break to slow the spread of Omicron.

On average, children missed at least three days of in-person school in January in every state except South Dakota. States where children missed an average of a week or more include the red states of Alaska and Kentucky, and the blue states of Delaware and New Mexico.

The data show the limits of the new strategies of school officials. Rather than closing entire districts, educators have tried to limit closures — closing individual classrooms, quarantining small groups of students or closing some schools for a single day.

This has helped keep more children in school, but it also means families have to deal with more unplanned and unexpected days without school. Covid infections and quarantines are a major factor, but so are indirect issues such as teacher burnout, staffing shortages and student behavior.

As masks come off in New York and other districts across the country, and quarantine and isolation requirements ease, intermittent closings could become the new normal for schools.

“It’s almost like building a house in an earthquake zone,” Dennis Roche, president of Burbio, a data company that tracks districts, told us. “You want it to be a bit flexible. You want to integrate dampers into the system.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, one of the most prestigious high schools in the nation, has changed its admissions process to try to accommodate more black and Hispanic students.

On Friday, a judge ruled the policy was unfair to Asian Americans, saying it left them “disproportionately deprived of a level playing field”. The district, which is just outside of Washington in Fairfax County, Va., is considering appealing.

The rules for admission criteria at the elite magnetic school, known as TJ, did not mention race. But they eliminated a standardized test requirement and specifically guaranteed eligibility for top students from colleges that had sent few students to TJ in the past.

After the rules took effect, the percentages of black and Hispanic students in the incoming class more than tripled, while the number of Asian American students fell to 54% from 73%, the lowest share. lower for years.

“One way to accomplish their goal of achieving racial balance,” the judge wrote, “was to reduce enrollment of the only ‘overrepresented’ racial group in TJ – Asian Americans. The board employed proxies that disproportionately burden Asian American students.

Elite high schools across the country are embarking on plans to diversify their enrollment based on race and income, but they are facing a fierce backlash from many parents, including many Asian Americans. .

Justin Driver, a Yale law professor, said it was “hard to overstate the significance” of Judge Hilton’s ruling, calling it “the latest and boldest indication yet that Conservatives once again wish to propose sweeping reinterpretations of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.”

  • New York lifted its mask mandate in schools, effective today, leaving local school officials to make their own decisions.

  • On Friday, Maryland lifted its statewide mask requirements for schools. Massachusetts Statewide Mandate ended Monday.

  • California, Oregon and Washington will fall school mask requirements on March 12.

  • Gov. Ned Lamont said about 85-90% of Connecticut school districts have mask mandates dropped.

  • Vermont has ruled that schools with student vaccination rates at or above 80 percent could waive masking requirements.

  • According to the school monitoring site Burbio, more than half of major school districts no longer require masks.

  • Nevada’s largest public school districts can now lower standards substitute teachers to make up for the shortage of staff. Replacements only need a high school diploma to teach during states of emergency.


  • Citing the invasion of Ukraine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that it break ties with a Russian university she helped establish.

  • Sonny Perdue, the former Georgia governor who served as agriculture secretary in the Trump administration, will lead Georgian university system.

Books and Curriculum Policy

  • Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia is expected to sign a bill that will require schools to notify parents whether the assigned books have sexually explicit content.

  • A Missouri district reversed its decision to withdraw “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison school libraries, after an outcry and legal threats.

And the rest …

  • Teachers in Minneapolis and St. Paul are moving forward with plans to strike on March 8 if their unions fail to reach contractual agreements with their districts.

  • The Kansas State School Board suspended the top public school administrator in the state after he made an offensive comment about Native Americans.

  • The movement forfair rankingis growing, as teachers and parents say grades should reflect mastery of material, not homework, behavior or attendance.

  • A good read: Supreme Court nominee Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson honed her skills on her high school’s central debate team.

Children have access to more news feeds than ever, and many are concerned about the war in Europe. Here are tips for a clear conversation about the invasion.

  • Take inspiration from your child. Curiosity is not necessarily a sign of fear. Try to answer questions calmly and accurately, and don’t give them any information.

  • Look for signs of anxiety. Some children may express concerns, while others may withdraw. Look for trouble sleeping, especially from nightmares or a change in appetite.

  • Don’t bombard them with news. While it’s understandable to want to keep up to date with the news, know that your child can also watch or listen. If you’re worried about your child doomscrolling on a device, encourage them to make smart media choices.

  • Go to root. Answer their questions with deeper questions. Are they worried that the war will spread to their own community? Do they think about what life could be like in Ukraine?

Above all, ease their concerns while taking them seriously. Remember: you can tell them if you don’t know the answer.

And if your child is worried about families in Ukraine, think about what you could do to help, like donate to charities who help out. When given the opportunity to help others, children gain a sense of agency.

That’s it for this week’s briefing. If you have any questions for our education journalists, write to us using this form. We will regularly answer questions in the newsletter.

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Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger Katz contributed to today’s newsletter.