During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening schools safely was a top priority. As part of that effort, our experts emphasized implementing high quality infection control. Translating the latest evidence into clear recommendations, our multidisciplinary group delivered guidance on how schools and districts could reduce in-school COVID-19 risks for both children and adults to near zero.
A task force was convened by the COVID Collaborative, Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Brown School of Public Health, and New America, bringing together representatives from across health and education: from associations representing teachers, principals and superintendents, to public health institutions and professional associations. The initiative was launched shortly after President Biden set a target to reopen a majority of schools by May 1, 2021 with the goal of supporting schools as they reopened in-person learning.
The package of resources includes a “Roadmap to Healthy Schools,” a practical guide to school-based infection control, produced by members of the task force; a consensus statement on the latest CDC guidance, issued by leading scientists convened by the task force’s organizers; and a use of funds advisory memo for how states might allocate resources toward infection prevention and control, developed by the task force’s organizers.
“We recognize that many places are already deep in the work of integrating the CDC’s guidance on infection prevention and control measures into how schools operate. We also know that there are some schools at the start of this process,” said Danielle Allen, Task Force Chair and James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. “Our aim was to produce tools that can meet communities where they are and provide recommendations on who should take on the various elements of infection control at the state, local, and school level, and how it can be done.”
The Roadmap includes useful case studies of promising practices from schools and districts that have been successful with resuming in-person instruction, as well as tools and recommendations that can be used to replicate some of those practices.
In the consensus statement, scientists confirm that a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, a robust body of evidence has emerged that settles many questions about how to best protect students and staff inside schools. This includes evidence that addresses the change in recommended classroom distancing in the CDC guidance.
The use of funds memo outlines an approach to make strategic use of the authorized funds to implement robust IPC programs in K-12 systems, outlining four key areas of one-time and recurring investments: 1) creation of state guidance; 2) facilities; 3) infection prevention and control training and professional development; and 4) school health workforce and public health workforce assigned to support schools.
“Families and educators are eager to get students back in their schools, and robust infection prevention and control programs are key to ensuring safe in-person learning environments for students and staff,” said Ronn Nozoe, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “Access to this guidance from the task force helps increase school leader confidence that our school buildings can reopen safely.”