To reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic and maximize the amount of in-person instruction, schools need sufficient resources as well as adhered-to, a strong state, and local public health measures. Extraordinary efforts by states, districts, and schools have been underway to support students throughout the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) are providing recommendations and considerations based on the most recent scientific evidence to support school and district leaders and educators in meeting these ever-evolving, significant challenges.
Consistent implementation of mitigation strategies during all school-related activities is critical for reopening schools – and keeping them open. To that end, ED is releasing the COVID-19 Handbook, which provides strategies to do this and also identifies ways to promote equity for communities of color and people with disabilities/chronic conditions who have borne a disproportionate burden of illness and serious outcomes from COVID-19. The ED COVID-19 Handbook will support the education community with implementation guidance, strategies, and considerations to help reopen schools safely. The handbook is being released in two volumes.
The first volume supplements CDC's Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation. ED's handbook provides practical examples and roadmaps to provide educators and staff with the tools they need to implement CDC's recommended safe practices for in-person learning. Highlights include:
The handbook provides applicable strategies to promote the universal and correct use of masks in schools by utilizing signage and school announcements to remind students and staff how to use masks. The handbook guides educators through working with students with disabilities who cannot wear a mask or safely wear a mask, consistent with CDC guidelines.
Physical Distancing Practices
The ED handbook details a variety of practical ways that educators and schools can practice physical distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including:
Roadmap for Stakeholder Engagement
A successful school reopening strategy requires engaging the entire school community to promote actions that will lead to a safe learning environment for all educators, staff, and students. ED's handbook lays out a roadmap for who should be at the table and suggests ways that school leaders and educators can conduct individual outreach activities and use surveys and virtual town halls to engage the community to reopen schools.
The second volume of the ED COVID-19 Handbook, which will be released in the coming weeks, will provide specific strategies to address the extraordinary disruption created by COVID-19 for students, educators, and parents — especially for historically underserved students and communities that preliminary data suggest have been hit hardest by the pandemic. These strategies will be tailored around the following topics: