Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic- A Report

The National Academies Press recently released a consensus report titled Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This report is FREE and can be read online in your browser or downloaded as a pdf. You will also be able to purchase a hardcopy eventually if you wish.

I know that several school districts have already “made the call” on what school will look like in the fall of 2020. But this report could be used to support the decision to stakeholders and to use as a guide for future decisions. This report also provides support for how to reopen schools safely.

Here is some text from the report describing what the academies do and why it’s important- especially right now:

As we discuss in this document, the research on the spread and mitigation of SARS-CoV-2 is expanding rapidly, leading to greater clarity on some topics while also pointing out new areas for investigation. Guidance documents for schools and districts are emerging at breakneck speed. In July 2020, opinion pieces are dominating the news media landscape, many of them staking out positions on either side of a “to reopen or not” debate and making bold claims about what is “safe”. The politics of the moment are ablaze: one need only scan the headlines of U.S. newspapers to uncover the ways in which the politics around the question of reopening have overshadowed the scientific evidence.

The National Academy of Sciences (now expanded to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) was chartered by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to meet the government’s urgent need for an independent adviser on scientific matters. Our organization is founded on the principle that independent guidance based on scientific evidence is essential for making sound policy. Development of that guidance needs to focus on interpreting scientific research without political influence: essentially, independence is necessary to ensure the integrity of the guidance. Further, as the committee refers to in the Epilogue of this report, we know that evidence and data do not provide policy direction on their own: evidence and data must be interpreted, and these interpretations are never neutral. For this reason, the consensus study process at the National Academies demands that multiple perspectives are brought to bear on the available evidence: while “neutrality” is never possible, including multiple perspectives at the table can support an interpretation of the evidence that reflects the concerns of multiple constituencies and is as independent from individual bias as possible.

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