The Week in COVID & Education Policy: No Unvaccinated Students Allowed, More Schools Embracing ‘Test-to-Stay’ & Other Key Updates
This is our weekly briefing on how the pandemic is shaping schools and education policy, vetted, as always, by AEI Visiting Fellow John Bailey. Click here to see the full archive. Get this weekly roundup, as well as rolling daily updates, delivered straight to your inbox — sign up for The 74 Newsletter.
- Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock: “As a mother and a physician, I know that parents, caregivers, school staff, and children have been waiting for today’s authorization. Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy…. Our comprehensive and rigorous evaluation of the data pertaining to the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness should help assure parents and guardians that this vaccine meets our high standards.”
- Statement from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky: “Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus that causes COVID-19. We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine. As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.”
- Via Stat: “Much of Tuesday’s discussion was spent on the issue of myocarditis, which committee members clearly expect will be a key factor when parents weigh whether to vaccinate their children. Matt Oster, a pediatric cardiologist who works for the CDC, told the group that most cases of myocarditis after vaccination are mild and of short duration. Oster told the panel that to date, there have been no confirmed deaths in children who developed vaccine-related myocarditis.”
- Oster also “stressed that Covid infection is more likely to trigger myocarditis than getting a COVID shot.”
- The CDC staff offered a powerful table showing child deaths per year of other diseases prior to a vaccine approval.
November 5, 2021 — The Big Three
KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: New survey results suggest vaccine hesitancy with children has increased.
- Nearly 3 in 10 parents of 5-11 year-olds (27%) are eager to get a vaccine for their younger child as soon as one is authorized, while a third say they will wait a while to see how the vaccine is working.
- 3 in 10 parents say they will definitely not get the vaccine for their 12-17 year-old (31%) or their 5-11 year-old (30%).
- Growing resistance: Comparing October survey results to responses this summer shows that parents are now 5-11 percentage points more likely to say they will “definitely not” get their children vaccinated.
- 53% of parents are worried their child may be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 even if they don’t want them to.
- More from The 74: With nearly half of parents expected to forgo child COVID shots, schools brace for new wave of vaccine hesitancy.
Test-to-Stay Approach Gains Steam:
- New Mexico is rolling out a test-to-stay program with a really thoughtful toolkit.
- Stat looks at the lessons learned from Massachusetts.
- The 74 reports: More districts scrap mask mandates and embrace ‘test-to-stay’ measures to spare students from quarantine.
- Emily Oster says replace quarantines with test-to-stay (or nothing). Good long piece worth your time.
Oakland’s Plan: Transfer or Unenroll Unvaccinated Students: “Public school students in Oakland, California, who are 12 or older and have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 by January will either be transferred to an independent-study school or dropped from enrollment entirely, under a plan the approved by district’s Board of Education.”
- “Unvaccinated students who do not agree to be transferred to [the independent study] school will be unenrolled ‘after having been provided with sufficient information and opportunities to access the COVID-19 vaccine as well as progressive warnings.’”
- “Based on current vaccination rates, the Oakland memorandum said, African American, Latino or multiracial students are more likely than others to be unenrolled under the vaccination policy.”
- “Reasons for exemption include medical, personal belief and students who have had a single vaccine dose and are waiting to receive a second shot.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture: Announced that it will begin accepting applications for the Rural eConnectivity Program (ReConnect Program) for Fiscal Year 2022.
- The ReConnect Program will provide a total of $1.15 billion in loans, grants and loan-grant combinations to help rural communities gain access to high-speed internet through the promotion of broadband deployment.
- USDA will begin accepting applications for the program on Nov. 24, 2021, and applications can be submitted on the ReConnect Program website.
City & State News
- The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court judgment that found the Republican-controlled Legislature violated the state constitution by including new laws banning school mask mandates and a series of other measures in unrelated budget bills.
Colorado: “A federal judge has issued a restraining order against a suburban Denver county’s policy allowing parents to opt their children out of a mask mandate at school, finding that the rule violates the rights of students with disabilities who are vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Florida: Districts begin easing mask requirements.
Louisiana: “Gov. John Bel Edwards ended a three-month-old mask-wearing rule across the state, with one exception: K-12 schools that went against guidance from the CDC and don’t ask students exposed to the virus to quarantine.”
Maryland: More than 10% of Baltimore City Schools workers who refused to get vaccinated by Nov. 1 deadline now face termination.
Massachusetts: School mask requirement extended into 2022.
Montana: Gov. Greg Gianforte nixed a kids’ vaccine campaign, so health officials plan their own.
- NYC enrollment has dropped by about 50,000 students since the fall of 2019, the Department of Education reports.
- Only 1 in 5 NYC students took last year’s state tests, making results almost moot.
Tennessee: Schools face strict hurdles for mask mandates under new bill.
Weekly Screening of Asymptomatic K-12 Students and Staff Helps Inform Strategies for Safer In-Person Learning: New study
- “With layered mitigation measures, in-school transmission even before student or staff vaccination is rare.”
- “The proportion of survey respondents self-reporting comfort with in-person learning before versus after implementation of screening increases.”
- “Costs exceed $260,000 for assays alone; staff and volunteers spend 135-145 hours per week implementing screening.”
Large Study Shows High Protection of 3 vs. 2 Pfizer COVID Vaccine Doses: A third Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine dose is 92% more effective in reducing severe COVID-related outcomes than two doses of the same vaccine received at least 5 months previously (study, commentary, news release).
Moderna and Teens: Moderna said on Sunday that the FDA is probing whether their vaccine can cause a rare side effect — myocarditis — in teens.
- “The FDA informed Moderna that the agency requires additional time to evaluate recent international analyses of the risk of myocarditis after vaccination. The FDA notified Moderna that this review may not be completed before January 2022.”
- “Moderna also said it would delay asking the FDA to authorize use of a lower dose of its shot in even younger children, ages 6 to 11, while the agency continues to review its request to clear the shots in adolescents.”
Vaccine Resistant Variants: Pfizer CEO says a vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant is ‘likely’ to emerge. He said it would take Pfizer 95 days after a variant’s discovery to customize a vaccine to address it.
Fluvoxamine: Study shows a cheap antidepressant lowers the risk of Covid hospitalization, The New York Times reports. Read the study.
We Need to Talk About an Off-Ramp for Masking at School: Argues Jessica Grose in The New York Times.
- “To get a feel for what an off-ramp for in-school masking could look like, I interviewed 11 experts over the past week, including pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and environmental scientists who specialize in indoor transmission. It became clear that this issue won’t get sorted out easily, because these experts weren’t always unanimous.”
- “We should talk about where there is widespread agreement among experts: Every person I spoke to said children 5 and up should get the vaccine. The other point of significant agreement was that masks can be useful tools in our COVID prevention kit, along with measures like proper ventilation and widely available rapid testing.”
- “Whatever individual communities and states decide about what makes sense for them, part of the reason it’s necessary to talk about concrete benchmarks for unmasking is because the pandemic has created, for some, deep uncertainty.”
COVID Was Not Developed as a Bio-Weapon: According to an intelligence report declassified and published by the Director of National Intelligence last week.
What COVID Vaccines for Young Kids Could Mean for the Pandemic: Via Nature
Yes, You’ll Want to Vaccinate Your Kids Against COVID: Writes AAP’s Lee Savio Beers in The New York Times.
- “There is simply not an acceptable number of child deaths when such effective and safe preventive treatments are available. So, for the same reason pediatricians recommend seatbelts and car seats, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending vaccines for COVID-19.”
- “When I chose to vaccinate my teenage son, there were two things that were important to my decision-making. First, the risk of developing myocarditis after a COVID-19 infection is much higher than the risk of developing myocarditis after the vaccine. Second, almost all the cases of myocarditis after the vaccine are mild, and people generally get better quickly. Vaccinating my children was an easy choice knowing that the risk of COVID-19 to children is far greater than the risk of the vaccines.”
- Related: How Often Do COVID Vaccines Cause Heart Problems in Kids? Via The New York Times
NIH to Study Long-term Effects of COVID-19 in Pregnancy: Effort will follow up to 1,500 pregnant patients with COVID-19 and their offspring for four years.
Public, Parents, and Education: New EdChoice/Morning Consult Polling
- 1 out of 4 school parents have had to quarantine their child in the past month due to COVID-19.
- 7 out of 10 school parents still believe that schools should provide multiple learning options for students
- Roughly 1 in 5 school parents have switched the type of school their child is attending this year when compared to last year.
School Closures: Some new data surfaced during the CDC’s presentation this week:
- “COVID outbreaks have closed more than 2,300 schools this year, affecting more than 1.2 million students and over 78,000 teachers since August, CDC medical officer Dr. Sara Oliver told the agency’s advisory committee.”
- “Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas have had the most school closures, Oliver reported, citing data aggregated from the agency’s School Dismissal Monitoring System from Aug. 2 to Oct. 22. COVID-related closures impacted at least 12 million students in roughly 19,000 schools nationwide during the 2020-2021 school year as well, Oliver added.”
Not Just Recovery, But Reinvention — 3 Lessons from Schools Where COVID Innovations Offer New Solutions: Great piece by Jenny Curtin, Melanie Dukes and Saskia Levy Thompson.
New Guidebook to Help Districts Launch High-Dosage Tutoring Programs: Chiefs for Change released a new guidebook for building a tutoring program in collaboration with a community partner. (Press release)
Why Personalized Learning Works in Some Schools, But Not in Others: EdWeek’s Alyson Klein interviews Dabae Lee, an assistant professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, on her paper, “Differences in personalized learning practice and technology use in high- and low-performing learner-centered schools in the United States.”
Understanding Student Monitoring: Via Future of Privacy Forum
- “During the pandemic, 12 more of the 25 largest school districts in the country started using monitoring technology for suicide prevention.”
Digital Equity Guide: Released by The Learning Accelerator
Students Who Learned Remotely Felt They Mattered Less: “A study of Canadian students suggests that children who learned remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic reported they felt they ‘mattered less’ than their peers who studied in-person.” More from CTV.
…And on a Sweeter Note
A Dad Replicates the Marshmallow Test With His Boys: The result is hysterical.
Weekend Reads: In case you missed them, our top five stories of the week:
- Elections: Skyrocketing School Board Recalls Offer Window into Year of Bitter Education Politics
- Higher Ed: ‘No Signs of Recovery’: 5 Alarming New Undergraduate Enrollment Numbers
- Politics: Education Commentator Andrew Rotherham on the Virginia Governor’s Race and the K-12 Peril Facing Democrats
- Digital Divide: New Report Offers Roadmap to Eliminate Internet Affordability Gap for Students
- 74 Interview: Moms for Liberty Co-Founder Tina Descovich on Her Group’s Stunning Growth, Facing Threats Herself as a School Board Member and Googling Koch Brothers
Disclosure: John Bailey is an adviser to the Walton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to The 74.