A student sitting behind a barrier works on a tablet at St. Anthony Catholic High School in March 2021 in Long Beach, California ( AFP / Patrick T. Fallon)

Hoax post claims US schools are closing again

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A post displaying a news headline-like screenshot warns that all schools in the United States will be closed in the second week of August 2021. Despite concerns that in-person school could be disrupted by rising coronavirus cases, the posts are a prank created using a fake news alert generator.

"All United States School's (sic) will be closed next week," claims an August 4, 2021 Facebook post. It was shared thousands of times as the country is entering the "back-to-school" period, which in some places started in late July.

A screenshot of a Facebook post taken on August 11, 2021

But the post uses a fake breaking news headline generator. "Create A Prank & Trick Your Friends," the website's homepage says. 

Similar Facebook posts were shared in early August 2021 claiming some schools are closing their doors again, such as here,  here and here. These posts refer to a "list" of school systems impacted by closures; but the link used as a source for this "list" leads to an image making clear the post is a joke. 

As of August 11, 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidance states that "children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place."

Due to a surge in coronavirus cases in the US, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, the CDC also recommends "universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status."

It said that transmission of the coronavirus can be limited with strict implementation of mitigation strategies, including the use of masks and physical distancing.

 "CDC's guidance on the web regarding Covid and schools Is current," Tom Skinner, senior public affairs officer at the CDC confirmed to AFP on August 10, 2021. 

The White House also did not announce a national school shutdown. 

Although back-to-school dates vary between different states and regions, some schools have already welcomed back their students for in-person learning, including Savanna Elementary School District in California and the Chandler Unified School District in Arizona.

Public schools in Atlanta, Georgia also marked August 4, 2021 as the first day of the 2021-2022 academic year. In February 2021, the district had announced the return of in-person learning with a series of health and safety measures that include screenings and temperature assessments.

Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), a research and policy analysis organization based in Seattle, Washington, told AFP that the social media claims about general school closings "are not grounded in fact. There are isolated incidents of districts starting school online but it's very, very rare."

"We expect to see periodic quarantines and perhaps temporary closures in places, but nothing widespread," she added. 

AFP Fact Check has previously debunked other hoaxes, including false promises of Covid-19 stimulus checks here and other other coronavirus-related  claims