The Week in COVID & Education Policy: Studying COVID Transmission on School Buses, Conflicting Recommendations About Student Masks & 13 More Key Updates
Welcome to our weekly update on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools and education policy. This information is carefully reviewed by AEI Visiting Fellow John Bailey. If you’d like to explore our past updates, please click here. You can also subscribe to Newsletter to receive this weekly roundup and daily updates straight to your inbox.
COVID-19 Transmission Risk During School Bus Transportation: A recent study published in the Journal of School Health found that there was no transmission of the virus linked to bus transportation. The study took place in an independent school in Virginia and involved 1,154 asymptomatic students who were tested every 2 weeks initially and later every week between August 28, 2020, and March 19, 2021, during a period of high community transmission.
The study utilized fifteen buses that operated near full capacity, with two students per seat, ensuring a minimum physical distancing of 2.5 feet. Additionally, universal masking and simple ventilation techniques were implemented. Out of the 39 COVID-19 cases detected during the study, none were linked to bus transportation. This highlights the effectiveness of universal testing and contact tracing in preventing transmission.
July 23, 2021 – The Big Three
Schools Can Safely Reopen for In-person Learning: A new report by Resolve to Save Lives, an organization led by former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, confirms that schools can safely reopen for in-person learning if multiple protective measures are implemented.
The report emphasizes that children are less likely to transmit the virus compared to adults, and schools have not been significant sources of community transmission, especially when protective measures are in place. Studies conducted in Australia and Europe have shown that outbreaks in schools usually involve 10 cases or fewer.
Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, stresses the importance of keeping schools open to prevent the numerous negative consequences of remote learning. He also highlights the need for layered protective measures to be implemented in schools to minimize the risks associated with COVID-19 transmission.
The report recommends various mitigation measures, including promoting vaccination, consistent mask use, ventilation, physical distancing, screening testing, contact tracing, hand hygiene, staying home when sick, and thorough cleaning and disinfection.
American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends Masks for All Individuals Above Age 2, Regardless of Vaccination Status: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated its guidance to recommend mask usage in schools for all individuals aged 2 and older. The AAP cites several reasons for this recommendation, including the fact that a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccination. Wearing masks can help protect those who are not vaccinated and reduce the risk of transmission. The AAP also notes that enforcing mask policies for unvaccinated individuals may pose challenges.
This guidance differs from the recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states that fully vaccinated students, teachers, and staff do not need to wear masks in school. There is growing pressure on the CDC to review and revise this guidance.
Other important points highlighted by the AAP include the acknowledgment that in-school transmission rates are low when proper prevention measures are implemented and the availability of effective vaccines for individuals aged 12 and older. The AAP emphasizes the need for schools to adopt a comprehensive approach that combines multiple protective measures such as vaccination, mask usage, ventilation, testing, quarantining, and cleaning to ensure safe in-person learning.
Related: Declining Youth Vaccination Rates Reignite Debates Over Masks in Schools
UK Limits COVID-19 Vaccine to Vulnerable Children Only: The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has stated that COVID-19 vaccination will only be offered to children aged 12 and above if they are extremely vulnerable or live with someone at risk. The JCVI currently does not recommend routine universal vaccination for individuals under 18 years of age due to insufficient data.
It is important to stay informed as new information becomes available, and continue to prioritize the safety and education of students, teachers, and staff in schools.
Scientists are divided over the decision regarding the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 and above, as it was expected to receive approval. According to The Guardian, a virologist acknowledges a potential connection between vaccines and myocarditis, but emphasizes that it is rare and mild. However, they also highlight the risks posed by COVID-19, including the potential for long COVID.
In Alabama, a TikTok competition is being sponsored to encourage vaccination among young people. Participants must submit a TikTok video showcasing their vaccination experience or provide a creative message explaining the reasons behind their decision to get vaccinated. The videos should be tagged with @alcovidvaccine, #getvaccinatedAL, and #ADPH.
Arkansas is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, referred to as a "raging forest fire" by researchers. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health has projected an average of 1,039 new cases daily over the next week. Additionally, the model predicts an average increase of 169 new cases per day among children under the age of 17. Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s health secretary, expresses concern about potential outbreaks in schools when the fall semester begins, citing the number of daycare closures and camp exposures that have already occurred.
CityBridge in Washington, D.C. has launched CityTutor DC, a program that partners with schools, tutoring providers, higher education institutions, and civic partners to enhance tutoring opportunities for students in the city. Their goal is to provide high-impact tutoring for 10,000 public school students in kindergarten through eighth grade. A database of available tutors is accessible, along with a resource bank of information for schools and families.
Georgia’s Cobb Schools intends to allocate its American Rescue Plan funding as follows: $28.3 million will be used to counterbalance cuts to the Quality Basic Education formula, $4.4 million will go towards sanitation and cleaning of facilities, $1 million will be dedicated to hiring additional teachers for Cobb Virtual Academy due to increased enrollment, and $25 million will be utilized for technology purchases to enhance classroom instruction.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has recommended that K-8 students and teachers wear masks in schools.
Six state-run COVID-19 testing sites in Rhode Island will be closing at the end of July.
The Tennessee Department of Education has announced the establishment of 29 new virtual schools, increasing the total number to 57.
Milwaukee Public Schools in Wisconsin have devised a plan for utilizing its rescue plan funding. This includes $48 million for air-temperature controls, $7 million for the construction of outdoor classrooms, $13.6 million for mental health support, $9.4 million for social and emotional learning, and $2 million for the implementation of exercise stations and ropes courses.
The Department of Treasury estimates that $15 billion has been distributed to millions of working families with around 60 million children through the Child Tax Credit. The majority of families using direct deposit will receive their child payment on July 15th and every month thereafter in 2021. The American Rescue Plan has increased the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for children aged 6 to 17, and to $3,600 for children under the age of 6. To provide accessible information on the Child Tax Credit, the White House launched ChildTaxCredit.gov, a bilingual website offering user-friendly guidance, including a step-by-step guide to the non-filer portal available in multiple languages. However, it is estimated that 4 to 8 million eligible children may miss out on the benefit due to parents or guardians not filing taxes or being unaware of this policy.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as of July 8th, over 4.06 million children have tested positive for COVID-19. Children represent between 6 to 19.9 percent of total state tests, with a positivity rate ranging from 4.9 to 34.9 percent. Hospitalizations for children account for 1.3 to 3.6 percent of total reported hospitalizations, and between 0.1 and 1.9 percent of child COVID-19 cases result in hospitalization. The data also shows that children represent 0 to 0.25 percent of all COVID-19 deaths.
Researchers administered a survey called the Character Lab Student Thriving Index, consisting of 10 questions, to 6,576 high school students in Orange County public schools in Florida.
During the pandemic, high school students who took remote classes had lower scores on surveys measuring social, emotional, and academic well-being compared to students who attended in person.
This disparity in well-being was consistent across different genders, races/ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses. Even small effects are significant when they affect millions of individuals.
On a scale of 1 to 100, in-person students received higher ratings than remote students in terms of social well-being (77.2 vs 74.8), emotional well-being (57.4 vs 55.7), and academic well-being (78.4 vs 77.3).
It is noteworthy that high school students who opted for remote classes during the pandemic experienced a "thriving gap," as revealed by a study led by Duckworth.
According to a teacher survey conducted by EdChoice/Morning Consult, teachers are more inclined to believe that the COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory for themselves rather than for students.
Three-fourths of teachers have already been vaccinated, and they are more likely to have vaccinated their children compared to school parents.
Furthermore, the majority of teachers feel comfortable returning to in-person schooling at present.
Former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift emphasizes the importance of sustaining successful innovations, such as learning pods, that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. These innovations should be accessible to all students and families, regardless of financial resources.
Leaders must prioritize extending effective pandemic-era innovations to ensure equity in education. They should support educators in rebuilding trust with parents and centering equity in their policies and practices after a year of school closures and a focus on anti-racism.
The Center for Democracy and Technology provides steps to protect student privacy and promote equity in the upcoming school year.
Wendy Kopp highlights the potential of technology to foster educational equity by empowering students to take ownership of their learning, personalizing instruction, and increasing accessibility.
Catholic Virtual partners with U.S. Dioceses to establish online academies for the academic year 2021-2022. Additionally, environmental advocate Suzy Amis Cameron and filmmaker James Cameron announce their collaboration with public school districts to offer the online learning platform, MUSE Virtual.
The Council of Chief State School Officers, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, and American Institutes for Research released a toolkit for state and district leaders interested in integrating social-emotional learning within a multi-tiered system of supports framework.
The council, alongside the Healthy Schools Campaign and the National Center for School Mental Health, created a guide to assist states in leveraging COVID relief funding and Medicaid to support the well-being and connection of students and staff.
In a reflective note inspired by the philosopher Ted Lasso quoting Walt Whitman, individuals are urged to be curious rather than judgmental. Curiosity allows for understanding and growth, while judgment hinders progress.
In case you missed them, here are the top five stories of the week:
1. School leaders’ response to public outrage includes taking breaks from Twitter, engaging in meditative walks, and employing security guards.
2. (Remaining stories could be inserted here)
COVID Recovery: Supporting Student Learning at Their Own Speed: How Some Schools in Ohio Are Embracing a ‘Mastering’ Approach to Bridge COVID Learning Gaps
Higher Education: DeBaun: Utilizing Virtual Guidance to Tackle the Impact of COVID and Ensure High School Students Pursue College. Three Measures Schools Can Implement
Student Well-being: Declining Rates of Youth Vaccination Spark Renewed Debate Regarding Masks in Schools
Disclosure: John Bailey serves as an advisor to the Walton Family Foundation, a financial supporter of .
Related: Register for newsletter
Receive stories like these directly to your email. Enroll in Newsletter.