Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launched the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse (the Clearinghouse), a website that highlights the innovative work underway nationwide in continuing to reopen K-12 schools, early childhood centers and postsecondary institutions. Through the Clearinghouse, the Department is providing examples of how schools and other educational institutions can safely reopen as communities continue recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is encouraging to see states, districts and schools serving all levels of students using their best practices and lessons learned from each other and implementing these strategies to quickly reopen schools and campuses—all while keeping our students, teachers, faculty, and staff safe,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “There is no substitute for in-person learning and the Clearinghouse will be an invaluable resource as we continue the safe return to in-person instruction.”
President Biden’s Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers called on ED to develop a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse as a way to share lessons learned and best practices from the field for safely operating schools and postsecondary institutions during the pandemic.
By launching the Clearinghouse, ED aims to collect and disseminate innovative, evidence-based, or solutions-oriented approaches to school reopening and make this information available to elementary and secondary schools, early childhood centers, and postsecondary institutions across the country so they can learn from each other. Resources from ED and other federal agencies related to reopening strategies and guidance are also available on the website.
The Clearinghouse includes resources that target the needs of students in, K-12, early childhood, and higher education settings in three main topic areas:
- Safe and Healthy Environments: School and campus approaches to implement prevention and mitigation strategies and prepare and sustain in-person operations safely.
- Supports for Students: School and campus strategies to meet students’ academic, social, emotional, mental health, and other needs, including providing access to food, counselors, and financial aid for college students.
- Teacher, Faculty, and Staff Well-Being; Professional Development; and Supports: School and campus strategies to address skills, trauma and other mental-health needs among educators, faculty, and staff, and other support strategies such as providing access to childcare and professional development for educators.
ED specifically invited submissions that focus on students most impacted by the pandemic and on strategies that address educational inequities that were exacerbated by the pandemic. Since March 25, ED has received over 500 submissions that include over 1,500 resources. The Clearinghouse currently includes over 180 resources and will continue to be updated.
Examples that reflect the diversity of submissions include:
- The New Mexico Public Education Department published a resource to improve the identification and protection of students experiencing homelessness, either before the pandemic or as a result of COVID-19. As school districts continue to develop reopening plans and procedures, they must properly identify and support students experiencing homelessness. The resource includes case studies of promising practices on assisting homeless students and their families, and helpful resources for students and educators as they continue to navigate this school year and prepare for the next school year.
- Marin County Office of Education in San Rafael, California, developed a “Rethinking Schools” webpage, which serves as a one-stop-shop for parents, students, and educators with public health and education data. The site includes up-to-date information on in-person instruction in schools across the district, public health guidelines on safe in-person instruction, and safety plans for students and staff.
- Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in North Carolina developed a resource webpage that includes return to campus information and college updates for students, an FAQ on coronavirus and illness-related questions, as well as information on scholarship programs, local emergency rental assistance programs, COVID-19 vaccination appointment information, and more. Rowan-Cabarrus has included expectations and requirements for students, faculty, and staff to maintain safe in-person learning on campus, including regular health screenings and social distancing. The resource webpage also includes information for students on community resources, including local food pantry locations and hours of operation.
ED has also launched a series of “Lessons from the Field” webinars as part of the Clearinghouse that spotlight promising practices in early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary education. The first three webinars in the series highlighted prevention strategies for safely reopening K-12 schools, new CDC guidance focused on early childhood providers, and family and community engagement during the return to in-person instruction. Future webinars will share best practices and lessons included in the Clearinghouse.
The Clearinghouse is another step in a series of efforts by the Biden-Harris Administration to support the safe reopening of schools and campuses. The Administration is providing $130 billion for K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan to support safe reopening of schools; $10 billion for COVID-19 testing for PreK and K-12 educators, staff and students; and has provided nearly $40 billion for higher education institutions and students. The Administration has also urged states to prioritize vaccinations for educators; held a virtual National Safe School Reopening Summit, where districts, educators, school leaders, and students from across the country shared their best practices on how to reopen schools quickly and safely; and released two volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook, which provide roadmaps and strategies to support the safe reopening of America’s schools and to meet the needs of students, educators, and staff.
ED welcomes additional lessons learned and best practices from the field for consideration for the Clearinghouse, including those with an educational equity focus. Submissions should be sent via email to: [email protected].
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