Johns Hopkins Launches K-12 School Reopening Policy Tracker

school reopening tracker

The institution that has delivered data on worldwide COVID-19 cases and deaths to us day in and day out since the start of the pandemic has now turned its attention to school reopening plans in the United States. A team of Johns Hopkins University researchers has launched the "eSchool+ Initiative," an analysis of school reopening plans. Among its resources: a policy tracker that offers up-to-date analysis of the guidance documents being issued by each state with links to external sites where visitors can view the plans, and an interactive map that displays what criteria are included in various states' plans.

According to the team, almost every state board of education as well as 13 national organizations have issued policy guidance so far about their reopening plans. The only ones not included are Kansas, New York, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.

As the researchers noted, although equity issues are at the heart of a safe return for low-income children and children of color, a third of reopening plans don't mention disadvantaged students at all, and most of the rest provide little detail.

There are a dozen criteria considered important by researchers:

  • Core academics;
  • SARS CoV2 protection;
  • Before and after school programs;
  • School access and transportation;
  • Student health services;
  • Food and nutrition;
  • Parent choice;
  • Teacher and staff choice;
  • Children with special needs, English learners and those identified as gifted;
  • Children of poverty and systemic disadvantage;
  • Privacy; and
  • Engagement and transparency.

Twenty of the plans cover all 12 categories to some degree.

The new site also includes these resources:

People can sign up for a twice-weekly school news roundup that provides the latest information about schools and the pandemic.

The eSchool+ Initiative is a collaboration among the university's Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions, the Berman Institute of Bioethics, the Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education and schools of Education, Medicine and Public Health.

"As the United States continues to think about reopening, schools are at the forefront of every conversation. For parents to resume full-time work, schools will need to reopen, but only in a way that makes every effort to protect the safety and health of students, teachers and staff," said Annette Campbell Anderson, deputy director of the Center for Safe and Healthy Schools in the school of education, in a statement. "Schools will also need to find new ways to make up for losses in learning, health and support systems that occurred as a result of the closure. These discussions are happening right now, and our tracker analyzes how states' proposed recovery plans support students, teachers and parents."

"Schools are a nexus of health and well-being for children, particularly in less resourced communities where the burdens of the pandemic are being borne disproportionately," added Megan Collins, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute and Berman Institute, and co-director of the Hopkins Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions. "While schools will be monitoring the COVID-19 'learning slide,' what is missing is an eye on equity for disadvantaged groups. Even as education and public health leaders advocate for making classroom-based education a priority for those children most at risk for missing school, there is no clear guidance from school districts about how structural justice problems should be addressed. By creating the eSchool+ Initiative, we hope to contribute to ongoing discussions about narrowing health and academic equity gaps for disadvantaged students."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.