School & District Management Interactive

Masks, Vaccines & Testing: How the Biggest City School Districts Are Operating This Year

By Tonya Harris — August 30, 2021 | Updated: September 16, 2021 1 min read
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The 2021-22 school year is poised to be as challenging as the previous year for district leaders who must make high-stakes decisions about student and employee health and safety as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

This tracker follows key operating protocols and requirements for some of America’s largest school districts (plus, the Toronto, Ontario, district). All are members of the Council of the Great City Schools, which is closely documenting how its districts are handling vaccine, mask, and coronavirus testing requirements.

Collectively, these school systems serve about 8.2 million students, or roughly 15 percent of the U.S. public school enrollment. Across these districts, 44 percent of students are Hispanic, 27 percent are Black, 18 percent are white, 8 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2 percent are Alaskan/Native American. More than 70 percent qualify for free and reduced-price meals.*

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities—in numbers of infections, rates of death, job losses, and food and housing insecurity.

As of Sept. 15, 2021, 96% of the 74 member districts in the Council of the Great City Schools—some of the largest school districts in the U.S.—are mandating masks in the classroom.

Search the table for the current status and nuanced descriptions of what’s happening in each school district.

    * These demographics include students in public schools in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, but not students in the Toronto district (a member of the Council in Ontario, Canada)

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