Planning for On-Campus K-12 Education During COVID-19

By Kunal Rambhia, Ph.D. , Rakhee Palekar, MD , Shayri Kansagra , Taylor Wilkerson, MBA , Matt Downs, Ph.D.

School leaders face complex decisions on how—or whether—to return students to campus this fall. This COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition white paper outlines strategies and criteria to help K-12 leaders make data-informed decisions about opening schools safely.

Download Resources

The purpose of this document is to inform decision makers by providing clarifications, interpretations, resources, and estimates that will facilitate data-driven conclusions in assessing return to on-campus learning activities, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After reviewing current data and resources we propose the following school reopening decision criteria:

  1. Ensure local COVID-19 community spread is under control with less than 1 daily new case per 100,000 people (10 new cases per million people per day).
  2. Require universal mask wearing, implement and enforce social distancing, reduce or eliminate indoor congregation of people, and support Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation (TTSI)[1] in the schools being reopened and the community at large.
  3. When local conditions permit, return to on-campus learning in stages, beginning with grades K-5. Measure the results and impact at each stage.

These criteria are based on a set of guiding principles, a foundation of data-driven decision making, and guidance from multiple responsible agencies and expert organizations.

In addition to these criteria, school districts should leverage current data and guidance from reputable sources to drive decision making regarding returning to on-campus learning. Novel approaches to TTSI can mitigate COVID-19 risks and should be considered in conjunction with public health experts. When developing plans, funding for acquiring and replenishing protective and sanitizing equipment is critical. Careful thought and advanced planning from decision makers can support a safe learning environment for both students and staff under the right local conditions.

This white paper is a publication of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a private-sector-led response that brings together healthcare organizations, technology firms, nonprofits, academia, and startups to preserve the healthcare delivery system and help protect U.S. populations. 

[1] Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation is the end to end process of administering diagnostic tests, tracing the close contacts of infected individuals, identifying other infected individuals among those close contacts, and subsequently isolating those infected individuals from the uninfected.