Reopening Schools After a Novel Coronavirus Surge

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021:1318:785-813. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-63761-3_44.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic shook the world in ways not seen since the pandemic influenza of 1918-1919. As of late August 2020, over 25 million persons had been infected, and we will see the global death toll exceed one million by the end of 2020. Both are minimum estimates. All segments of society have been drastically affected. Schools worldwide have been forced to close due to illness and absenteeism, transmission and risk to vulnerable members of the school community, and community concerns. The decision to reopen school during a pandemic will have a tremendous impact on children's safety, growth, and well-being. Not opening invites social isolation and suboptimal educational experiences, especially for youth whose computing assets and online access are limited and those with special needs. The opening has hazards as well, and the mitigation of these risks is the topic of this chapter. Opening schools requires careful considerations of benefits, risks, and precautions. Guiding principles for safety and strategic application of the principles in each educational niche are critical issues to consider during school reopening. The fundamental principles of disease control involve school-directed initiatives (physical distancing and mask use, hand/face and surface cleansing, administrative controls, engineering controls) and individual-level risk reduction approaches to maximize adherence to new guidelines. The school-initiated "top-down" approaches and the individual-level "bottom-up" approaches must be synergized, as no single method will ensure safety. We discuss how to effectively layer strategies in each educational space to increase safety. Since the vulnerability of children has been heightened during this pandemic crisis, we highlight the special considerations for mental health support that should be considered by schools. The safety principles, disease control strategies, and other critical issues discussed here will serve as a starting point for developing a safe, comprehensive, and feasible reopening plan.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Disease control strategies; Education; Pandemic; Quarantine; Reopening; Safety; School.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human* / prevention & control
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Schools