Reopening Schools – JAMA Viewpoint

Angie SzumlinskiStudies

On March 11, 2020, less than two weeks after community transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was identified in the U.S., the World Health Organization declared that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak was a global pandemic. By March 25, 2020, all kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12) public schools in the U.S. had closed for in-person instruction. Many schools pivoted to online education for the remainder of the school year. In the fall of 2020, there was tremendous geographic and district-to-district variation in mode of K-12 educational delivery. 24% of reporting districts were fully online, 51% were using a hybrid model, and 17% were fully open for in-person instruction.

As many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the U.S. as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission. Decisions made today can help ensure safe operation of schools and provide critical services to children and adolescents in the U.S. Some of these decisions may be difficult and include implementing community-based policies that reduce transmission when SARS-CoV-2 incidence is high. It also means implementing school-based policies to postpone school-related activities that can increase risk of in-school transmission (i.e., indoor sports practice or competition).

Committing today to policies that prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission in communities and in schools will help ensure the future social and academic welfare of all students and their education.

Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!