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Thursday, August 5, 2021

Back-to-School Chaos: Public Schools Are Already Quarantining Entire Classrooms Over Isolated COVID Cases

It’s becoming increasingly clear that this school year will be just as disruptive and unpredictable as the last.

Image Credit: geralt - Pixabay | CC BY 2.0 (

This article is excerpted from LiberatED, a weekly email newsletter where FEE Senior Education Fellow Kerry McDonald brings you news and analysis on current education and parenting topics. Click here to sign up.

The 2021/2022 academic year began on Tuesday, July 26th for students at an Atlanta public charter school. By Thursday, school administrators told parents that two students and a staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus. By Friday, more than 100 students were in quarantine over possible exposure, according to CNN.

This week, public health officials in Arizona shut down an entire fifth-grade public school classroom for a week because three children tested positive for the coronavirus.

Also this week, more than 160 students in an Arkansas public school district are in quarantine due to possible virus exposure, just a few days after the new school year began.

While parents may have been gleeful at the prospect of schools reopening this fall for full-time, in-person learning, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this school year will be just as disruptive and unpredictable as the last.

Frequent virus testing, ongoing social distancing in classrooms, and mask mandates in many schools were enough to prompt some parents to pull their children out of public schools for other options, such as homeschooling or high-quality, private virtual learning.

Now, the prospect of rolling quarantines throughout the year because a classmate tests positive may lead more parents to unenroll their children from a district school in favor of a calmer, more settled learning environment.

This back-to-school mayhem comes even as new data from Sweden, which never had a hard lockdown, didn’t close schools, and recommended against masking, has hit zero daily COVID deaths.

According to a February paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, Sweden’s less alarmist approach to coping with the coronavirus didn’t harm children. “Despite Sweden’s having kept schools and preschools open, we found a low incidence of severe Covid-19 among schoolchildren and children of preschool age during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic,” the researchers concluded.

This reassuring data from Sweden, and the mounting evidence that children continue to be spared from severe coronavirus outcomes, is not preventing back-to-school time in the US from being rocky and contentious. If anything, there is now more conflict and coercion regarding virus-related school policies.

It’s a good time to share my new, free ebook with the parents in your life who may be growing uneasy about the upcoming school year. You can download The 2021 Curious Parent’s Guide to Education Options at this link.

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