As school districts across the country grapple with how to reopen schools safely during the coronavirus pandemic, many have opted to keep their doors closed and provide virtual learning for students. A study by Burbio indicated that more than half of U.S. K-12 public schools will be holding classroom learning remotely starting in the fall.

As many as 52% of students are projected to be taught online at the start of the school year with 44% of students attending classes every day or on certain days of the week and 4% of students  left in limbo as school districts still work to finalize their educational plans for the fall.

“We have seen a dramatic shift to online only learning in the past three weeks,” Burbio co-founder Julie Roche said in a statement. “Large districts such as Chicago, and Sun Belt cities such as Houston and Miami along with large suburban districts such as Fairfax County Virginia were all setting plans to return with in-person learning and shifted to fully remote.”

For the study, Burbio examined the school calendars of more than 80,0000 K-12 schools across the nation, including the 200 largest school districts in the U.S. The study said that the size of the school district did factor into the decision to hold classes online or in-person as the largest 200 districts are 66% virtual for the start of the year.

New York is one of the states that is allowing schools to reopen, leaving the decision to individual school districts that are located in an area with a coronavirus positivity rate that is below 5%. Chicago has eliminated in-person classes for students as its number of coronavirus cases continue to surge.

For the 44% of students that will be returning to the classroom in-person, 19% will be attending a hybrid format, which includes classroom instruction on certain days of the week, with 25% of students going to school every day of the week, according to Burbio.

“We expect this situation to stay fluid for the entire academic year and we will continue to measure it,” Roche said.  “Many districts have thresholds for COVID-19 levels that could result in converting back to remote learning. Other districts are planning to revisit the ‘online’ decision as soon as September and could convert to in-person models.”

The U.S. has reported over 5 million positive coronavirus cases, with over 163,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

Middle school pupils returned to class in France Middle school pupils returned to class in France Photo: AFP / Thomas SAMSON