5 strategies anchor ED’s updated school reopening guidance

'The science says it's about more than just getting kids back in the classroom,' ED secretary says
By: | April 9, 2021

The U.S. Education Department has updated its COVID safety guidelines for reopening schools.

The agency on Friday released “ED COVID-19 Handbook Vol. 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs,” which builds on recommendations made by the department in February for safely returning students to classrooms nationwide.

“The science says it’s about more than just getting kids back in the classroom—it’s about making sure they’re socially, emotionally and mentally prepared,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in a tweet announcing the new volume. “Our COVID-19 Handbook Vol. 2 put all that science in one place to help schools who need it most.”

Vol. 2 of the handbook provides information on how schools can use American Rescue Plan funds to reopen schools and return students to the classroom. It also includes a focus on “equitable and adequate educational opportunities that address the impact of COVID-19 on students, educators, and staff.”

Specifically, the handbook includes strategies on:

  • How to meet students’ social, emotional, mental, and physical health as well as academic needs.
  • How to reengage students and provide access to a safe, inclusive learning environment.
  • How to address the impact of COVID-19 on students’ opportunity to learn, including closing the digital divide.
  • How to accelerate learning, use data effectively, and address inequities in resources.
  • How to support well-being and stability for educators and school staff, including stabilizing a diverse workforce.

In developing Vol. 2, ED officials said they considered feedback and conversations with “educators; state and local elected officials, including governors, mayors, and legislative leaders in every state and territory; chief state school officers; state boards of education; and stakeholder organizations across the country about how to safely reopen schools.”

The department will launch a clearinghouse of information for reopening schools in April.

“As schools reopen their doors, we must also make sure that we are meeting students’ social, emotional, physical, mental health, and academic needs, and addressing gaps that existed before — and were exacerbated by — the pandemic,” Cardona said in a statement. “This is an opportunity for us to not only reopen our schools safely, but to make sure our education systems are truly serving all our nation’s students.”

ED also recently updated “ED COVID-19 Handbook Vol. 1: Strategies for Safely Reopening Elementary and Secondary Schools,” to reflect guidance from the CDC that reduced the social distancing recommendation for schools to 3 feet in classrooms, while also removing the recommendation for physical barriers.

Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.