On Friday, the John Hopkins Center for Health Security published a report urging states and school districts to let national research guide their decisions to reopen.
Forty-three states have made the choice to keep its schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, while others have set dates on when they plan to let schools decide if they want to resume in-person learning.
“It’s a scary time for everybody,” said Dr. Sally Goza, director of the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP).
The AAP has been a resource for school districts and states wrestling with next steps as it recommends best practices and considerations moving forward.
“First and foremost, the schools systems will need to work with their local state and public health departments to determine what their risk to coronavirus in their community is,” said Goza. “[They will also need to determine] what their access to testing is, and how the schools will be able to keep the schools clean.”
Earlier in May, Willow Creek School in Three Forks, Montana became the first school in the country to reopen its doors to its 53 students. The school said social distancing measures and proper sanitation would be followed, something organizations have emphasized.
"What we are doing is we are learning,” said Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, a union which represents more than 1.5 million educators nationwide. “[When schools will reopen] will be a case by case basis because the virus is operating at different spikes in different places."
On Thursday, the CDC released its newest guidelines for how different sectors of the economy should considering reopening. It said schools, child care centers, and camps should not reopen unless they are able to implement coronavirus screening protocols and evaluate employees and children daily for symptoms and prior exposure to the coronavirus.
The guidelines are similar to those of the AFT, which worked for three weeks to create a comprehensive guide for schools. Weingarten says the plan is based on five pillars, ensuring there is little virus in the community, that a sudden spike within a school can be slowed, that social distancing and sanitation is up to par in schools, that parents and teachers are being listened to, and ensuring proper funding can make it all happens.
"Dissonance happens because there is fear,” said Weingarten, a former union representative in New York City who helped guide schools through the September 11th tragedy. “It happens] because there is inconsistency and a lack of generally accepted information about the science.”
Universities and colleges are also grappling with how to handle reopening campuses to its students. On Tuesday, the California State University system, which educates 480,000 students across 23 campuses, said it would keep in-person classes closed for the fall semester and continue remote learning.
It was the first large American university to announce such measures.