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Setting Clear Health-based Criteria is Key to School Reopening Decisions


Alexandria, VA— Roughly half of states have named metrics to guide decisions on whether to reopen or close schools for the 2020–21 school year, and most of those states incorporate at least two measures pegged to the number of new cases over a set period, the percentage of positive coronavirus tests, and hospitalizations due to COVID-like illnesses over one- to two-week increments.

In mid-September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released a set of indicators and thresholds to help school determine whether it is safe to return to in-person learning. “Mitigation strategies work best when they are feasible, layered, and tailored to community needs,” said the CDC in a statement to NASBE.

The policy update outlines ways in which states such as Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, and Nebraska offer state guidance on reopening criteria. In April, the Nebraska Department of Education created a website to provide quick access to considerations for planning a safe return to school and working with local health departments to determine how schools should operate during this time.

“Creating clear, health-based criteria on when a school should reopen or suspend in-person learning can help districts and schools better communicate their decision making and connect stakeholders and experts,” writes author Joseph Hedger, NASBE’s associate editor.

Read and share “States Set Criteria for Resuming In-Person Learning.”

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.

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