Michigan school district extends virtual learning indefinitely

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A Michigan public school district is expanding virtual learning to all students indefinitely, citing its county’s COVID-19 positivity rate.

Flint Community Schools Superintendent Kevelin Jones announced Wednesday that schools will remain closed to in-person learning “for the better health of our community.”

“We want to bring academics back into buildings, but it’s just not safe,” Jones said in a letter to parents. “We’re going to have to catch up, but the world isn’t over. We’re going to keep going and keep educating.”

A January 2021 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that school transmission of COVID-19 is “extremely rare.” In the 11 school districts studied, no transmission occurred between adults and children, and only 32 cases of child-to-child or adult-to-adult transmission were recorded. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged schools to fully open in fall 2021, saying in-person instruction is safe with appropriate mitigations such as vaccinations and masking.

A CDC study in March 2021 show distance learning increased emotional distress in children and parents. More than half of American educators also reported virtual classrooms resulted in “significant” learning loss for their students, according to a report by Horace Mann.

At a press conference on Wednesday, President Joe Biden credited his administration’s U.S. bailout package with “keeping[ing] our students and educators are safe and schools open.” The plan provided school districts with funds for ventilation systems and COVID-19 testing, among other coronavirus mitigation measures.

‘We won’t go back to closing schools,’ Biden said said. “Schools must remain open.”

As he spoke, school districts in at least half of U.S. states had switched to remote learning due to the spike in cases caused by the Omicron variant.

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