New guidance documents and resources related to school reopening and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic were released Feb. 12 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Education (USED). Those resources are linked here, with additional details provided below.
New CDC Operational Strategy Documents
The CDC refers to these new documents as a “one-stop-shop” for schools to use in opening for in-person instruction and staying open. Please note that much of the CDC guidance is not new or different from what CDC has issued around school reopening in the past; instead, it is put in one place and intended to be used as a roadmap for ongoing work. Among the highlights of the CDC Operational Strategy:
- Evidence that shows schools can safely reopen for in-person instruction when health and safety protocols are in place and based in science
- A recommendation that schools prioritize two key mitigation strategies: universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing
- Clarification on the community risk indicators to inform reopening and link directly to information on community transmission
- Acknowledgment that many schools are already providing in-person instruction and should continue to do so in accordance with health and safety protocols
The CDC also addresses the vaccine in this new document, noting that it is recommended that educators and school staff members be prioritized to receive the vaccine as soon as the supply allows (K-12 educators and school personnel are prioritized in Phase 1B-Tier 3 of Missouri’s availability plan). The CDC guidance also adds, “Access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction. Even after teachers and staff are vaccinated, schools need to continue mitigation measures for the foreseeable future, including requiring masks in schools and physical distancing.”
USED COVID-19 Handbook
The first volume of USED’s new COVID-19 Handbook serves as a supplement to the new CDC operational strategy with practical recommendations for the school setting. It covers 11 topic areas, with practical examples and roadmaps to provide educators and staff with the tools they need to implement the CDC's recommended safe practices for in-person learning. The second volume of the USED Handbook, which should be published in the coming weeks, will provide specific strategies to address the unprecedented disruption COVID-19 created for students, educators and parents — especially for historically underserved students and communities that preliminary data suggest have been hit hardest by the pandemic. It is important to note that this USED Handbook does not have the force or effect of law and is not binding in any way (except where statutory or regulatory requirements are referenced).