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How students are returning to school during newest COVID-19 surge

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(NEW YORK) -- In a hodgepodge of in-person, remote and delayed reopenings, millions of students across the country are set to head back to school after several weeks on winter break.

School districts in every state are using a variety of approaches and precautions to determine the best way to keep children and staffers safe amid the nation's latest, and most significant, COVID-19 surge on record.

The return to school comes as the hospital admission rate among children has hit its highest point of the pandemic. Pediatric case rates are also approaching record highs.

During an appearance on ABC News' This Week on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told George Stephanopoulos that even with the surge, he is still in support of keeping kids in school as much as possible.

"I plead with parents to please seriously consider vaccinating your children, wearing masks in the school setting, doing test-to-stay approaches when children get infected," Fauci said. "I think all those things put together, it's safe enough to get those kids back to school, balanced against the deleterious effects of keeping them out."

Many districts in major cities across the country are forging ahead with reopening plans, with some requiring face masks or testing of students and staff ahead of the return as an additional precaution. However, dozens of other districts -- including in Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan -- are beginning the spring term remotely.

Atlanta

Citing a rapid surge in infections locally, Atlanta Public Schools will open virtually Tuesday for all students and all staff. The city plans to reopen in-person instruction on Jan. 10, according to the school district's public guidance.

All staff are required to report to work on Monday, Jan. 3 for mandatory COVID-19 surveillance testing.

Boston

Students in Boston will return to the classroom Tuesday as the district rolls out its share of the state-supplied rapid COVID-19 tests.

Over the weekend, members of the Massachusetts National Guard began delivering 227,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to school districts across the state, to be used for teachers and staff.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced Monday that so far, 155 teachers and school staffers have reported positive COVID-19 tests.

Chicago

In Chicago, students returned to class Monday, according to the school district's public guidance.

Testing is only mandatory for unvaccinated students who traveled to an "orange" state, per the city’s travel guidance, which now includes every state except Montana.

Unvaccinated students who are close contacts of a known COVID-19 case must stay home and quarantine for 10 days. Vaccinated students who are close contacts can attend school as long as they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

The district also distributed 150,000 take-home test kits to schools to support the return.

Cleveland

Citing a "significant rise in COVID-19 cases in the community," the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will move to remote learning for the week of Jan. 3.

Following a professional day for staff, students will log on and follow their class schedules Tuesday through Friday.

Detroit

The spring semester in Detroit will not begin until later this week at the earliest.

Employees will be required to take a COVID-19 test on Monday and Tuesday through the district, according to the school district's public guidance. All students are also encouraged to take a test through the district this week.

The district said it cannot begin the semester online, due to the fact that not all of its students have laptops.

School officials said they expect to announce plans for Thursday and Friday on Wednesday afternoon or evening.

Los Angeles

Staff in all Los Angeles County schools are required to wear upgraded masks -- surgical mask or higher-level PPE, according to the district's latest guidance. Students are "strongly recommended" to wear well-fitted masks.

The district is also strongly recommending that all eligible staff and students receive a booster shot.

COVID-19 testing is required for all close contacts who are permitted to remain in school immediately after exposure, regardless of vaccination or booster status.

Miami

All staff will be required to wear face masks inside any Miami-Dade County Public School facility. Students are not required to wear face coverings, but masks are "highly encouraged."

Protocols for the enhanced sanitization and cleaning of classrooms and common areas, which were implemented at the beginning of the pandemic, will continue, according to the district.

New York City

Beginning Monday, schools in New York City will distribute take-home COVID-19 tests to any student or staff who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms or has been potentially exposed in a classroom where a positive case has been identified.

"The numbers of transmissions are low; your children is in a safe space to learn and continue to thrive. We’ve lost almost two years of education … we can’t do it again," New York City Mayor Eric Adams told Stephanopoulos on This Week.

Unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated students in kindergarten through grade 12 who were in close contact to a positive COVID-19 case will no longer have to quarantine, as long as they do not have symptoms and do not have a positive COVID-19 test.

Following an exposure, all students and adults will receive a take-home rapid test kit and take two tests over the course of five days. For students in 3-K and pre-K, the quarantine policy will remain the same, meaning students who were in close proximity to a positive case will still have to quarantine for 10 days.

Newark

Newark Public Schools began the semester Monday with remote instruction to continue through Jan. 14. The school anticipates a return to in-person instruction on Jan. 18.

Seattle

In-person school in Seattle is set to resume on Tuesday. COVID-19 testing is available Monday for students and staff.

Washington, D.C.

Last month, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that D.C. public schools would require all students and staff to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result before returning to school on Thursday.

Schools were closed on Monday due to inclement weather faced by the district.

The district will make free rapid antigen tests available on Tuesday and Wednesday. DCPS families will need to upload their child’s negative test results.

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