A growing number of school systems, colleges and universities are making changes to the beginning of the 2022 spring semester as a result of the surge in cases of Covid-19.
Duke University is extending its plan for remote classes by another week due to an “incredibly high” positive case count among faculty and students who are already in the area, the school announced Friday.
The school previously announced classes would be remote until January 10, but class will now be remote until January 18. The policy applies to undergraduate, graduate and professional school classes, the school said.
Michigan State University said classes will start remotely on January 10 and stay remote for three weeks, according to an announcement Friday. Residence halls will still be open for students who wish to move back to campus.
“I realize that students prefer to be in person, and so do I,” said University President Samuel Stanley, Jr. in his letter to students. “But it is important that we do so in a safe manner. Starting the semester remotely and de-densifying campus in the coming weeks can be a solution to slowing the spread of the virus.”
Michigan State also said a decision will be made in the coming days as to whether booster shots will be required, vaccination against Covid-19 is already required.
There are now more than 30 colleges and universities either moving classes online or pushing back the start of the semester entirely, including Columbia University, Princeton University, Harvard University, and Yale University.
New York state university systems require boosters
Two state school systems in New York, the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY), are now required to have students get a Covid-19 booster and faculty be vaccinated by January 15, Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday.
While students were required to be fully vaccinated before this mandate, faculty and staff at these schools systems were not required by the state.
“This is how we are going to ensure that these campuses stay open,” Hochul told reporters. “As I’ve said all along, we are going to protect the health of New Yorkers but also the health of the economy.”
There are 64 SUNY campuses, and 25 CUNY campuses in the state.
K-12 schools change requirements
Miami-Dade County Public Schools became one of the first school districts in the state of Florida to make changes to its Covid-19 policy due to the explosion of the Omicron variant.
The school system will now require all adults entering its buildings and buses to wear masks when they return to school next week, following the holiday break. Students are “strongly encouraged” to wear masks.
The changes were needed because Miami-Dade County, home of the nation’s 4th largest school district, currently has a 25% positivity rate, said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho during a media briefing Thursday.
Meanwhile, nearby Broward County Schools, the sixth-largest school district in the country, will be requiring visitors at schools to wear masks.
In a 5-3 vote during an emergency school board meeting Friday afternoon, board members decided against requiring teachers and students to wear masks.
Palm Beach County also announced it is “reinstating a facial covering requirement for all employees, vendors, and visitors effective Tuesday, January 4, while indoors.”
The district is strongly encouraging students to wear masks upon return, but “recognizes this decision under Florida law rests solely with parents or guardians.”
Palm Beach County joined neighboring Miami-Dade in announcing a mask requirement for teachers and other adults earlier in the week, while masks for students are “strongly encouraged.”
All three school districts noted infection positivity rates trending above 20% in their communities.
Massachusetts schools remain open
Public schools across Massachusetts will be open Monday despite requests by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to shutter them for Covid-19 testing and data analysis.
“The commissioner is not going to close schools Monday, and asks teachers to be patient as we work to get tests in their hands this weekend. It is disappointing that once again the MTA is trying to find a way to close schools, which we know is to the extreme detriment of our children,” Colleen Quinn, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Education said in a statement Friday.
“Kids need to be in school,” Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday, when asked about flexibility when it comes to in-person learning.
“We also have the largest test and stay program in the country and we saved 350,000 school days so far this year as a result of that program. There are a lot of tools and capabilities available to keep kids and adults safe in school, and we should do everything in our power to make sure that kids stay in school,” he said.
CNN’s Taylor Romine, John Couwels, Leyla Santiago, Alta Spells, Steve Contorno, and Travis Nichols contributed to this report.