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After a muted New Year’s weekend, US braces for more Covid disruptions as students return to school

After a weekend of muted celebrations, Americans face the uncertainty of a new year as the nation battles another coronavirus wave. And concerns are growing about the impact the virus could have over the next several weeks as students return to school.

In Atlanta, at least five metro-area school districts will begin with remote learning this week, as students prepare to return from the holiday break amid rising cases in the region. And in Washington, DC, public schools will be closed until Thursday as a winter storm thwarted plans for students and staff to pick up Covid-19 tests on Monday. Other school officials are also changing their Covid-19 policies due to the explosion of the Omicron variant. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is requiring all adults entering its buildings and buses to wear masks upon return and has strongly encouraged students to wear masks as well.

Dr. Stanley Spinner, chief medical officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics, told CNN’s Pamela Brown, “When our largest school system gets back, I think we are going to see our numbers increasing even more unfortunately as a result of that,” While there may be “bumps in the road” as schools attempt to reopen in the new year amid a record surge in Covid-19 cases, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said students have suffered enough and need to be back in class.

“Our expectation is for schools to be open full-time for students for in person learning,” Cardona said on Fox News Sunday, noting the science has improved nearly two years into the pandemic and vaccines are available for school-aged children. “There’s a level of urgency that we shouldn’t lose around making sure that our children learn in person.” As schools restart under competing pressures, many teachers are asking officials to utilize distance learning while the latest wave is at its peak. In Massachusetts, teachers called for state officials to close schools during the worst of the surge, but were rebuffed by the education commissioner and Gov. Charlie Baker.