As many as 50 million public school students likely won’t return to their classrooms this academic year—another sobering milestone in the massive disruption of schooling brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maryland officials announced this week that students will finish out the school year via remote learning, pushing the national tally of children whose states have either ordered or recommended that school buildings stay shut down this spring to 50.8 million. That’s nearly every child who attends an American public school.
Maryland became the 48th state to either order or recommend that school buildings remain closed as an essential strategy for slowing down the spread of the deadly virus.
Just two states with relatively small numbers of students—Montana and Wyoming—have refrained from ordering or recommending that their districts keep school buildings shuttered for the rest of 2019-20.
In Wyoming, where an order requires school buildings to be closed through May 15, the state superintendent suggested that some schools may be able to resume in-person learning for students with special needs if public health authorities say it can be done safely. One school district in the state has had small groups of students showing up in buildings for a few weeks already, the 74 reports.
And in Montana, starting Thursday, districts have the option to resume in-person instruction after the expiration of its statewide closure order. And at least one small public school in the state will do just that, becoming one of the first in the U.S. to reopen.
The handful of states that have recommended—but not ordered—that school buildings remain shuttered include California and Florida, which together have more than 9 million students in public schools. It’s possible that local districts in those states could choose to reopen buildings before the current school year concludes, but it’s not likely.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs and American Samoa have ordered that school buildings remain closed “until further notice.”
Image: May 6 screen capture of Education Week’s map tracking school closures
More coverage on the impact of COVID-19 on schools
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.